When a coffee shop called Trouble opened in San Francisco in 2013, its menu of coconuts, coffee and $4 cinnamon toast set tongues wagging and set fire to a food trend that travelled across the U.S. and into Canadian culinary hotbeds like Vancouver and Toronto.
Almost overnight, toast went from ho-hum to the height of hipsterdom. Slices of bread were browned and topped with artisanal spreadables like nut butters, lemony labneh and, of course, avocado. One piece of toast often cost more than two loaves of bread.
Fancy toast became the darling of Instagram where anything — even bread topped with nut butter — looks appealing with the right filter.
But like all trends, this one ran its course and after a few years, all that remained were crumbs of former glory.
So when a sign for Toast Culture went up in the windows of a space on Jasper Avenue and 119th Street earlier this year, I wondered how well this late-to-the-party food fad would fare.
Apparently, it’s faring just fine. Fancy toast is not dead in Edmonton, Alberta.
It could have something to do with the philosophy of the owners, Josh Wilhelm and Joel Margolus — use fresh, seasonal ingredients and buy from local producers who raise or make their product with care and integrity.
It could also have a lot to do with their offerings of well-crafted food for good value.
It takes skill and a solid grasp of flavour profiles to make people salivate over toast. A slab of sourdough topped with pink peppercorns, goat cheese, pumpkin seeds, rock salt and thyme maple syrup will do that. So will toasted naan with red lentil hummus, Greek vegetables, pickled onion, feta cheese and lemon yogurt.
If you’re not ready to spend up to $12 for a slice of toast, think of it this way: it’s basically half of a really good open-faced sandwich. Still not convinced? Then a full-on breakfast of eggs, potatoes and your choice of sausage, ham or avocado might be easier for you to swallow.
Or you could come back for dinner when Toast’s menu expands to include pizza, which is essentially another form of bread topped with other delicious things.
The list is small — one vegan, one with smoked salmon and two with meat — but appealing. We went with the spicy soppressata and one with potato, capicola and truffle oil.
To the cook’s credit, the truffle oil was used sparingly which allowed the other ingredients to shine and shine they did: salty cured pork from Meuwly’s, bite-sized chunks of seasoned potato, zippy red onions and a perfectly baked crust that was light, chewy and crispy.
The soppressata and San Marzano pie was no slouch, either, featuring more cured meat by Meuwly’s, this time a spicy salami. My only recommendation would be for the dollops of pesto to be added after the pie comes out of the oven to avoid it from turning bitter and black under the oven’s heat element.
Wilhelm and Margolus have other ringers on the menu, including a king-size ahi tuna salad on a mound of organic greens with kim-chi, cucumbers, pickled onions and radishes tossed in citrusy-ginger dressing.
It offers a small but smart cocktail, wine and beer list, and coffee made with locally roasted coffee beans from The Colombian on Stony Plain Road.
I could go on, but by now you get the idea: the food at Toast Culture is extremely pleasing. Go for the toast, go for the pizza or go for granola and salad — it’s all good.
Toast Culture is located at 11965 Jasper Ave.