Toast: Breakfast will never be the same again …

Everyone has heard me rave in many different mediums about the wonders to be had at Tartine run by chef/owner Cara Benson. Well, this magical, magnanimous, Mom and baker extraordinaire has done it again with Toast, a mouth-watering breakfast experience she opened about six months ago.

To be perfectly fair, I’ve already raved about Toast, too … just not here on my lil old blog. Now seems the optimal time to rectify that. I’ve been to Toast on many occasions since the first, an experience I’m about to relate, but just know, there is nothing on this menu that won’t make you swoon, and if it doesn’t well … more for me!

About a month after it opened in June 2014, John and I headed Uptown to Laurel Street to have a meal that was so delightful, Toast has become the stuff of dreams to us, a place we think of every time we think of breakfast.

Though it was still dreadfully hot, we opted to sit outside since it seemed the only way we’d be sure to get a table. We both ordered a cup of coffee (yes it was French Truck, thank you very much) and tried hard not to order everything on the menu.

John chose one of the “toasts,” with cream cheese, smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and capers atop a thick, toasted slice of Benson’s brilliant, house-baked brioche. What can I say? It was astoundingly simple, yet exquisitely delicious. Everything was just right, from the amount of cream cheese to the fluffy scrambled eggs.

While I loved John’s toast, we both couldn’t help oohing and aahing over my dish, a huge slice of ham and Gruyere quiche. Cross my heart and hope to die, this was the best quiche I ever had the pleasure of inhaling. Easily three inches high, it had a gorgeous golden crust and the filling was so light and creamy, it was almost like delving into a delicate souffle. Don’t doubt that I’ve enjoyed her daily quiches many times since.

John and I also shared a side of thick-sliced bacon and, something I never thought to see on a breakfast menu, a plate of ratatouille — a mouth-watering, stewed vegetable dish that only added to the meal’s overall wonder. I can’t wait to go back again … and again … and again …

Toast on Urbanspoon

A bread lover’s dream: Tartine

While many profess a weakness for things like chocolates, salty potato chips and bacon, my greatest vulnerability would have to be bread. There just nothing like the flavor and texture of crusty baguettes or chewy ciabatta slathered in butter or layered with deli meat. When I lived in the Bay Area, my favorite midnight snack consisted of a thick hunk of sourdough bread with cold butter from the fridge and a tall, frosty glass of whole milk.

I can honestly say I have never met a bread I didn’t like from pumpernickel and bagels to injera and lavash. Even the popular (albeit flavorless) American white bread has it’s place with grilled cheese and peanut butter & banana sandwiches. Suffice it to say, any excuse to go out and gorge myself on freshly baked breads or sandwiches created from these heavenly loaves are welcome, like when my good friend Anne and I went to lunch at Tartine.

Though I’d been there several times before, I simply had to go again, if only to introduce this wonderful little restaurant to Anne who had never been. We went up to the counter, placed our order and grabbed a table outside to enjoy the spring air while we waited, anxiously, for our meal to arrive.

Anne and I both ordered the soup of the day along with our sandwiches and on that particular occasion, it happened to be a sweet and savory, creamy butternut squash. The flavor was rich and wonderful, the texture was perfectly smooth and we wiped up every last drop with a slice of French bread that was served alongside.

Before we could finish, our sandwiches arrived in all their crusty glory. Anne chose the house pate on a fresh baguette that was served with a fig jam, Dijon mustard and sliced cornichons on the side. I got the Croque Monsieur with thick slices of ham and heavenly, melted Gruyere on crunchy, toasted ciabatta. Both sandwiches were served with a delightful, cold black-eyed pea salad. Anne and I shared the sandwiches, so each of us got half and we couldn’t decide which was more delectable.

Ever since we went to lunch at Tartine, Anne has been following their posts on Facebook, urging me to go again and it’s been difficult to resist. After all, there are so many new restaurants popping up almost daily that I feel obligated to check out. But, I would love to introduce another newbie to the simple, yet enticing, bread-centered wonders of Tartine. Anyone want to join us for lunch?

Tartine on Urbanspoon

A taste of Paris in Uptown New Orleans: Tartine

Many years ago, I spent one wonderful week in Paris and it is a trip I will never forget. From the crack of dawn to well past sunset, I dragged my poor mother all over the city to witness every inch possible before returning home. We practically ran through two wings of the Louvre and the entire, impressionist vault at the Musée d’Orsay in one day. A visit to Versailles, an unofficial tour of part of the Sorbonne and dinner on the Seine near the “other” Statue of Liberty filled another. Strangely enough, though most of the trip remains indelibly etched in my memory, I don’t recall anything in particular that I ate aside from a fabulous, seven-course luncheon at my friend’s house in Auvers-sur-Oise. Oh! I also remember the bread.

Every morning during the weekdays, a huge farmers market would appear on the street in front of our hotel. Since we didn’t really have time for breakfast or lunch during our insane, see-the-city-in-seven-days schedule, we would often pick up a couple of  baguettes from one of the vendors and munch bleary-eyed while we waited on the Metro trains to take us to our next destination. 
When I heard about the opening of Tartine on Perrier Street, the first thing that came to my mind was a fervent wish for another taste of those chewy, incredible baguettes…I was not disappointed. A few days ago, Casey, John and I visited Tartine for my 70th cheat. I am still holding steady at a loss of 78 pounds.
The clean, cozy house-turned-bakery was bustling with customers when we arrived, though it was rather late in the lunch hour. The restaurant was so full that, after placing our orders at the counter, we had to choose a table outside on the cute, little wooden patio. Thankfully, it wasn’t too cold to enjoy our lunch alfresco. 
Casey and I both ordered a cup of Potato-Leek, the soup of the day and we were served by the talented chef/owner herself, Cara Benson. The smooth, almost perfectly white soup came out steaming hot with a few small rounds of sliced baguette on the side. Now, I make potato soup at home quite often, but it has never resulted in what I experienced at Tartine. 
It was a perfect vichyssoise (a fancy name for potato-leek soup) with a thick, silken texture and a rich onion flavor and a yogurt-tartness at the end. Casey and I “mmmed” at the soup so much, that John finally broke down and asked for a taste. I didn’t want to share, but Casey, wanting to save room for her sandwich, gave John the rest of her cup. My only regret was gobbling the delicious, chewy rounds of bread too soon! I didn’t have any left to wipe the remnants from my bowl.
As I was considering using my finger to wipe clean my cup, our sandwiches arrived. I ordered the ham sandwich that included thick slices of brie cheese and large, uncut leaves of butter lettuce stuffed lengthwise into a long, thin baguette and slathered with a sweet, fig mustard. The balance of the salty ham and sweet mustard together put me on a cloud and with the added bonus of the freshly baked baguette…I could have sworn I was back in Paris.
John chose the Tuna Nicoise sandwich featuring a tuna-sardine mixture, a boiled egg, butter lettuce and a tomato aioli layered beautifully between two light, almost fluffy slices of brioche. Casey selected the steak sandwich with thickly slices of beef cooked rare covered with a crumbly, blue cheese butter and arugula lettuce on toasted ciabatta bread. I got to taste both sandwiches (lucky girl that I am) and they were both wonderful! My only wish would be that the tuna be seared and sliced as opposed to the crumbled, salad-like mix that was served, though I imagine in a busy shop like Tartine, the latter is a lot simpler to prepare.
All of the plates also featured a small ramekin of salad made from fregula, a small, ball-shaped pasta (if I am guessing correctly) that I thought was colorful and light, a pleasant accompaniment to some incredible sandwiches.
I couldn’t leave without sampling some dessert, there was no way I was going to pass up some of her luscious pastry, and I chose a thick, frosted brownie with chopped walnuts. We shared around the appropriately chocolaty and nicely gooey brownie with relish. When talking to my friend Lorin a few hours later, she chided me for not trying “the tartine” assembled with the chef’s own house-made pate, onion confit and Dijon mustard on a baguette. Well, you know what they say, there’s always next time!