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No sour grapes now, okay?

(ran SP edition)

When the San Francisco Chronicle assembled a panel of the Bay Area's culinary stars for a tasting of sourdough bread, there was a lot of anticipation. After all, sourdough and San Francisco are so inseparable that scientific papers have been written explaining how essential one of the area's native bacterial strains (Lactobacillus sanfrancisco) is to the making of good bread.

Imagine the panelists' surprise when the winner turned out to be a bread from the sunburned, so-scorned south, made by Los Angeles' La Brea Bakery. What's more, the winning loaf wasn't the best the bakery produces. Unlike the La Brea baguettes sold in Southern California, the bakery's Northern California loaves are par-baked in Los Angeles before being trucked to the Bay Area for finishing.

The La Brea baguette, made with a starter grown from grapes, flour and water in Los Angeles, scored 95 out of a possible 100 points.

"Not only did it make my day, it made my year," says Manfred Krankl, manager of the bakery. "If my mother did it, she wouldn't have done as good a job. After all, this is San Francisco, the supposed sourdough capital of the world, and here we are from Los Angeles. It doesn't get any sweeter than that."