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Breaking Bread's toast bar is all about choice

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It's time to take a second look at toast.

Yes, toast. The stuff of hectic mornings has truly grown up.

Long gone are toast's days of playing second fiddle to cold cuts or runny eggs. This is the year that toast took center stage, and I, for one, applaud it.

If you ask me, perfectly browned toast—made with fresh baked bread—is the best vehicle for protein, fat, and fruit. It's portable and versatile, effortlessly changing toppings to accommodate breakfast, lunch, snack, and dessert.

"Avocado toast" may reign supreme on hip brunch menus and most Instagram feeds, but this is just the tip of the crumbly iceberg. Banana and honey with almond butter, bacon bits, and a kick of fiery cayenne; salty pumpkin seeds sprinkled over velvety smoked salmon, soft cheese, and a squeeze of citrus; heirloom tomatoes with basil, EVOO, and flaky pink salt: These are all sensational adornments that transform a toasted slab of yeast, water, and flour into a real meal.

In short, I might be bold enough to proclaim that topped toasts are the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Glenna Evans of Breaking Bread Bakery knows good bread; therefore, she knows good toast.

"A lot of people like our six grain bread because it does make great toast," she said, while piling a thick slice high with hardboiled egg and olives. "You get that nice, lovely, crunchy outside with that soft fluffy interior. If you don't have that contrast, it just doesn't work."

Evans owns the bakery alongside her husband of 40 years and mad scientist baker, Mark. You might be familiar with their popular flagship location on Higuera Street near the SLO County Office building downtown. While that cozy space continues to churn out bread, sandwiches, soups, and salads, this new bakery space—located on South Higuera near Palo Mesa Pizza and Coastal Peaks Coffee—is dedicated to fulfilling surging bread orders and, starting later this month, serving up terrific toast.

"We've had a lot of clients missing the fact that we aren't doing the sandwiches or lunch items from the other location here. With this toast bar concept, we can still have the great meats, the ham and the bacon; we just allow people to make up their own toast," Evans said. "You can make it as decadent or as simple as you want."

The build-your-own toast station is akin to a salad bar in look and feel. Each topping is laid out before you, so your imagination can literally run wild (all you have to do is reach out and grab it).

New to the modern toast game? No worries. Tried and true combos are available to copycat. Still, you'll have to make a few crumbs. After all, you will be toasting your own bread, courtesy of a small conveyor toaster. For hands-on folks like me, this freedom to create feels quite appealing.

Whether you choose sourdough, cranberry walnut, or a rustic loaf, Evans believes your toast will turn out pretty darn perfect. This comes down to design (no, you won't have to guess about whether your bread will end up caramel colored or black as asphalt).

"When looking at a toaster, we were concerned with what would be best for making the perfect toast," Evans said. "Bread with an extra fan and a heater dries the bread out, making it even more crispy on the outside. We considered every aspect and went with the best."

Ripe heirloom tomatoes and creamy avocados are procured from the farmers' market and many of the high-quality seeds and nuts used in the company's own bread can now be used to sprinkle on top, so you know it's good. The spreads are top notch, the feta is fresh, and the hummus is hearty.

"We utilized what we already had available and then added from there," Evans said. "You're still going to get that great fresh baked bread and great fixings for breakfast and lunch options, but the toast bar allows this space to remain optimal for baking and making the pastries and all that."

Even if you choose the simple chutney to drape over your slice, you can rest assured it's made in-house (this is one famous element brought over from the original locale). A counter well-stocked with muffins, bread, pastries, coffee, and other grab-and-go options allows busy morning folks to get where they need to go. A long community table invites the more slow-paced set to mingle while reading the newspaper.

So, what will your go-to toast become?

"You can do everything from peanut or almond butter with banana or apple to, in the spring, avocado toast with strawberries and toasted nuts," Evans said. "Some people like sweet toast, some like savory, and everyone has their own opinion of how much to put on top."

If you've never considered your own toast style, now is the time to ponder. Peppery arugula greens with smoked salmon and cream cheese? Or hazelnut spread with honey?

All that matters is that you leave your traditional toast conceptions at the door.

Trust me.

It pays to reach beyond the usual swipe of salted butter. Δ

Hayley Thomas Cain is still in love with salted butter, although she prefers her toast with avocado, tuna salad, kale, and green goddess dressing. She can be reached at hthomas@newtimesslo.com.

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