Monday, June 27, 2011

All the Breads I’ve Loved Before

You can’t always judge a restaurant by its printed menu, but sometimes you can judget it by its bread – or at least I can.

On Saturday, I had dinner at George's at the Cove in La Jolla. I had checked the menu on the way in, but you never can tell when eating in a touristy place by the water, just how good the food is going to be.

However, my doubts disappeared when they brought the bread. It was then I knew it was going to be a good “food” night.

Whoever picked out the bread at George’s has a carb lover's heart like me. The bread (whole grain and hearty) arrived still warm and wrapped in a cloth napkin.

But it was what it came with that made it really memorable: softened butter, gourmet cracked pepper, seasoning salt and sea salt – each in their own little container so you could sprinkle on your own dash of this and dash of that, which I did.

Do I have to say it? Yes, I do. It was heaven.

It was so good I didn’t care that it took a while for my roasted duck breast and almond crusted fois gras a while to arrive because of the 50 person private party they had going on. The chef at George’s apologized for the wait and gave me free dessert (I never refuse free dessert), but really I didn’t notice the long wait as I was busy savoring my bread and drinking my glass of Spanish red wine.

The main meal - duck and almond crusted fois gras
When it comes to good bread, time stands stills. Besides, I was enjoying the second last night of my week of indulgence after my NPC training session before I went back on my training schedule. Yup, I was going to eat every piece as slow as possible.

You know how they say you always need to make a good impression? Well, obviously this bread made the ultimate impression on me, but there are other restaurants that have done the same.

Five I can think of right now are:

1) Cheap (Tampa) – Great bread that they serve with strawberry flavored butter. They make it by adding real strawberry juice to the butter and whipping it together.

2) Senses (Toronto) – They also have three or four different types of bread that they serve you with your meal. Fabulous stuff, plus, you can purchase loaves at their bakery too.

3) Oyster Catchers (Tampa) - Here they serve you warm rolls and butter, but it’s the hickory smoked sea salt that makes their bread offerings out-of-this-world good.

4) Terra (North York) – They serve a basket of warm sliced bread that usually includes two or three different kinds. These are served with butter and at least one other spread that could include hummus, an olive tapenade or something original the chef came up with. You want to go back just to see what type of spread they are serving that day.

5) Treebeards (Houston) – I know people go there for the meat and Cajun stews, but I could go just for the jalapeno cornbread. Nothing like it anywhere.

Now that you know some of my most memorable bread places, I’ve let you in on two that have crappy bread baskets.

1) La Papillion (Toronto) –Cold sliced French bread that comes with hard butter in the foil wrappers. So not appetizing for a fine French restaurant.

2) Gus’s Fried Chicken (Memphis) – Gus’s has the best chicken maybe in North America, but they serve white Wonder Bread. Maybe you’re not supposed to eat it? Maybe it’s for soaking up the grease?

You have any favorites? Let me know.

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