Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bread Bar: Hamilton, Ontario

Whenever I have friends or family visiting from out of town, my frequent go-to restaurant recommendation is Earth To Table Bread Bar in Hamilton. It is well situated in a bright, open space at the South end of Locke Street. The food is consistently good, often great, and the service is always friendly and prompt. While the tables can feel a bit cramped together depending on where you are sitting, it is none the less one of my favorite places to eat and drink in the city.

Here is a breakdown of why Bread Bar is awesome:

1) In addition to their regular menu, they are always making daily specials as well as variations on their loaded fries. While there are classic go-to menu options that I always come back to, I often cannot resist trying their daily french fried creation! My two favorites so far are:

Smoked meat with sweet mustard and cheese

Homemade cheese sauce with salsa fresca and
sour cream

World's Best Mac & Cheese
2) The mac & cheese. Amazeballsing. I recommend this above all else at Bread Bar. It is honestly the most perfect mac & cheese that I have ever tasted. Perfectly cooked elbow noodles – first boiled, then baked and always al dente. The sauce is rich and thick – you can taste the roux base and the creaminess of the aged cheddar. They throw in sautéed onions and smoky bacon in big pieces, adding the perfect flavor and texture contrast to the cheese sauce. It gets baked in an individual dish and topped with only a small sprinkling of breadcrumbs. In my mind this simple version of the standard dish is ideal. The breadcrumbs add just the right amount of texture, without making the dish taste overly dry, and the richness of the sauce ensures that every bite is gooey and amazing. 

3) They have a great drink menu. With a variety of local and international wines and a decent selection of local craft beers, you’re sure to find something to wet your whistle. When I visited a couple of weeks ago, I had the rare treat of getting to taste Dillon’s gin, a fresh creation from Niagara’s newest and only craft distillery.  Served in a cocktail with sparkling Riesling and blood orange puree, the gin added a very subtle flavor kick to the drink. It was bright red, light and sweet – a very nice way to start the meal.

4) Pizza.

Vampire Slayer
I guess I should be more specific. Have you ever watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Well, I do and I am a huge fan. HUGE fan. Here at Bread Bar they have a pizza called “The Vampire Slayer” and it is necessarily loaded with roasted garlic. I love the idea of a Buffy-themed pizza (even though that show in particular may not be the inspiration to them, it is in my head) and my boyfriend and I order it often.  Their homemade pizza dough is topped with a creamy béchamel sauce, brie cheese and roasted garlic. It is finished with fresh arugula, grated lemon zest and more garlic. Since I am not a huge arugula fan, I often find it a bit overpowering to the otherwise subtle flavors of the pizza. That being said, it is none-the-less one of my favorites and I could totally go for one right now.

Butterscotch Pudding
5) Dessert! I always save room for dessert. I have a small area in my stomach (right, lower portion) which I never fill while eating, leaving it empty specifically for dessert. You definitely want to use this technique next time you are at Bread Bar because they have many tantalizing dessert options.  For example, you can enjoy their amazing monkey bread (think cinnamoney, cakey, goodness in cupcake size) or one of their daily pies. Last time we went we ordered a slice of their rhubarb pie, which was a tart, moist dessert with a crumble topping. Another option is the homemade butterscotch pudding.

Rhubarb Pie
They fill a mason jar with a very light almost cappuccino-coloured homemade butterscotch pudding. This gets topped with a layer of caramel followed by a pillow of fresh whipped cream. They finish it off with candied pecans - crunchy and salty and perfect. Eating this was one of those moments where I don't think I actually said one full word but rather uttered a series of low moans and/or animal calls.

The Bread Bar is one of those places that I’m sure will stick around for a long time. They’ve developed a significant and dedicated following in the area and they are definitely setting the bar high for local restaurants and cafes.

Who wants to grab a bite?

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