I first remember tasting French bread from the Black Diamond Bakery when I was 5 or 6 years old. Even at that tender age, my immature taste buds realized I’d stumbled across a very unique and wonderful flavor and I immediately scarfed it down and returned for another slice.
Despite this delicious initiation, in the years that followed we rarely had that special treat because driving from Enumclaw to Black Diamond just to purchase a loaf of bread didn’t make a hell of a lot of sense. However, the delicacy continued to appear every two or three months. For instance, I had cousins who lived in Seattle and, whenever they visited us, they often stopped at the bakery and bought a loaf, which they’d bring to our house. Here again, people sampled a slice or two before it ever got to the dinner table. My mother liked to toast her slice and/or spread it with peanut butter or jelly. I just ate mine “raw”, fresh off the loaf. (Today, the bakery’s signature bread is the round Crystal Mountain loaf rather than the French.)
Now my friends, you may find this hard to believe, but the original brick oven that still bakes this bread was built in 1902! (Yeah, that’s not a printing error.) It’s a simple iron box-structure lined with bricks. A wood fire, preferably alder, is built in this chamber and after about six hours — when the bricks are white-hot and the temperature is around 425 degrees — the fuel is removed, the ashes are scraped out, and a rack of fresh dough is slid inside. In the space of a few minutes, the wonderful results are removed.
The original building and oven were built by Willard (Bill) Hadley. Through the years, there’s been a series of seven or eight owners and various buildings have been added to the original bakery. In 1989, Doug Weiding built the restaurant which, on a clear day, offers a splendid view of Mount Rainier. In 1994, a coffee shop, complete with an espresso machine and a mind-boggling display of “decadent” pastries directly from the bakery, especially some giant cinnamon rolls. (Strange enough, the restaurant’s most popular meal — customers frequently have to wait for a table — is breakfast.) In 2010, a juice bar and an ice cream shop were opened in the coffee-house. Somewhere along the way, a couple large, vacant banquet rooms were constructed for use on special occasions, like weddings, birthdays, etc.
Since 2018, Eunjeong Kim and Insung Kang, two South Korean immigrants, have owned the operation. Of course, they’ve made sure the bread’s traditional recipe has been preserved intact.
If you haven’t yet done so — like, you’re a newcomer to our little corner of the suburbs — or, if it’s been several years since you’ve stopped by, I suggest you take a break from the world’s hectic pace and relax in the restaurant and/or coffee shop. And since you’re there, you might also pay a visit to the other enterprises in the immediate area. There’s the ol’ original Black Diamond jail, the collectables in the ol’ antique store, the ol’ smokehouse with all kinds of preserved meats and cheeses, and the ol’ Black Diamond Historical Museum.
Of course, the iPhone, Google, and Twitter give us just about all the info, history, and immediate insights we can handle at any particular moment, so you may not be especially interested in the mementos of days gone by. But, even it that’s the case, you still have to eat, so drop around for a fine meal or at least a latté. And while you’re at it, purchase a loaf of that magnificent bread.
That’s what I’ve done. It sits on the car seat beside me, still warm and fragrant from the oven… I salivate.