Thanksgiving teaches us that the more we eat, the better food experience we have. At other times of the year, if you find a great combination of ingredients, you don't need to eat that much to get that better food experience.
Man can not live on bread alone. If that turns out not to be true, I know where I would start.
I first met this grilled sourdough in a long weekend in Halifax, Nova Scotia in late summer in 2009. I was on a tourist trolley riding through downtown Halifax and asked the guide about where I should eat. He absolutely recommended Jane's on the Common.
Halifax is built on a hill so just about anything in the downtown area is uphill. And Jane's was not all that near the downtown area where I had been for most of the trip.
Though the journey was long, the meal was very good. I had beautiful ingredients well-prepared, but even at the meal, I didn't want to eat the last bite of this amazing grilled sourdough. Not because it wasn't beautiful, but if I ate the last bite, there would be no more.
Flash forward to this past summer. I am back in Halifax. I already know that Jane's is gone; there is a catering operation but no restaurant. Edna's is next door to Jane's catering: Edna is Jane's daughter and Edna's is a restaurant. Could Edna's have brought over the same grilled sourdough from her mother?
Edna's is uphill from downtown — in the same neighborhood where I stayed at a less-than-ideal hostel in 2009 — but a much shorter walk than the journey to the Common.
Edna's felt more upscale than Jane's but still relaxed. The exterior was a bit rougher (by Canadian standards) than the Common. What counted was the bread; would it be similar? Would it be as good?
I scoured the menu for bread-related dishes. Sure I could pick a dish that didn't involve bread and get the bread on the side. Why not find a fun dish that included the bread?
Appetizers presented some wonderful sounding options. Then I saw what I was looking for, even if I hadn't ever ordered this dish: mushrooms on toast.
Criminis and chanterelles with brandy peppercorn cream, shaved pecorino, and truffle oil on grilled sourdough. To my right, a lovely couple was eating even lovelier looking steaks, but my mission was bread.
I like mushrooms. I like toast. The combination may not be as cool as avocado toast has become, but fancy mushrooms on really fancy tasting bread sounded cool in the moment.
Though you can't see the whole appetizer menu, mushrooms on toast at $13 was the most expensive appetizer on the menu. I couldn't tell you what I paid at Jane's in 2009. I still remembered that meal many years later, just what you want from a travel experience. Though to be fair, $13 Canadian ran about $10.50 in U.S. currency in 2015. Still, money wasn't the concern; great bread was that important.
The presentation was very festive. Even though the food experts tell us we eat with our eyes (we don't), how was the bread?
This was grilled sourdough, hearty but not too tangy. Beautiful tasting bread.
The dish was an intriguing combination: nothing was too overpowering. The dish was fancy but very simple. The bread made the dish. But was the bread exactly the same as 2009?
The bread was as close as I could imagine. Jane's bread was served on the side, so I tasted the bread more. Edna's bread was part of the meal. Edna's bread made me happy much in the way Jane's bread did in 2009.
Thanksgiving should be a feast of quantity as well as quality. The story isn't designed to take away from that message. The idea is that a feast can be a bunch of amazing tastes in small bites as well as mindlessly stuffing manufactured chips into an overly processed dip. Quality and quantity: have plenty of the latter but don't forget the importance of the former.