I have been investigating Ten Ten Pié, a small, unusual and delightful bakery/market on Cumberland Avenue in Portland for a couple of months now, searching for one item to write about but unable to choose just one. This assignment is a plum. (Granted, I assigned it to myself.) I have munched my way through rhubarb-maple tartlets, goat cheese-butternut squash Danishes and onigiri – that last a triangle-shaped, seaweed-wrapped Japanese rice snack that I am thrilled (and astonished) to find in Portland. The twice-baked nutella-hazelnut croissant brought me to my knees, and I’ve had my eye on the miso-caramel-chocolate bonbons for weeks now.

But when push came to shove, the item that stole my heart – and sent me running back to Ten Ten Pié the very next day for more of the same – was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Or more precisely, an open-faced sunflower butter and lingonberry jam sandwich.

I grilled baker and co-owner Atsuko Fujimoto, formerly of Standard Bakery, Fore Street and Miyake. Did you make the sunflower butter? No. Did you make the jam? No. It came from Sweden, she told me, adding “Isn’t it good?” Yes it is. It tastes like fruit, not sugar. Fujimoto did, however, bake the moist, dense, seeded rye bread; the snack comes on a robust and generous slice of the stuff. That bread, a barely spellable Filmjölkslimpa (you can sometimes buy a loaf at Ten Ten Pié), is not a yeast bread, she then confessed. “I’m a pastry chef,” she said sheepishly. “It feels like cheating.”

I know exactly how she feels. I have written about food for nearly two decades. For many years, I worked at the epicenter of highfalutin’ cuisine, the James Beard Foundation in Manhattan. I have been very lucky at the table, dining on occasion at world-famous restaurants, sharing meals with world-famous chefs. So for Pete’s sake, shouldn’t my palate be a little more grown up? The friendly co-owner of Ten Ten Pié, Markos Miller (who has cheerfully greeted me by name since the day we met, and who, I only recently learned, once ran for mayor of Portland!), kindly took pity on me: “All of us,” he said with an encouraging smile, “are 8-year-olds at heart.”

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