Ah, good ol’ bread — one of the building blocks of life, right up there with the double helix and Mr. Rogers.
And that’s why I figured it was worth the drive from Ventura to Newbury Park to give the New Harvest Bread Co. a try. I was right about the bread and sandwiches — and not quite as right about the service. But I’ll give you the good news first …
Wedged into a strip mall, the modest little shop is loaded with all kinds of goodies, but not very many places to sit. Save for a couple small tables just outside the doors, the café is standing room only. Good thing it’s a delightful place to stand around and kill a few minutes.
Upon entry, visitors can take a gander at all the little extras the place offers — including gourmet olive oil, cookie and pancake mixes, granola and even whole-wheat dog bones. It’s essentially a cool little shop at which to grab a delicious sandwich or loaf of bread and nab a unique gift for Mom in the process.
As a haven for baked goods, Great Harvest can’t be beat. The eatery offers up specialty breads, cookies, scones and muffins particular to the day of the week and the month of the year. On each Friday in March, for instance, visitors can expect cookies, raspberry cream cheese scones, cinnamon chip scones, blueberry muffins and cinnamon rolls.
Some other tasty offerings throughout the month of March include wildwood berry bars, brownies, trek bars, blondies and quickbreads. Those in search of specialty baked items can surely find something here.
Indeed, the place is a bakery. The scent and warmth of freshly baked breads — breads like honey whole wheat, Italian herb focaccia, nine grain, Guinness stout and gouda (with actual chunks of cheese baked into it), cinnamon pull-apart, jalapeño cheddar, apple crunch and plenty of others — lingers in the air.
Still, it isn’t all about the bread (even though it could be). Great Harvest offers no fewer than 11 classic and signature sandwiches and six paninis. I ordered the Tuscan chicken panini, which is a warm little slice of heaven built of aged provolone, fire-grilled chicken breast, red onion, romaine lettuce, tomato, and sun-dried tomato pesto on Italian herb foccacia.
The sandwich was wonderfully made, with just the right amount of delicious fillings and sheathed in the excellent foccacia. The pesto, slightly tangy and very flavorful, set the panini apart from standard competition. On a separate occasion, I tried a loaf of Conejo crunch, a bread that made me feel I was absolutely spoiling myself with yeasty goodness. It was a definite treat.
The service I received was not quite as wonderful. While it’s true that everyone has a bad day now and again, I suspect that I may have put a damper on the cashier’s day by ordering a sandwich. It wasn’t so much that she was unfriendly; it’s more like I would have been convinced I’d suddenly turned invisible if she hadn’t taken my money in exchange for the forthcoming goods and services.
When I asked another of the staffers behind the counter how much a bottle of olive oil cost, she simply shrugged and said she didn’t know and, a few minutes later, told me it was “seven something.” Sometimes a bad day is just plain contagious.
Overall, however, the delicious bites were worth the drive up the grade and proved that something so seemingly simple as bread can be a main event.