Photos can lie, especially food photos. But when a pair of sunny eggs nestled into a canoe-shaped flatbread (its high sides keeping the yolks from spilling out) beckon from a picture taken at a new Denver bakery, the truth is worth seeking out. And the moment of truth comes when you take your first bite of that flatbread from House of Bread, which opened at 2020 South Parker Road just a month ago.
The photograph, which appeared on the House of Bread's Instagram account in mid-November, depicts fresh-baked ajarski, a style of khachapuri originating in the Adjura region of Georgia. Khachapuri is so rare in Denver that after an exhaustive and (mostly) fruitless search two years ago, I ended up making my own at home. Since then, I've refined my dough recipe, but the elusive dish has never showed itself at any local bakeries or restaurants — until now.
House of Bread is Armenian, another one-of-a-kind in Denver. In larger cities such as Los Angeles, you can have your pick of Armenian bakeries, and many of them make Georgian khachapuri. That's not surprising: Khachapuri is as popular in Armenia, which shares a border with Georgia, as tacos are in the U.S. Then again, khachapuri's appeal is universal, so it has spread to Russia and many Eastern European countries, evolving as it migrated.
The basis is always bread, cheese and eggs, but there are many variations. House of Bread offers two styles. If you want a lighter, flakier version that resembles a turnover filled with feta cheese, ask for khachapuri (the style is not as common on social media, but the puff-pastry shell is still very good). If you want the eggy, cheesy one in the photo, ask for the ajarski.
This is not a monstrous boat oozing molten cheese; at $10.99, it's a filling lunch for one or a snack for two. The flatbread is reminiscent of thick-crust pizza; it's light and airy, but with a good, substantial chew. The bakery uses feta cheese instead of the saltier, stretchier salguni that's common in Georgia, and it fills the opening of the canoe with two eggs baked along with the crust so that the yolks just glaze over and border between flowing and gooey but are never cooked hard. You can ask for a third egg, or the addition of basturma — cured and sliced beef that's the predecessor of modern pastrami, though its texture is closer to Italian bresaola. Expect a ten- or fifteen-minute wait, since each ajarski is baked to order.
But don't stop with the ajarski, since there are plenty of Armenian specialties at House of Bread that are just as satisfying. The bakery also makes a paper-thin flatbread called lahmajun, topped with seasoned, finely minced (almost to a paste) beef. Each one is only $1.85, and you can make a meal out of two or three; eat them quickly, as they don't travel well — though they'll permeate your car with a lovely aroma of garlic and spices if you wait till you're home to dig in.
If you see long, deep-fried batons, they're perashki, filled with either cheese, potato or beef. Also not to be missed are the mante: delicate, open-topped dumplings filled with ground beef. They're cooked in tomato sauce and sold in a round pan for $10.99: a good deal, since one order could easily feed two people.
Two other Armenian breads, matnakash and barbari, are baked fresh more than once a day — and they tend to sell out quickly. The first is a puffy, oval bread with stripes and a golden crust, and the second looks similar but has an almost pretzel-like crust.
House of Bread makes far more than bread, though. It's a full-service pastry shop and cafe, too, so there are cakes and single-serving delicacies that go great with espresso drinks, or can be pre-ordered for special occasions. In fact, everything on the bakery's menu, which also includes a number of deli-style salads and other selections, can be pre-ordered online for pick-up, making breakfast, lunch or dinner to-go a safe and speedy proposition. While dining indoors is off-limits right now, there are also a few well-spaced cafe tables along the south-facing storefront, so on sunnier days you can enjoy your purchases outside.
No longer is it necessary to gaze longingly at social media photos of khachapuri; you can get yours at House of Bread from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Call 720-727-0000 or visit houseofbreadinc.com to place an order.
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