Man cannot live on bread alone, but you can't blame a guy for trying. Few things touch us on a purely elemental level like a freshly baked loaf. And any way you slice it, bread these days is better than ever. America's artisanal movement has given one of the world's oldest foods a thoroughly modern gourmet makeover. The country's best chefs are lavishing main-course levels of love on bread service, and spunky young bakers are experimenting with new (and some very old) techniques to create delicious varieties. Wheat or rye, baguette or boule, embellished with cardamom or larded with duck fat, bread is finally coming out of the basket and into the limelight. Now rip off a hunk.

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