One of the items I bought at Fairway Market in Paramus on Tuesday was a baguette for 99 cents, but I'm not sure whether that's the sale or regular price. This is a good loaf of bread, though you shouldn't expect anything like the signature baguette from Balthazar Bakery in Englewood.
When I looked at the ingredient list of the Fairway loaf, I did a double-take. Here it is, as it appears on the label: "Flour, white sour (wheat flour, acetic acid, lactic acid, canola oil), malt, USA 500 (datem, sodium stearol, lactylate, soybean oil, L-cystine, asorbic acid, potassium bromate, ada enzyme), salt, yeast, corn meal."
I called Balthazar for the ingredients of its baguette. Here they are: flour, white rye flour, water, salt, barley, malt, yeast." The loaf is 8 ounces, compared with Fairway's 12 ounces, and the price has been $2 since Balthazar opened in November 2002.
Another thing I noticed on the Fairway label is the words "artisanal bakery." Artisan bread is hand-formed, and if you go to Balthazar's cozy retail store on South Dean Street around mid-day, you'll see the bakers shaping the dough. Does Fairway really hand-form its bread?
It's no contest. The Balthazar loaf is the one to buy. It also comes as a double baguette for $4. Either Balthazar loaf is great for sandwiches, great for sopping up pasta sauce, great for just tearing off a hunk and dipping it into extra-virgin olive oil.