July 31, 2011

Artisan Bread Fair draws variety of bakers, eaters

SKOWHEGAN -- Donna Mionis was among friends Saturday at the 2011 Artisan Bread Fair at Skowhegan State Fairgrounds.

"These people are my people," she said, standing underneath an awning surrounded by more than 300 loaves of her garlic dill, cinnamon raisin, oatmeal, spinach cheddar and seven-grain bread.

"People who love bread come here."

More than 2,500 people flocked to the 2010 fair to sample breads and wood-fired pizza, not to mention cookies, cheese and jams.

In 2011, fair organizers hoped for even more.

This is the second year that Mionis, who operates Daily Bread in Levant, has been a vendor at the fair.

Mionis credited her grandmother with teaching her to bake. She said her grandfather, a traveling salesman, took her grandmother's baked goods on the road with him to sell.

Mionis hits the road a lot these days too, heading to farmers' markets and fairs with her 30-plus varieties of bread.

Mionis wasn't the only one peddling her baked goods. Johanna Davis of Songbird Farm in Starks, was pedaling and peddling.

Davis rigged an old 10-speed Columbia bicycle so that when the rider pedals, the chain turns a Country Living Grain Mill crank, which grinds kernels of corn.

"There's nothing fresher than that," Davis said, pointing to a fine corn meal produced after a few minutes of easy pedaling.

Davis sold bags of Hopi Blue Corn Meal, which she said is great for pancakes.

A lot of people Saturday morning were also craving pizza. That might have been because Steve Dionne and crew had fired up a copper-topped Le Panyol wood-fired pizza oven and the smell of pies wafted around the grounds.

Dionne said the oven cooks a pizza in about 90 seconds.

For pizza and bread lovers who are gluten-intolerant, which is estimated to be about 1 in 133 Americans, Donna Bishop of Madison had some delicious options.

Her Just-A-Cookin bakery featured gluten-free products, including banana bread, peanut butter cookies and whoopie pies.

Bishop said about 10 years ago when she and her husband both learned they were gluten intolerant it was difficult to find tasty, homemade treats.

About five years ago, Bishop started experimenting. She has since turned her living room into a commercial kitchen and several days a week she sells her baked goods at farmers' markets throughout central Maine.

"We both feel a lot better," she said.

As do her customers.

And Bishop said she has some regulars who are not gluten-intolerant, they just prefer the density and flavor of gluten-free bread.

Beth Staples -- 861-9252

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