When Sea Wolf Bakery (3621 Stone Way N., 457-4181) opened recently, the news snaked through the food community quietly, like the very best kind of insider secret. Brothers Kit and Jesse Schumann have been making their breads since 2014, but out of the kitchen—and cast-iron pans—of Dino’s Tomato Pie. If you eat at any of Renee Erickson’s establishments, Le Caviste, or Vif Wine & Coffee, you’ve likely tried their wondrous doughs—even if you didn’t realize it.
Now they’ve set up shop for themselves in Fremont—just behind Manolin—marked only by a tiny handwritten sign, “Sea Wolf,” on plywood on the sidewalk. If you’re not in the know, you probably wouldn’t even guess it was a bakery. The space is industrial, with high ceilings and concrete floors, decorated minimally but chicly with white built-in shelves bearing plants and sunflowers and books and other pretty trinkets. A few wooden tables cluster in the sparse space, and huge bags of flour are stacked against a wall. The kitchen itself takes up about half the space, and is wide open for you to peer in at.
We went Saturday morning, just after they’d opened, and decided to try a little bit of everything. I’d had the rye sourdough recently at How to Cook a Wolf, grilled and buttered (it was heavenly), so we bought a half loaf of it. Thank goodness the bakery offers two sizes of this guy, because it’s a bear of a bread, huge and hearty—made of 60 percent rye, coffee, and caraway. (The coffee, they tell me, is more for the color.) The rye is so unabashedly present; it has that almost-sour bite. And though this is a denser loaf, it still manages to have a lightness that many ryes don’t, with pretty air bubbles visible throughout. We served it lightly grilled with cream cheese, smoked salmon, and capers as an hors d’oeuvre, and it was a hit with our dinner guests. Their baguette, thin and trim, is lovely too, with “75 percent hydration.” Hydration refers to the relative weight of liquids and flour, and affects the texture of the crumb. A 75 percent hydration is high, and results in an airy texture with plenty of holes, typically found in ciabatta or focaccia; their ciabatta roll is 80 percent hydration.
We left with a bag of pastries as well—four different types of croissants. The croissant pastry here is just right for me. While many people prefer an extremely buttery croissant, I like mine flaky and moist but without that almost-greasy feel. These are lovely and come in sweet and savory iterations. The chocolate one, made with 70 percent Valrhona, has just enough filling; its pad of chocolate doesn’t overwhelm the whole croissant. Likewise, the circular huckleberry croissant, sweetened with honey, has several thin rivulets of berries running through the center. A croissant with crimini mushrooms, garlic, caraway, and Emmental cheese is studded with big halves of meaty mushrooms, the layer of cheese creating a delicious foundation for the pastry.
Meanwhile, because I’m a glutton for punishment—and who doesn’t want to spend a weekend eating nothing but bread-based products?—I decided to also check into the new Cookie Counter (7415 Greenwood Ave. N.) in Phinney Ridge. A vegan bakery (and ice-cream shop), it has a completely different vibe from the austere, artisan Sea Wolf. This is a folksier place, with mismatched colored chairs, local art on the walls, and funky yellow stools at a counter by the window. The menu of baked goods is different, too, with an emphasis on cookies, muffins, brownies, and hand pies.
I had to try the blueberry pop tart, which manages to evoke the nostalgia of that terrible childhood breakfast staple while actually being divine. More of an actual pie crust fashioned into a square-ish shape, it oozes with fresh blueberry filling, topped with a layer of purple icing. The cinnamon roll is not sickeningly sweet, and has a doughy texture that I enjoyed. A lemon cupcake is preposterously moist, with creamy icing that tastes like natural lemon—an antidote to the cupcake icings that are either stiff or too buttery, and flavored artificially. The lemon-blueberry muffin is also quite moist and very cakelike, with a sour profile to temper the sweetness.
As for cookies, there are many to choose from; we went with a chocolate-iced shortbread and a snickerdoodle—both are on the larger side. The snickerdoodle is perfect; it has a very crumbly texture and isn’t overdone with cinnamon-sugar, which is so often the case with this iconic cookie. The shortbread, thinner than most and not as buttery, was my least favorite item that we tried. The takeaway here is that there’s no reason to be scared off by a vegan bakery. Vegan baking eliminates only the eggs and milk, and there are plenty of other ways to add moisture, namely via oil. It’s gluten-free that’s trickier.
For artisan bread, try Sea Wolf. For whimsical sweets, go with Cookie Counter. Both are welcome additions to Seattle’s carb-friendly fare.