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Great Harvest Bread Company rises to the occasion

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The breakfast sandwich at Great Harvest Bread Company.

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Christina Ruotolo

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Great Harvest Bread Company is an eclectic bakery cafe that serves up fresh baked breads, baked goods, sandwiches, soups and salads in an inviting and downhome atmosphere.

Owners and stewards of faith and bread Gregg and Kim Green opened the cafe at 2803 Evans St. in April 2015. Before baking bread, Gregg was breaking bread with others as a pastor and military chaplain. After serving in the Army, he moved his family back to Kim’s hometown of Greenville and looked for a business opportunity that would allow him to not only prosper, but to give back to the community.

Opening a Great Harvest cafe was the answer. Great Harvest has 200 other “freedom franchises” throughout the country. Each cafe is locally owned and operated, and owners have the freedom to create their own menu using core recipes they can adapt to fit their communities.

When you walk into the cafe, you can smell fresh bread baking in large ovens and immediately you feel relaxed. The cafe is bright and open and has enough seating for 70 people. There is a kids’ corner so parents can enjoy eating while the kids play. There also is a private meeting room for your next book club, Bible study or business luncheon.

The bread-baking process actually starts thousands of miles away on wheat farms in Montana in a region called the “Golden Triangle of Wheat.” The wheat arrives in large paper sacks and is added to Great Harvest’s on-site stone grist mill. Once the wheat is milled, it is used within 72 hours in order for the nutrients to remain in the breads and baked goods.

The bread-making process starts at 3 a.m. All of the hand-kneaded breads start with five basic ingredients: yeast, salt, honey, flour and water. Then other ingredients are added to make the special flavors.

Great Harvest offers seven everyday breads and two cheese breads four days a week. It also rotates in two or three seasonal breads, so there are plenty of tastes, flavors and textures to fit your bread mood. The seven everyday breads that stay on the menu throughout the year are honey whole wheat, farmhouse white, cinnamon chip and cinnamon swirl, Dakota bread made with pumpkin, sunflower, sesame seeds and millet grain, monkey bread and pepperoni rolls. The current seasonal breads that will be served through the holidays include the popular white chocolate cranberry bread and a fluffy and light chocolate babka bread, which is an eastern European bread made with dried milk and eggs with chocolate swirled in.

Before you even order from the menu, you can sample sweet and savory breads on the bread board. This will give you a feel for the tastes and flavors that are used in many of the recipes. Prices on the menu range from $4.25-$8.75, and patrons may order whole loaves of bread to enjoy at home for $5.75-$9.

For my food sampling tour, I started with the cinnamon roll. This sweet treat is available Fridays and Saturdays. The dough is soft on the outside and has a nice chewy texture on the inside. You can taste the swirls of cinnamon throughout, and the homemade cream cheese icing on top is sweet and decadent. Pair with with a warm cup of coffee or a glass of cold Simply Natural Creamery milk, and it’s breakfast magic.

Next, I tried the famous bacon cheddar biscuit, which is available every day. This savory item is unique when it comes to cheese biscuits because it starts with a whole wheat buttermilk biscuit. Add in a heaping helping of cheddar cheese, chopped bacon, bake it in the oven and it comes out with that heavenly crunchy cheddar ring around it. Slice it open and it oozes Southern love. 

Great Harvest offers an array of breakfast sandwiches as well. I tried the country ham, cheddar and egg. The eggs are whipped, mixed  with half-and-half and a tad of lemon juice, and the baked, which makes them light and fluffy. Pair that with melted cheese, herb garlic butter and grill it between two slices of farmhouse white bread, and it will keep you full and focused all day. You can tailor the sandwich to your liking. Change the bread, select from sausage, country ham or bacon and pick your cheese. A breakfast biscuit costs $4.25, and the breakfast sandwich costs $5.50.

Next, I sampled one of the signature lunch sandwiches, the Big Sky Chicken Salad Sandwich on Dakota bread. This is the most complex and flavorful chicken salad I have ever tasted. It is made with chopped artichoke hearts, plump, golden raisins, dried cranberries, chopped walnuts, Duke’s mayonnaise, tarragon and other spices. Not only is it delicious, it’s healthy. You get a crunchy taste from the seeded bread, which gives you 4 grams of fiber in every slice and then you get the sweet, savory, crunchy and tangy bite from the chicken salad. It’s paired with a salty, crunchy pickle and costs $8. Add chips and a drink for an additional $2.75.

For those seeking only sweets, Great Harvest is well known for its cookies and baked treats. It offers an array of cookies including its gooey chocolate chip, chewy salted caramel, and warm and spicy ginger cookies. Small cookies cost $1 each; large cookies are $1.75.

Every day, the unsold loaves of fresh bread are donated to food banks throughout Pitt County. Great Harvest also has a nonprofit monthly donation program. Every month from January through November, the cafe tailors a bread item for a local charity or nonprofit organization. For that month, 15 percent of the proceeds from the sales of that item are donated to the charity. In addition, donations from the tips jar also go toward the charity.

Great Harvest can provide food trays for your next off-site event and also has a variety of handcrafted gift baskets for any occasion, priced at $18-$75.

Great Harvest Bread Company Bakery Cafe is open from 6:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. For more information,  visit greenvillenc.greatharvestbread.com, follow on Facebook or call 689-6012.

Sam Jones BBQ

Sam Jones Barbecue, 715 W. Fire Tower Road, Winterville, will be featured this weekend on the Travel Channel’s “Food Paradise.” The episode, titled “Fire It Up,”  features local pitmaster Sam Jones cooking and showcasing recipes he has carried from coast to coast in a an effort to elevate eastern North Carolina’s food culture. The show airs at 9 p.m. Sunday.

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