Forget looking in the bread section of the grocery store. Even at the most illustrious of grocers in Bend, the search for a bag of buns is disappointing at best. Whether white, sesame or whole wheat, every bag I pick up has the same insurmountable problem: the list of ingredients includes high fructose corn syrup.
Why high fructose corn syrup is such a stumbling block for me, I don't know. Maybe it's the fact that the manufacture of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) involves vats of murky fermenting liquid, fungus and chemical tweaking. Or possibly, it's because two of the enzymes used in the chemical process - alpha-amylase and glucose-isomerase - are genetically modified to make them more stable. And the fact that HFCS has been linked to the cause of diabetes, heart disease and cancer shouldn't scare me, should it?
You get the gist. Buns, or any bread products for that matter, made with HFCS are out. So where does a burger lover turn? I thought the solution might be found in the aisles of local health food stores. And yes, there are whole wheat and spelt buns out there that do not contain HFCS. But there is still the taste factor. That perfectly cooked disk of beef, buffalo, elk or venison making your mouth water should not - can not - end up delivered a dentro on a tasteless hockey puck.
One solution came last summer when I mentioned my dilemma to my friend Laurie. We were planning the menu for a camping trip on the lower Deschutes, and I said if I could only find a decent bun, we could make venison burgers on the river. She said she had experienced the same problem, but now resorted to using the rosemary pandoras made by the Village Baker. Ah ha! I love their breads, so decided to try the pandoras.
The rosemary pandora is now my top choice for burger night chez nous. The Village Baker's substitute for a bun is large for a burger (and square), so it is important to fashion your burger to fill it out. The pandoras are made only with flour, water, salt, a pinch of yeast and rosemary, just the way they should be. But this option might be out of bounds for some budgets. At $1.29 a pop, it works fine for a few. But if you're feeding a horde, it doesn't really pencil out. (The Village Baker; 318-1054; 1470 SW Knoll Ave # 201).
In the summer months, The Bagel Stop makes sourdough, herb and white hamburger buns, packaged by the half-dozen and sold for $4. This is a great option for a locally made bun that's cheaper than that of the Village Baker. The buns can also be purchased seasonally from the Bagel Stop's booth at the Farmer's Market or can be special ordered in any season. (The Bagel Stop; 318-8177; 661 NE Greenwood Ave).
HFCS-free hamburger buns can also be custom ordered for the next day at Great Harvest Bread Company in downtown Bend. The cheery bakers at Great Harvest can, and do, make buns from the same variety of flours - including white, whole wheat, Kamut, and spelt - as their breads. A minimum order of a dozen buns is required for the special order, and cost is typically $4.95 per half dozen. (Great Harvest Bread Company; 389-2888; 835 NW Bond St).
It may take more pre-planning, but your burger experience will be worth shopping a little further a field for a bun worthy of its filling.