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Boulevard Bread Co.

Location: 1920 N. Grant and Kavanaugh. Little Rock.

Deliciously ripe heirloom tomatoes on Canada Day? Well, why not, I suppose. A wooden rack by the door was laden with assorted varieties, gnarled ones, purple ones, multi-lobed ones. On the counter were containers of organice blackberries and blueberries. The walls were lines with imported and unusual food products, refridgerated and otherwise: duck fat, imported butters, Conserve della nonna (an Italian jam, favorite of my family). The cheese selection, perhaps forty cheeses, included some particularly good ones; given how recent and raw my knowledge of cheese is, I was impressed I recognized any decent proportion of them. Salamis, pickles, salads... but despite the wealth of well-chosen grocery items, we showed up at the stripmall location because my cousin told us this was the best place in town to each lunch. I suspect she's right.

As the name implies, the Boulevard Bread Co. is primarily a bakery at heart, for all the other talents it has. The menu includes half a dozen panini, salads, a soup-of-the-day, and sundry other light meals. There are a few tables, but most of the business is takeout. My father enthused about the soup-of-the-day, lentil with rosemary and thyme. My sandwich was practically sublime - especially with the rich, ripe sweetness of the tomato slices in it - I can't help but hope it was part of the heirloom selection by the door. What a good tomato... and it was part of a group of ingredients which were all good. My panino caprese includes fresh mozzarella, tomato, and pesto on a freshly baked half-panino, sided with some pretty good potato chips ("Crawtator chips"). I had a Fizzy Lizzy brand of sparkling passionfruit juice, but the flavor was light; I prefer Sumol.

Giving in the lure of other good things, we bought blackberries, a lemon-poppy seed loaf, and a jar of jam before we were done with the shop - and even then, we ran into a distant relative (there for the tapenade), and so stopped to catch up before heading on our way. No wonder she'd gone out of her way to stop by the place: its quality certainly warrants the trip.