While there are a number of good bread vendors at the Irvine farmers' markets, lately I've been making more and more of my bakery stops at Picket Lane Bakery, a stand toward the middle of the market.
The bakery has no retail storefront, since most of their trade is B2B, but they do sell at three local farmers' markets (see bottom for details). Stop by the booth at Irvine and chat with Irinne, who seems to be smiling perpetually.
Baguettes are excellent, the best item they make. The standard white-flour baguette tastes just like any baguette in France (except maybe those ethereal ones from Poilâne or Auzet, which are rarities even in a place so obsessed with great bread that there is an official symbol of bread made the artisanal way), but without the long flight and the tedious customs questions. The conscious of health can rejoice that Picket Lane has managed to make a good whole-wheat baguette, with the proper, slightly sour, taste. Whole-wheat baguettes are not always available; call in advance to see if they're being baked. Try either baguette rubbed with tomatoes and garlic and sprinkled with olive oil, all produced locally and available within fifty feet of Picket Lane's stand, and bear in mind that like all baguettes, they need to be eaten the same day.
Picket Lane also makes an amazing brioche, perfect for sandwiches of cold, leftover roast chicken and a smear of salted butter or for turning into bread pudding or French toast. Multi-grain bread tastes good without being chock full of sweetener and has a crumb that is moist enough (most multi-grain bread crumbles if you look at it funny).
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Occasionally there will be a couple of pissaladières, the Provençal flatbread with the odd name. It's topped with sweet caramelized onions and olives and, sometimes, anchovies. They're good enough that I don't need to make my own unless I'm feeling like it. Thick, bready, herbal focaccia screams to be dipped into tomato sauce or maybe spread with a little bit of goat cheese from Soledad Goats next door.
On the sweet side of the house, they make scones both regular and whole-wheat, Danishes, sweet buns, pies, jelly-filled sticks and tarts. I haven't had much of this because I generally have filled up on a sweet bun before heading into the market, but it certainly looks good.
Picket Lane Bakery sells at the San Juan Capistrano market on Wednesdays, the Laguna Hills market on Fridays and the Irvine market on Saturdays. Call (949) 466-3570 for information.