Side Orders: Toast becomes trendy

Side Orders: Toast becomes trendy

March 12th, 2014 by Anne Braly in Life Entertainment

Anne Braly

Anne Braly

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

John Sweet, owner of Niedlov's Bakery on Main Street.

John Sweet, owner of Niedlov's Bakery on Main...

Photo by Shawn Paik /Times Free Press.

Toast. Who thought that it would ever be on a restaurant menu?

I'm not talking about toast as a side to eggs and bacon. That's common. I'm talking about toast as a standalone item served with various toppings. It's a trend that started at a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop in San Francisco, Trouble, according to an article in the magazine Pacific Standard. And now it's become a trend in larger cities and has made its way onto menus in some of the Scenic City's trendy restaurants, as well.

Andrew Freeman, president of Andrew Freeman and Co., a hospitality and marketing consulting firm in San Francisco, accurately predicted the trend last year, saying he expected 2013 to be the year of toasted bread.

"And I have no doubt that it will continue and expand on appetizer menus in 2014," he says. Why? "It's such a good complement to savory toppings, such as chicken liver mousse, hummus and other toppings. They make nice little taste treats."

Local bread baker John Sweet, owner of Niedlov's Breadworks on Main Street, says several restaurants in town buy his bread, then toast it and add it to their appetizer menus. Public House toasts Niedlov's sourdough bread and serves it with its popular pimento cheese, Sweet says, and The Meeting Place toasts his French baguettes and then tops it with beef tartare.

"Community Pie and Easy Bistro also use our bread and toast it for many of their appetizers," he adds.

Freeman says he's found some restaurants that bring a selection of toast toppings to the table, such as The Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis, which has a separate "toast" section on the menu and includes toppings such as warmed Camembert, grilled savoy cabbage and kale, sugar-and-salt-cured salmon with sweet mustard sauce and pickled cucumbers, and beef tartare.

"It gives people an opportunity to share. People like that at the beginning of a meal," Freeman says.

This toasty recipe from demands artisan bread. Why? The flavors of the mushrooms and goat cheese marry with the taste and texture of a hearty bread. Plus, "toasting is one of the best ways to enjoy breads of all kinds," Sweet says. "But toasting up handcrafted artisan breads, especially sourdough and whole-grain breads, really brings out aromas and flavors and textures that one-ups the experience of eating them at room temperature."

Savory Goat Cheese Mushroom Spread

1 small (or 1/2 large) French baguette

2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing

Coarse salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 shallot, thinly sliced into rings

8 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and coarsely chopped

12 (1/4-inch thick) rounds of goat cheese, cut from a log (about 6 ounces), room temperature

Chopped chives (optional)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut baguette crosswise into 12 (1/4-inch thick) slices; place on a baking sheet. Brush with oil; season with salt and pepper. Toast in the middle of oven until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add shallot; cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and any juices have evaporated, 7 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Place a round of goat cheese on top of each crostini; top with a tablespoon of mushroom mixture. Sprinkle with chives, if desired. Serve warm.

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