There’s something special about talking with someone who is living their dream. Perhaps it’s the gleam in their eyes, or the confidence in their voice. There’s an aura of assurance, and those that have it are the lucky ones.
Bryn Rawlyk, owner of The Night Oven Bakery, is one of the lucky. Sure, he has to be on site by 3:00 a.m., when most of us are still in our deepest sleep, but Rawlyk is OK with that. This bakery is his baby and his dream. Inspiration struck when he first started working in an upscale bakery in Montréal some years ago, then again when he moved to Vancouver and took on baking duties there. From older bakers, he learned the tricks of the trade, most importantly, how to implement an efficient back-of-house systems. Self-taught in his profession, Rawlykn has read plenty of books on baking, and learned the ropes just by doing it. They don’t call it passion for nothing. Two years ago, he and his wife Beth were both Slow Food Saskatoon delegates at Terre Madre in Italy, an international biennial gathering of artisan food producers. Rawlyk says that meeting all of these amazing people was the catalyst for jumping into his vision of The Night Oven Bakery. I can sense the pride as he tells me about the brick oven he built with his own hands. With a low dome, a large surface area, and a neat stack of Northern Saskatchewan birch piled next to it, the oven's heat is slow and steady; and because there is a separate chamber for the fire, he simply builds a bigger fire if he wants to bake more bread. That smell, combined with the aromas of yeast and coffee, is just heavenly.
The other really impressive thing that Rawlyk does is grind his own flour to use in his breads and baked goods. Red Fife heritage wheat come from the Loiselle family farm near Vonda, and organic spelt comes from a farm near Humboldt. Grinding occurs about twice a week, sometimes more if they’re super busy. Rawlyk spends a lot of time sourcing local and organic products and it’s an important part of their focus as a bakery. Quality ingredients beget quality food, and there’s no cutting corners at The Night Oven.
The shelves are stacked with all kinds of attractive looking baked goods. The are four types of bread baked daily: country white, whole wheat, house rye and baguette. Speciality breads, such as 100 per cent spelt, dark rye and brioche are baked on Friday and/or Saturday. The walnut honey raisin loaf already has a loyal following, and flies off the shelf, still warm from the oven. Most bread is $5 per loaf, which is quite a deal, in my humblest of opinions. There is also the most delicious looking focaccia, heaped high with thin slices of potato and onion (from Wally’s Urban Market Garden) or slathered with tomato and cheese, for just $8.
Now to the pastries, where I get a little gushy; please forgive. Living in Montréal during my formative food loving years instilled a love of croissant that will never die. Happily, Rawlyk has them lined up like little soldiers in his pastry window. Some are even filled with ham and cheese ($4.50).
There is also pain au chocolat ($3.50), two types of scone ($2.50)--a savoury and a sweet--and tarts ($4). Oh, the tarts. Again, a savoury and a sweet. Cookies ($2) and brownies ($3) and Canelé de Bordeaux ($2.50); oh my.
I took my plain croissant ($2.50) and a latté (beverages are all made with fair trade, organic coffee, milk, chocolate) and found a seat in front of the large window. Buttery and flakey, with perfect layers of loveliness, just one bite of the croissant and I was in dreamland.
Nestled back on busy 1st Avenue North, The Night Oven Bakery has been open for one year and with a small staff in tow, Rawlyk is clearly on his way to becoming one of the best bakers in the city, in one of the best bakeries. How does that saying from that 1980’s baseball movie go? “If you build it, they will come.” One word. Go.
The Night Oven Bakery is located at 629 B 1st. Ave N. Phone (306) 500-2350. Open Tuesday to Friday 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Closed Sunday and Monday.