Serves Unique Wines and Delectable Food
In 2006, our family’s Thanksgiving almost didn’t happen. My mother had purchased a new oven, and promptly sold her old one. However, the new appliance was delayed. Come Thanksgiving, she faced a house full of hungry guests with no oven. What happened next isn’t exactly “The Loaves and the Fishes,” but it’s close. We tallied our resources—one toaster oven, one microwave, one Crock-Pot—and began to cook. The pumpkin pie was baked in loaf pans in the toaster oven, and the turkey became turkey casserole, but we had a surprisingly festive dinner. I still have pictures of my “loaf pie.”
If I didn’t tell you that Toast Wine Bar and Café had even fewer appliances behind its kitchen doors, you never would guess it. So, yes, you should go there for the novelty of a freshly-baked thin-crust pizza prepared in an electric toaster oven, or Brussels sprouts grilled on a panini press.
But do not let this revelation make you doubt the fare. Instead, bring some friends; try conversation-starting wines and approachably delectable food; and only after your guests have enjoyed every last mouthful should you reveal Toast’s little secret.
Toast’s main claim to fame is its wine list, which features small producers and indigenous grape varietals, plus sustainable, organic, or biodynamic methods. The wines are often quirky and charming, and many are now on my to-buy list.
If I lived in Toast’s building, I just could flop downstairs in lounge pants and stocking feet, and have a glass anytime I wished. In fact, Scott Davis, Toast co-owner along with his wife, Erin Tomczyk, happily reports such informality is common. Regulars, who are many, even have gone so far as to claim “their” table.
Davis poured our first tasting flight: Broadbent Vinho Verde ($6/$24) from Portugal, crisp, light, and slightly effervescent; delicate Italian Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio ($8/$32), made using ancient winemaking techniques; fruitier, full-bodied Callia Alta Torrentes from Argentina ($6.50/$26); and elegant Austrian Grüner Veltliner ($8/$40).
The Torrentes and the Grüner Veltliner were my favorites, and each went very well with our first taste from Toast’s kitchen: Burrata ($12) with balsamic vinegar, sea salt, heirloom tomatoes, basil, and bread. Invented in the 1920s by some Italian food demigod, Burrata is a kind of dairy turducken, with soft mozzarella and cream tucked inside a wrapping of solid mozzarella. To slather its buttery goodness onto a slice of freshly-baked baguette is to taste heaven.
We moved on to two different Crostini ($1.75 each): chickpea puree with dainty slices of avocado, sea salt, and black pepper; and mozzarella and serrano ham with balsamic vinegar. Both were lovely, but the luscious, velvety chickpea crostini was absolutely addictive.
Between bites, we sampled some of Toast’s reds, beginning with summery Zabu Nero D’Avola ($6/$24). Assertively aromatic Valduero Crianza Tempranillo ($7/$28) was an early table favorite, along with ultrafloral Campo Alle Rose Casanese del Piglio ($7/$28). Argentine Tercos Malbec ($7.5/$30) offered the usual drinkability of a malbec with a bit more fruit. Bisceglia Aglianico Del Vulture ($8/$32) was powerful, but balanced.
Thin Crust Pizza with mushrooms, leeks, provolone, and white truffle oil ($10) soon arrived, and dazzled us. The cake flour crust is crisp yet manageable. The scent of melted provolone and white truffle oil alone is enough to take you somewhere far, far away. My readers know I shy away from mushrooms, but I continually am surprised by how often a mushroom dish in the right hands can win me over. I actually pigged down quite a bit of that pie myself, forcing my dining partner to start squirreling away the remaining pieces.
I would challenge anyone to order Grilled Brussels Sprouts with lemon oil and sea salt ($7), and not finish them all. Baked Polenta with spinach, mushrooms, and pecorino cheese ($12) may have been another dish I might have passed over in print, but it is decadently moist—another must-order item.
We finished with a cheese trio ($11)—the cheese selection was as remarkable as the wine list. We sipped a glass of inky “Stained Tooth” Syrah ($48/bottle), as well as “The Prisoner” cabernet/zin ($14/$56), which is full-bodied and a touch sweeter.
When asked if we’d care for dessert, we said yes, and cooed over the swoon-worthy Manjari Chocolate Pudding Tart ($7), with sea salt and extra virgin olive oil. We also couldn’t resist Malvira Birbet, a sparkling jammy red that currently is off-menu. But at Toast, new and different wines always seem to be on hand.
I can’t wait to join the ranks of the regulars, and claim “my” table at Toast.
Toast Wine Bar & Café
415 1st St. N., Mpls.