Chef-Approved Ways to Up Your Healthy Toast Game — That Don’t Involve Avocado
Thane Wright, the owner and chef of Washington Square West’s Bower Cafe, gives us a lesson on curating the perfect breakfast toast.
About five years after taking the wellness world by storm, avocado toast still remains the trademark breakfast of the millennial generation. The smashed green meal, packed with lots of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, is on plenty of restaurant menus in Philly. And why not? It’s totally delicious, pretty nutritious, pairs well with coffee, OJ, and mimosas alike, can be eaten on-the-go, and, boy, can it be any more photogenic?
But did you know that breakfast toast doesn’t have to involve the large, green seeded berry (nope, not a vegetable FYI) we have all come to know and obsess over? I actually didn’t think about this much until I stepped into Bower Cafe, Thane Wright’s Washington Square West aviary-themed oasis where in addition to a plentiful coffee, tea, and cured meats menu, curiously unique breakfast toasts are the signature cuisine.
These include “The Pop,” a curation of rosemary mustard aioli, your choice of cheese, sautéed kale, mushrooms and green onion; “The Mikey,” smeared with sriracha tarragon aioli and topped with cheese, fried capers, green onion, parsley and chopped boiled egg; and my personal favorite, “The Sis,” made with basil ricotta, cherry tomatoes, green onion, parsley, and chopped boiled egg.
Each of these can be made with or without the addition of cured meat from Wright’s impressive selection — including favorites like pancetta and soppressata — all sold by the pound as well.
Don’t get married to any ingredient, though, because it may not be available. Wright often switches things up, incorporating his freshest ingredients. But whatever he chooses, you won’t be disappointed.
“I wanted to make something my family would love, that would fill you up and not make you too tired,” Wright explains about his breakfast toast inspiration. “I wanted to put something on our menu that people could share with each other and easily enjoy.”
So what makes a great breakfast toast? According to Wright, it starts out with the love you put into it, and then is all about the contrasts of tastes. “Good meat, good bread, and special sauces are key,” he explains. He also maintains that eggs — he prefers the boiled variety – are significant, along with meat and cheese.
We asked Wright to give us a basic tutorial on how to up our breakfast toast game, so check out his tips below.
Start with a high-quality bread
To make your breakfast toast stand out, you want to start with a high-quality base. While Wright doesn’t discriminate against the type of bread —multigrain, sourdough, pumpernickel or whatever you like — he does prefer starting with oval-shaped, thin slices. Toast the bread until it has a soft crunch.
Choose your spread and/or cheese
Whether it be butter, cream cheese or something a little more exotic — like sriracha, tangerine yogurt, rosemary mustard aioli or herb-infused ricottas — this step is really going to take your toast to the next level. You can also opt to melt the cheese of your choice on your toast, which is also yummy.
Pick out your produce
Now it’s time to add in those fruits or veggies, which can be served fresh and crisp or creatively cooked — stewed, sautéed, steamed, or however you please. Wright suggests checking out your local farmers market or heading over to Reading Terminal Market to find fresh, local, and in-season items that will satiate your taste buds. For instance, he makes “The Lewey” with poached peaches in the summer and apples in the fall. Kale, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and mixed fruits are other options.
Pack in some protein
Wright always gives customers the option of adding a boiled egg to their toast — but it isn’t any old egg. After removing the shell, he wraps the hard boiled egg up in baking tissue with a blend of spices that includes sea salt, cayenne pepper and a splash of olive oil. After the egg marinates for a while, he slices it up and adds it to the toast.
A little “cure”-ation goes a long way
If you are a vegetarian, skip this step. However, all you meat-eaters, take note: cured meats will make your breakfast toast the tastiest in town. You can always stick with the basics — prosciutto, pancetta, etc — but if you like to live on the culinary edge, head into Bower and Wright will steer you in a more adventurous direction.
Add some accoutrements
Now is the time to finish off your toast. Drizzle a little honey, sprinkle some green onions, parsley, mint or even some fried capers or dried cranberry. You can also add some salt and pepper or another seasoning of your choice.
So there you have it! Six tips for killer toast. And should you need a little more inspiration, you can head over to Bower Café and have them whip up something delicious for you on the spot.
Bower Café is located at 263 S 10th Street. You can follow them on Instagram @bowercafe