CHESTER, Vt. -- Some bakers design gingerbread houses. But judging from the cathedral ceiling and light-flooded dining area of his bakery near the village green, John McLure has loftier ambitions. He designed the Baba-À-Louis Bakery building himself. And as radical as the structure might be for a commercial operation, the exposed timbers and high, peaked roofs seem right at home in Vermont's Green Mountains -- just like all those Swiss-style chalets.
The breads and goodies are pure Vermont. In addition to the requisite long French loaves and organic whole wheat bread, the bakery also produces rye, poppyseed, oatmeal, anadama, sourdough, and cheese herb loaves as well as some unusual variants, such as sourdough barley bread. Sweets verge on the retro: chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal raisin, and ginger cookies ; mint, cream cheese, and regular brownies ; and a wide selection of fruit squares. McLure and his staff also make eclairs, cream puffs, carrot cake , and, for those needing a strong fix of Vermont flavors, maple almond squares .
While regulars (and many travelers) make a point of stopping in early for coffee and cinnamon sticky buns, the lunch buffet is a real find. There are always a couple of soup choices (perhaps broccoli and winter squash) and a few pre-made sandwiches (egg salad, tuna salad, and mixed vegetables are probably options). A quiche or two usually graces the buffet as well. Speak up and the staff will assemble the panino of the day: avocado, tomato , and Swiss cheese, for example.
The bakery sells a book of bread recipes, complete with McLure's asides on the life and livelihood of a baker. And if you're taken with his architectural achievements, you can also buy blueprints for the building.
Baba-À-Louis Bakery, Route 11, Chester, Vt. 802-875-4666. lcturbonet.com/~lmeyers/bakery/babalouis2.html. Tuesday-Saturday 7 a.m.-6 p.m.; closed April and November (open by Thanksgiving). Directions: Chester is about 125 miles or two hours from Boston. Take Interstate 90 (Mass. Pike) west to I-91 north into Vermont. Take exit 6 and go west on Route 103 to Route 11 west into Chester. The bakery is on Route 11, about a mile past the Fullerton Inn.