A solo journey down Ellicott Street put me in front of Toutant just as their doors opened for Brunch this past Sunday morning.
It was a rare moment where I was alone, downtown, and came across a car pulling out right in front of Toutant. As all of the planets fell into alignment, my late morning meal plans were decided.
I got in the door and reserved my seat at the bar just as the first round of diners were being seated. Realizing that I had a few minutes before I could enjoy a drink (thanks to NY’s archaic Blue Laws), I took a wander into the back kitchen, where I knew I would find Chef James Roberts prepping for service. Among Toutant’s dueling kitchen setup, all of the pretty stuff comes out of the top floor galley, but the main floor kitchen is where the magic happens. Read as: Biscuits. Fried Chicken. Cinnamon Buns. Love. Smiles. Sunshine.
James and I chatted a bit as he slathered house made vanilla icing over fresh out of the oven cinnamon buns (read that to yourself again slowly. With your eyes closed), and he mentioned some seasonal additions he was making to the menu. I re-submitted my perpetual request for a Rosco’s Chicken and Waffle style dish, which always gets swatted down, and then as the clock struck noon and the bar opened – I was instructed to check out “the new tartine.”
I made my way back to the bar, where my seat was still reserved. I ordered the Tartine, and for sipping, got a Vieux Carre. Named after the French Quarter in New Orleans, it is a delicious rye, cognac, and benedictine cocktail, and it is my beverage of choice at Toutant. I have ordered this drink at bars around the country, and no one does it like Jeff Yann. It has a great kick on it, smoothed out by the benedictine and vermouth, and is garnished with an orange peel. A great way to warm out the January chill.
As I sipped my drink, I got to take in the atmosphere of a winter brunch in Buffalo. Families coming in with babies in carriers. Couples out for leisurely breakfast and some cocktails. Folks coming in after church. I could have sat there all day, but someone would have needed to drive me home. I love the way Western NY does Sunday Mornings.
And then my food arrived. The P Belly and Jelly Tartine was everything I wanted it to be.
The cornerstone of this mini sandwich was a toasted square of Toutant’s new homestyle white bread. It was really hearty and soft and dense with a great chew and texture to it. The bread was smothered with a gorgeously vibrant peach jam that dripped down the side of it and pooled around the plate (for dippin, of course). You could pick up the subtle hit of moonshine cutting through the nectar sweetness with a little bit of a punch. Team Toutant had made the preserves this past summer at the height of stone-fruit season, and it was such a bright and lively compliment to this dish. Also – Peaches in January that weren’t from a can, or from South America are a huge bonus.
A thick slice of braised T-Meadow pork belly rested on top of the bread and jam- a well balanced blend of salt, fat, and sweet. Good Pork Belly is bacon 2.0 for me, and this one is so high up on my list. Caramelized and crispy, it was not fatty and had that really pronounced pork flavor that only Rich Tilyou’s T-Meadow Hogs can provide. A bed of peppery arugala sat on top of the belly, and offered a nest for a fried egg to rest on.
Visually, it was a gorgeous dish. Component wise, it hit every mark. As I cut into the center of the tartine the yolk ran out, basting the arugula, belly, and bread in liquid sunshine. The first bite melded the hearty bread with the savory, caramalized belly, rounded off by the not too sweet peach jam. The bitterness of the fresh arugula rounded it all off. Time stopped, and I barely heard the reggae music in the background as my mouth tried to figure out how all of that flavor got into one bite.
This is the best ten bucks I’ve spent so far this year.
Enjoy this decadence at a Toutant brunch while it is still on the menu!