Toast of the Town
Toast, bruschetta, crostini, melba, crouton…no matter what you call it, were basically talking about bread that has been, well, toasted.
One of the earliest references to toast, or bread that has been browned by exposure to radiant heat, dates back to a recipe from 1430. The recipe for Oyle Soppys calls for flavored onions stewed in a gallon of stale beer, a pint of oil, and toast, which is used as a flavoring agent (not sure why, when the recipe sounds oh so delicious without it).
Other early uses of toast were in the form of the Medieval “Trencher”. The Trencher was a round piece of stale bread or toast that would serve as a plate for a meal. After the meal was consumed, the Trencher, which would’ve soaked up any gravy or sauce, could then be eaten (Genius! No more dirty dishes!!).
While toast has had its place at the breakfast table for generations, whether French, buttered, or with peanut butter and sprinkles, it wasn’t until recently that the trend started popping up on not only breakfast, but lunch and dinner menus as well. While Avocado toast has been popular as far back as 2010, since 2015 restaurant chefs have been using artisan breads and toasts, assorted toppings, and complex flavor to create new menu offerings. Add in a national pandemic with many people working from home, and eating breakfast again, and fuel for this trend continues. Upscale restaurants such as New York’s Avant Garden and North Carolinas Il Palio, as well as casual eatery Cheesecake Factory, and even Panera have added flatbreads to the menu.
Avant Garden offers 4 toasts nightly, building flavor with vegetable spreads such as Smoked Eggplant Puree, Calabrian Chili, Celery, Olive, and Pickled Shallot. Another toast features Tomato Jam, Pickled Peach, Almond Ricotta, and Basil.
At Il Palio the menu offers a dozen toasts, or crostini, to choose from. Options include Beefsteak ‘Drippins’ and Sea Salt; Butter and Anchovy; and Chickpea with Balsamico.
Cheesecake Factory has recently added a toast, or flatbread, section to the menu, offering Roasted Pear with Blue Cheese, Pecans, Arugula, and Caramelized Onions; Sausage with Ricotta, Parmesan and Romano Cheeses with Kale and Herbs; and Mozzarella, Fontina, Parmesan, Tomato, and Fresh Basil.
Panera Bread also recently added flatbread options to their menu, mainly to compete in the delivery heavy era of Covid-19. Options are offered as “hearth baked artisan flatbread” with toppings including mozzarella and fontina cheese, or chipotle chicken and bacon.
Dijiorno Artisan Melts have recently launched in the frozen grocery aisle, bringing the trend closer to home with varieties as Pomodoro and Sausage, and Bruschetta.
And I’d be remiss not to mention Momofuku Milk Bar Christini Tosi’s Tang Toast, something she says was served often in her church community in central Ohio- “Some white bread toasted, margarine, and the remnants of some Tang”.
Seems no matter how you slice it, the toast trend is here to stay.