Toast used to be a dry and uninspiring add-on to breakfast plates at greasy spoon restaurants. But that’s not the case anymore: Today, gourmet, topped toast has popped up all over the country from casual concepts to fine-dining restaurants.
An item suited to all sorts of eating occasions, toast is selling at premium prices, in part because of consumer demand. Sixty-three percent of consumers said they’re likely to try artisanal toast at a restaurant, according to Chicago food market researcher Datassential.
Although it might seem unusual to see $10 toast on menus, it’s not difficult to see why artisanal toast is trending: First, toast is familiar, and at the same time new, tapping into the interest in artisan breads. Also, the number of spreads and toppings that can be offered are endless—from such basic options as butter and jam to housemade specialty spreads and exotic toppings. Toast also gives diners an opportunity to share plates and have a communal dining experience.
More than just a schmear
“Toast provides operators with an opportunity to showcase new bread varieties, flavorings, textures and forms,” says Lauren Hallow, editor at Technomic. “It’s an excellent platform for chefs to show off creativity and the quality of ingredients in spreads and toppings due to their ease of preparation and versatility.”
The Purple Pig, a trendy-casual spot in Chicago, has a section on its menu called “Smears,” with toast and several toppings that include salt-cured Greek yogurt with strawberry rhubarb preserves and pistachio, roasted bone marrow and pork neckbone gravy with ricotta.
Similarly, Roman Candle Baking Co. in Portland, Oregon, features seven varieties of toast with various spreads and toppings, such as housemade Nutella on raisin walnut bread and honey/bee pollen on super-grain bread. And The Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis has a separate “Toast” section on its menu with such toppings as fresh cow’s milk cheese, roasted oyster mushrooms, bacon-onion jam and fruit compote; pork pastrami, mizuna, caramelized onions and grain mustard; and the Groaning Board, which includes housemade charcuterie, preserved vegetables and mustards.
‘The year of the avocado toast’
According to Eater, 2015 was the year of the avocado toast. It reported that on Foursquare, mentions of avocado toast increased 270 percent in 2015 from 2014 and overall internet searches for the nibble spiked greatly. This trend does not appear to be slowing down for 2016.
Le Pain Quotidien, with coast-to-coast and international locations, menus avocado toast with citrus cumin salt, organic chia seeds and extra-virgin olive oil. London Plane in Seattle offers toast made from naturally leavened sourdough topped with curried avocado, radish, cabbage and cilantro. Tar & Roses in Santa Monica, California, prepares blue crab toast with avocado, pickled onion, lime, cilantro and espelette peppers. Café Gitane in New York plates avocado toast with lemon juice, olive oil and chili flakes for an extra kick on seven-grain bread.
“Operators also can get away with charging more for this than regular toast, because avocado is a premium ingredient,” says Hallow. “Plus, it’s more filling than butter or jam.” In Hawaii, Daylight Mind Coffee sells its much-loved avocado smash with Kona avocado, a poached egg and red bell peppers on toasted sourdough for $12.
This post is sponsored by Euro-Bake