Would You Pay $4 For Toast?

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It almost sounds too easy, but that's the idea behind artisanal toast, which is showing up on menus everywhere lately. We have to admit: We're totally into it.

"Traditionally, toasting was a way to revive old bread past its prime, but these days, people are using toast as a vehicle for all sorts of awesome ideas," said San Francisco's Josey Baker, the man behind the $4 toast brouhaha. "Toast is being used as a label for a wide array of delicious and complex bread/spread pairings."

Indeed. Here's how we'd like to take our toast at every meal of the day.

Breakfast: Sqirl in L.A.
While most restaurants focus their efforts on dinner service, Jessica Koslow is way more interested in the first meal of the day. And it shows. At Sqirl, her tiny cafe in hipster-ific Silver Lake, just east of Los Angeles, she churns out toasts worth lining up for. Koslow spreads homemade jams, like a Santa Rosa plum and thyme combo, which has a cult following of its own, over house-made brioche. She goes for the gusto with more savory versions, too, like tarragon cream cocotte over a thin, toasted baguette slice.

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Lunch: ABC Kitchen in New York City
Chef Dan Kluger makes open-faced magic at the greenmarket-centric restaurant under Jean-Georges Vongerichten's helm. His already legendary crab toast, dotted with lemony aioli, is a necessity for any lunchtime spread. And, although Kluger is leaving the restaurant at the end of the month, JGV himself already has several toasts in the works to continue the legacy: eggplant with marinated sweet and spicy peppers; radishes topped with mustard butter and radish sprout; sweet peas dotted with ricotta and chive blossoms; and salmon carpaccio with sugar snap pea remoulade (already on the menu). As for Kluger's next plans, well, we're praying there's toast involved.

Snack: The Mill in San Francisco
Question: When is a crisp, golden-brown, condiment-layered piece of bread worth $4? Answer: Anytime Josey Baker hands it to you. It all begins with good bread, which Baker bakes in house at The Mill, a joint coffee-bakery venture with Four Barrel Coffee. Then he spoons sugar and preserves on top, et voilà — you've got the best snack ever. One of his most popular toasts is a dense rye bread coated in cinnamon-sugar. Groupies can bring the baked deliciousness home by nabbing the recipe in his new, beginner-friendly cookbook.

Dinner: Vernick Food & Drink in Philadelphia
Gregory Vernick's menu begins like an ode: "On Toast." It goes on to to list seven on-bread combos. There's toast with fromage blanc and pickled ramps, one topped with sweet peas and bacon and another crowned with beef tartare and fresh horseradish. Why so many toasts? "They're comforting and casual, but they're also a blank canvas," Vernick said. At the moment, he's topping bread with soft shell crab and working on a corn pudding spread for late summer.

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