Saturday morning, HarborMarket, Kenosha. It’s just 10 a.m. but the line at The Fresh Bar is already impressive. Also impressive is that many customers are lining up for toast.
Toast? OK, it’s avocado toast, but still: toast?
Avocado toast is an open-faced sandwich with fresh veggies that eats like a “walking salad.”
It’s a sandwich trend that’s hip on food trucks from Madison, Wis., to Austin, Texas, and now a happening thing here in Kenosha. It’s been popping up on appetizer menus around town and it’s now at HarborMarket as well.
Toast isn’t new, but the take on it is a fresh taste just right for summer snacking.
“Avocado toast” — it just sounds fun, and it is.
I had my first experience a couple of weeks ago at The Fresh Bar. At first bite it was like, “Where have you been all my life?”
The item was called “the special” (one of two avocado-themed specials), which consisted of toasted gluten free flatbread with a schmear of cream cheese, lightly seasoned avocado and sliced tomato with a sprinkling of a seasoning mix of poppy seeds and white and black sesame seeds.
Speaking later with Laura Spair, owner of The Fresh Bar — a two-wheeled trailer transformed into a mobile kitchen — I discovered that the seasoning mix on my toast was called “EBTB,” a commercially available flavoring combination that stands for “everything but the bagel,” as in “the everything bagel.”
Avocado is great on its own, but the toppings are what make it,” Spair said. “The crisp factor of the bread also definitely makes it; it adds an extra texture element.”
The Fresh Bar offers three varieties of avocado toast as well as a toast topped with banana and granola nut butter. They come on toasted panini bread or, for a small extra charge, gluten-free flatbread.
In addition to the toasts, The Fresh Bar also sells “bowls” or cups of fresh fruit with granola over pureed acai (pronounced aah-saa-ee) berries and granola.
“It tastes like a Pop Tart on steroids!” declared David Shamrock, of Gurnee, Ill., as he sampled his acai bowl.
Spair, 23, a substitute teacher at St. Joseph Catholic Academy during the school year, explained that she got the idea to offer avocado toast and other items in Kenosha after trying them at food trucks in different cities. “I thought it would be really cool to do them in downtown Kenosha,” she said. Both the toast and acai bowls are “great health options,” she added.
But back to toast.
Basically, toasted sandwiches can be anything on anything, as long as the base is a toast of some kind. This definition embraces everything from whole wheat toast with peanut butter and bagels with cream cheese and lox to the new dining darling, avocado spread on toast.
“It’s a genius idea,” said Fresh Bar avocado toast customer Chris Shamrock, wife of David, as she waited for the “special”: mashed avocado topped with fresh mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and basil, drizzled with balsamic glaze.
“I love the presentation,” she said.
Experiencing a bite of his first avocado toast, David Shamrock said, “Oh my God, it tastes so fresh!”
Not only are they delicious and nutritious, but toasts are surprisingly filling: two thin slices of bread topped with cream cheese, avocado and thin slices of ripe tomatoes can provide all the fuel you need on a Sunday morning to last to noon.
And best of all, this is something you can do at home. Start with the toasted bread — or gluten-free alternative — and let your imagination take over.
When asked on the Kenosha News social media foodie page K-Nosh, one resident weighed in on her favorite toast combos, agreeing that the “magic” of toasted treats lies in the intersection of flavor and variety.
“I would say it’s the combination of textures,” says Kenoshan Laura Cox. “Something creamy or gooey plus something fresh on top of a good, toasty, crunchy piece of bread.”
Among her favorite combinations: “River Valley Farms’ five cheese and garlic spread on top of toasted sprouted Ezekiel bread, topped with fresh tomato slices and basil leaves and sprinkled with a little salt and pepper.”
For avocados, Cox suggests: “avocado and very thinly sliced bell peppers, herbed goat cheese and cucumber slices.”
In addition to savory ingredients like avocados, fruit and nut butters are also popular toast toppers.
One of The Fresh Bar toasts features a granola butter spread with bananas, cinnamon and a honey drizzle.
Cox suggests peanut butter with fresh berries. Here, too, there’s a play on textures between a creamy spread and poppin’ berries.
Tasting her first toast with granola butter, customer Cara Wilk said it was “pretty amazing.”
So here’s a toast to toast: it’s not just for breakfast anymore.