If you don't want to fight Brighton Beach parking, New York Bread off on Neptune Avenue is a perfect place to shop for Russian specialties. Inside, the grocery is four times larger than the old, pocket-sized store. You find the greatest attraction just inside the door: shelves of New York Bread's spectacular assortment of Russian-style loaves, almost 40 different varieties in all.
Here you find the city's best Borodinsky, topped with crushed coriander seeds, and, darkest and densest of all, a Lithuanian rye that makes a perfect base for smoked salmon. They have also just introduced a new loaf called Radzivil Rye Bread, which is named after a 16th Century Lithuanian nobleman. For identification, each loaf comes baked with a big "R" on the crust. It's another extra-dense loaf, made from rye and wheat flours, potato flakes, molasses, malt, sourdough starter, salt, caraway seeds, anise, and yeast. Despite its density, it's a smooth-chewing bread with a slight but pleasant bite from the anise and caraway seeds.
Bread aficionados may already know New York Bread's finest work. Its beautiful loaves of Black Rooster Baltic Rye with raisins, hazelnuts and dried plums or dense, traditional Russian 100% rye — fermented for 36 hours and flavored with molasses, malt and caraway seeds — are shipped to in-the-know supermarkets around the country.
John Melngailis believes his 100 percent sourdough Baltic Rye can cure all ills, from poor digestion to diabetes to crooked teeth. But ultimately, the flavor’s the thing: deep and earthy, with an underlying sweet and tangy umami essence that’s as addictive as a bag of Doritos. “It’s my own little way of trying to reform the American diet,” says Melngailis, a University of Maryland engineering professor who contracts the baking to Coney Island’s New York Bread, where the five-pound loaves are sold as “Anniversary Bread.” Elsewhere, it’s packaged under the Black Rooster label in quarter-loaf hunks (about $5.75).
The scent of drying grain wafts from the door of Coney Island's New York Bread bakery. The aroma emanates from the cooling room, where rack after rack of dark rye and wheat loaves wait to be bagged and shipped. For Brooklyn's Russian community, that smell is the essence of the homeland, of rolling fields of wheat and rye baking in the summer sun.