Artisan toast has become the bread and butter of many restaurants, with thick slices of locally baked bread stacked with creative sweet and savory toppings, proving toast can be a hearty entrée, healthy brunch dish or a filling snack.
In Scandinavian culture, fika is the social practice of having a break, often a coffee break, with one’s colleagues, friends, a date or family – similar to happy hour in the U.S. Smørrebrød is a big part of the activity; diners share plates of the open-faced sandwiches that can traditionally hold as many as 20 toppings. When opening her Scandinavian-centric Kansas City restaurant, Krokstrom Klubb & Market, last month, chef-owner Katee McLean knew the traditional culture associated with the toast was a perfect addition to her menu, which is filled with the authentic (or her version of authentic) Scandinavian dishes she grew up eating. “It can be breakfast; it can be lunch; sometimes it’s a dinner appetizer, but smørrebrød is similar to English high tea in the afternoon or Spanish tapas, where it’s something to go with something else,” she says. The nine smørrebrød options at Krokstrom are a combination of daintier sandwiches you can hold in your hand or traditional, heartier options that you need silverware to consume, but all evoke Scandinavian culture and cuisine. Top-sellers include trout roe, with saffron mayonnaise and pickled vegetables on black rye; housemade gravlax, with beet-cured salmon soaked in aquavit, horseradish marmalade and celery leaf on crisp knäckebröd; and Toast Skagen with pickled shrimp salad with lemon, dill and mayonnaise. And the bread is no afterthought. “It’s the caraway that makes the rye rye and makes it able to stand up to all the intense flavors on top,” McLean says. “None are mild. From pickled herring, beet-cured salmon, trout roe, pickled shrimp and goat cheese – if the bread couldn’t stand up to all of that, then what’s the point of having it there?”
Krokstrom Klubb & Market, 3601 Broadway Blvd., Midtown, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.289.4482, klubbkrokstrom.com
With both dairy and wheat allergies, it might seem odd that Rachel Moeller helped open a café devoted to milk and toast. However, she and the team behind St. Louis’ Milque Toast Bar knew the concept would click with consumers – as toast and milk are recognizable and accessible – but also with its creative chef-owners, who see its sweet and savory toasts and housemade milks as a platform that lends itself to so much more. The toasts range from simple to spiffy – like cinnamon-sugar or nut butter-honey to more imaginative offerings such as nutty s’mores with Nutella and marshmallows, the seasonal Just Beet It (beets, blue cheese, mushrooms, green tomatoes and watercress) and Sloppy Joes Pizza (beef, lamb, Cheddar, onion and slaw on flatbread). The café sources bread from a range of local bakeries including Companion, Union Loafers, Pekara Bakery, Breadsmith and Red Guitar Bread for sourdough, rugbrød, brioche and rye to nontraditional toast-adjacent flatbread and naan. “It’s something people wouldn’t be able to put together at home,” Moeller says. “If you go out, you often want something fancier than what you see in your own pantry. But others do appreciate the more simple toast we offer because the bread, nut butters and jams are local and fresh, which really elevates the toast.” On the weekends, Milque Toast also sells platters of smørrebrød, the Danish open-faced sandwich consisting of dense buttered rye bread and toppings.
Milque Toast Bar, 2212 S. Jefferson Ave., McKinley Heights, St. Louis, Missouri, 314.833.0085, milquetoastbar.org
There’s no question that avocado toast is the current darling of Instagram, and it’s something many of us prepare for breakfast or a snack. When you order it for brunch at Hotel Vandivort’s The Order restaurant in Springfield, Missouri, however, it’s likely more elevated than what you’re used to making at home. Ripe avocados are mashed with lime juice in a guacamole-ish spread, generously lathered on local sourdough from The Artisan’s Oven and topped with a pickled kale-carrot salad and tomato confit. Executive chef Zachary White says the combination of textures and flavors makes it truly Instagram-worthy. “I think what really separates it from your typical avocado toast is the pickled kale and carrot salad: You get that acid bite that goes so well with the creaminess of the avocado, and that’s something people aren’t doing at home,” he says. “The little bit of sweetness and high acidity in the apple cider vinegar goes well with the rest of the dish, and the savory comes in with the tomato confit – we slow-roast tomatoes in a nice bath of olive oil and herbs, which brings down their acidic side.” The dish has been popular for its health benefits – no added fat and lots of omegas – and because it’s vegan-friendly. White says the dish often surprises brunch-goers with how filling and vibrant it is. “I think people would be surprised at the amount of things already in their pantry and refrigerator that can be combined for a toast that’s different and breaks away from the norm,” he says. “You don’t have to do anything crazy to elevate it besides letting the flavors shine on their own.”
The Order, 305 E. Walnut St., Springfield, Missouri, 417.832.1515, theordersgf.com
CHEF’S TIP: “Do what you want and get creative when making toast. You’ve got this blank canvas in a piece of toast, and you can go any way you want – the sweet route, the savory route or a combination of the two. Something like a strawberry-goat cheese-balsamic toast is simple but phenomenal.” –Zachary White, executive chef, The Order