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Ohanian Comment: If you needed more proof that NCLB has thoroughly embedded itself in our culture, read on. My question: are the pie crust tests as deceptive as the NCLB tests? NOTE: The recipe calls for an all-butter crust. Make of that what you will. I use 1/4 Crisco.

Grand Central Baking Co.

Stuffing us full with Como slices and blueberry muffins since 1993, Grand Central Baking is as ingrained in Portland as that inkwell of preserves is in its signature buttermilk Jammers. It has morphed with the city, expanding to four locations and refining its offerings to include more than a dozen loaves, French pastry such as croissants and galettes, Stumptown coffee and, most recently, seasonal menu items. That goes beyond using local berries during the summer: Grand Central has made such radical changes as denuding its sandwiches of out-of-season tomatoes. But where it takes away, it adds in spades, rolling out a half-dozen new knockout sandwiches with each season.

The chow: GCB has taken to brining and roasting its own meats, producing a more robust turkey, cumin-spiced pork loin and rosy-rare beef, which makes its debut in a sandwich with aged cheddar, sweet onion and tarragon-shallot mayonnaise. Layered on Yukon Gold potato bread, it rivals the Pearl Bakery's excellent roast beef and chevre number for spurring cow-cravings. Another newbie, the hot primavera sandwich pairs roasted asparagus, peppers and whatever other vegetables happen to be at their prime with prosciutto or house-cured tofu, oozing havarti and herbed mayo to memorable effect. One of these mornings, resist the mounds of sweet rolls in order to sample the amazing golden-yolk eggs laid by grass-roaming chickens in Skamokawa, Wash. Served fried on a toasted bolo roll with sweet tomato relish and an embarrassment of bacon, the eggs dazzle.

Real deals: Those farm-fresh eggs can also be ordered simply fried alongside two pieces of toast with butter and jam for $2.95. And at $5.25 apiece, Grand Central's grilled Tostis are its most affordable sandwiches.

Hangout factor: The sweet, floury aroma of good bread is especially heady at the Multnomah Village location, GCB's production hub, while the newest cafe in Sellwood feels as homey as an old general store.

Liquids: Stumptown coffee, fresh juices and smoothies by Columbia Gorge Organics and Stewart's sodas.

What's half-baked: Definitely not the addictive rhubarb galettes.

Inside tips: Baking fruit pies at home? Log on to www.grandcentralbakery.com for its Perfect Pie Crust. Production manager Piper Davis ensures that the recipe has been tested as thoroughly as the No Child Left Behind generation.

— Christiana Melander


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