It helps to know people. When I knew I’d be making an early springtime trip to Portland, Maine, I called my friend Rachel, a true gourmand who spends every summer there. She had a great list of advice and fantastic spots for me to try, including this tantalizing bit: “Scratch Baking Co., across the bridge in South Portland. Out of the way, but the best bagels you will ever eat.” Not just the best I’ve had so far, but the best I’ll ever have. Who could pass that up? What I discovered at Scratch Baking Co., in addition to the best bagels I will ever have, long-risen, hot from the oven, crisp and chewy, sprinkled with sea salt harvested from the cold waters of Casco Bay, was an array of tender melting shortbread, generous slices of cake, abundant rustic loaves of rye and seeded bread, perfect baguettes, buttery cookies, dense, dark chocolate brownies, and chewy, coconut-y macaroons. In other words, heaven. I’d called co-owner Bob Johnson earlier to say we’d be coming in with our cameras and questions, and he invited me to come early Saturday morning, because “that’s when the party really happens.” A generous, open-hearted spirit wafts through the air at Scratch (along with the warm scents of butter, cinnamon, chocolate and baking bread) that comes straight from all three owners, who are dedicated to creating a true community bakery, where neighbors greet neighbors and everyone is welcomed with a sense of abundance and cheer. That’s not easy to find these days, so I couldn’t wait to talk to Bob to find out how he, Allison, and Sonja pull it off.