Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Toast to Toast!

After seven years of being widely renowned as metro Detroit's favorite breakfast and lunch joint, Ferndale's Toast is now playing the big leagues with its new location in Birmingham...and they've upped the ante with a dinner menu and liquor license!

Okay, mish-mosh of sporting metaphors aside, the new Toast in Birmingham is everything that made the old Toast great and then some (namely, the dinner menu and liquor license). I swooped in for brunch this past Sunday after hearing many great things from people who would know, and after an hour-long wait during what should have been the restaurant's down time (the entirety of which was waited by my good friend in my stead...it's amazing I have the friends that I have who are willing to do the things that they do), we were seated in the cozy bar area where we began immediately to focus in on the brunch basics--eggs and booze.

I always enjoy a good bottomless mimosa, but apparently the people at Toast are keen to my kind who can drink a full week's supply of champagne for $12.00-$15.00, so the bottomless option isn't available. However, there is a fun "mimosa flight" priced at $38.00, which gets you a bottle of bubbly and orange juice, cranberry juice, and lemonade. Honestly, this isn't much bang for your buck, so why not skip the Dorothy drinks and head straight for the creative cocktails?

In the spirit of brunch, I tried a Blueberry Pancake Martini. Bailey's Caramel and Stolichnaya Blueberri & Vanil, with muddled blueberries served in a martini glass. Y-E-S spells delicious. Or if you're looking for something with a little more bite, maybe try the Blueberry Thyme Margarita--Jose Cuervo Classico tequila, Cointreau, blueberries, lemon, and sparkling wine. Or maybe the Birmingham Breeze, made with Tanqueray Rangpur lime gin, peach juice, grapefruit juice, orange juice, and grenadine. Nothing says Birmingham like a gin-soaked fruit!

After a good basecoat of booze, it was on to the tasty yum-yums. Now, the Granola Banana Pancakes are a Toast classic, and the New Orleans French Toast (with bourbon and bourbon candied pecans) sounded both decadent and timely (seeing as how I was just in the Big Easy), but it was the Bar Harbor Omelet that won my heart. Juicy, meaty seared scallops matched with chunks of salty smoked bacon, herbs, and with a fine layer of parmesan crusted atop a mound of perfectly-cooked fluffy and flavorful eggs was a pleasant spin on the classic breakfast-meat-and-cheese omelet. I bet the home fries and cinnamon challah would have been great along with it, but instead I was surprised with southern-fried cheese grits and marble rye. Sure, not quite what I ordered, but had this little mix-up not occurred I would not be able to tell you now that the cheese grits were actually quite tasty, despite being corn-based gruel and a close relative of my much-reviled polenta. Well, at least the top part with the parmesan cheese was good.

I was feeling particularly gluttonous, and praise Allah for that, because had I not had eyes bigger than my stomach I would not have also ordered the Breakfast Panini, a deceptively simple name for a foodgasmic brunch experience. Sliced banana, tart apple, and nutella on giant slabs of grilled raisin wheat bread and sprinkled with powdered sugar...those of you unfamiliar with nutella, it is a sandwich spread used all over Europe which is akin to our peanut butter, only instead of peanuts theirs is all hazelnuts and chocolate. Really good, really gooey chocolate. This is the Elvis Presley special for the global generation, an ooey-gooey breakfast confection that melts both in your hands and in your mouth. I would even call it sinful, but surely there can be nothing sinful about Sunday brunch?

Sides include everything from biscuits and gravy to choice of chicken apple or veggie sausage, even guacamole to go with your breakfast burrito. Prices are in the typical upscale breakfast range: $7.00-$11.00 for the meal, with sides an additional $2.00-$4.00. Toast also offers a full cafe-style range of coffee and espresso beverages, made from beans locally roasted in a unique blend made especially for their restaurants.

But wait, there's more! Was that "Duck Quesadillas" I saw on one of the daily specials menus? Or what about the Sliders made with blue cheese, basil aoili, tomato jam, feta tapenade, sharp cheddar and carmelized onions? Or the Mac & Cheese made with roasted cauliflower, gruyere and white cheddar? And this is just the tip of the Romaine, seeing as how I wasn't even able to steal a glimpse of the dinner menu (they're kind of like that there), they were out of carry-out menus, and they have no website for this location.

The servers are all very friendly--despite being in a constant state of overwhelmed--and the staff all wore T-shirts with clever sayings like "B'ham and Eggs" and "You Get Served...Challah!" One of them even tried to pose for a quick photo opp...the same guy, in fact, who told a woman looking for the restroom in the most deadpan voice, "I'm sorry, our restrooms are still under construction, what we've been doing is handing people cups and napkins..." which he allowed to trail off into silence before laughing and saying, "I'm just playin', they're right over there!"

He gay, so you know he had my heart immediately.

Owner Thom Bloom is also very friendly, especially when he notices a pretty little girl ordering a big, mean beer like Bell's Expedition Stout (clocking in at a hefty 10.5% alcohol by volume, and an oddly appropriate addition to brunch with its over-the-top coffee notes and acidity). He's done an amazing job with this new venture, creating a cozy/modern art-deco/down-home kind of space every bit as reminiscent of southern, southwestern, nouveau French, and trendy Manhattanite as the menu is.

The only disappointing thing about Birmingham's Toast--and mind you, I my friend had to wait an hour to get seated AND my order was incorrect--was the fact that I couldn't stay for dinner, too (they close at 4:00 on Sundays). Bravo, magnifique, and encore, Toast--I'll definitely raise a glass to you!