Early to Rise: Both Baker and Baked Goods Start Early in McCall
The oven at Evening Rise Bread Co. is a sight to behold. Encased in worn red brick, the 120- square-foot steam-injected deck oven looks like something you’d find humming in a small European village. Though it was built to run on wood, the oven was converted to propane once it arrived in McCall, where it has been churning out loaves for the last 14 years.
“It’s an old French bread oven that was built back in the ’50s,” said Evening Rise owner Corey McDonald. “It’s been running ever since we opened.”
Consistency is a necessity in a mountain town like McCall. If something breaks, there aren’t technicians or parts readily available to fix it. And when you’re cranking out 500–600 loaves a day in the summertime, and supplying bread to most of the restaurants in town, equipment failure is not an option.
But reliability aside, McDonald says he prefers the end result of steam-injection.
“A lot of bakers use an egg wash or wash the dough with something, but the steam will give it that sheen on the bread and then give it a nice outer crust,” explained McDonald. “With the steam you also get a nice oven bloom—the bread expands really nice.”
Like most bakers, McDonald also operates on consistency. The Albuquerque, New Mexico native gets to work at 4am and leaves at 4:30pm, six days a week. He insists on using flour from Shepherd’s Grain—a cooperative of around 60 sustainable wheat growers located in the Pacific Northwest, Southern Alberta and Southern California—and he can rattle off the week’s bread specials in his sleep.
“We’ll make rye every Thursday; Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays we’re making bagels; Wednesdays and Saturdays we make a nine-grain bread; Tuesdays we do a bleu cheese walnut wheat,” said McDonald.
McDonald adds molasses to his bleu cheese walnut bread, which he describes as “really dark and dense, but a flavor you’ve never had.” Other recent bread specials have included huckleberry thyme, sweet potato sage, smoked gouda pecan and cranberry walnut. Evening Rise’s bagels are also gaining popularity, with local restaurants like Shore Lodge and The Hub now offering them.
“We steam the bagels; it’s not a boiled bagel. And we make them out of our sourdough,” said McDonald. “We make a plain; an everything with sea salt, caraway seed, dill seed, sunflower seeds, sesame seed, poppy; and then we do poppy and then just onion.”
But because McCall’s population fluctuates so much seasonally, McDonald can’t make too many types of bread each day, or he risks wasting it.
“It’s just a guessing game every day, but we do pretty good,” said McDonald. “It’s just the nature of the business: You’re going to have leftover bread.”
McDonald donates his day-old bread to the food bank and the Senior Center. He also trades it to local ranchers in exchange for eggs and meat. But during the busiest seasons, leftover bread is rarely an issue. From 11am to 4pm, there’s a steady line of folks queued up for Evening Rise’s signature offering: sandwiches.
“We’re kind of known for sandwiches around here now.…They’re all made to order; the bread’s baked fresh every day; we slice the meat every day. You build your own sandwich and then we run specials…It’s a Dagwood sandwich,” said McDonald.
And he’s not bluffing. Evening Rise’s sandwiches are the arm-wearying sort stacked three inches thick with deli meats and cheeses. In the wintertime, snow-dusted skiers still in their boots waddle in for a caloric recharge. As patrons fill out their sandwich order forms— circling which meats, cheeses and condiments they’d like—McDonald banters with them across the counter.
“Nice hat,” one customer chides, referring to the red and green fedora perched on McDonald’s head. “Yeah, LL Cool J gave it to me,” he retorts with a smirk.
And it’s this type of laid-back, small town congeniality that has made Evening Rise such a popular stop for locals and out-of-towners.
“It’s kind of like vacation here; we have fun,” said McDonald. “It’s not a real stressful job. People tell me, ‘Man, you work really hard.’ I say, ‘I don’t really work that hard, I’m just at work a lot.’ When you enjoy what you do it’s not really work.”