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$4 Toast, My Thoughts

iMfTrhtWhen I first heard someone talk about $4 toast in San Francisco I knew we weren’t talking about Wonder Bread. No one would have the cojones that big to try and sell Wonder Bread for $4, but of course San Francisco has plenty of bloggers with the cojones to make you think that. These rich techies are paying $4-$6 for a slice of toast!!!! Well, yes bread is involved and yes it’s toasted, but that’s pretty much where in ends for the most part.

Where it started is up for discussion, but people usually point to Trouble Coffee out in my hood or The Mill as the originators. They start with inch thick slices of wheat bread and slather it with butter and depending can top it with brown sugar and cinnamon, peanut butter and honey or whatever the hell they’re going to think up next. For a big eater it’s a light breakfast or a decent snack, but for the average person it’s pretty much a meal. It’s got a lot more calories and nutrition than a slice of Wonder Bread for sure.

The owner of Trouble Coffee said it was a comfort food for her because she grew up poor. For me, I was a kid in a middle class household that wasn’t hurting for money too bad and guess what my Grandmother used to make for me as a treat? Toast with lots of butter and brown sugar. Grandma would toss it under the broiler for a few seconds to get that serious caramelized effect that chefs like to go for now. It wasn’t a poor man’s pastry, it was actually more expensive than a donut back then probably because of the huge amounts of butter and stuff my Grandmother would toss on top of it. While most of the ingredients came out of boxes or bags this was home made for my Grandmother. I still like it today, I just never thought of slicing the bread an inch thick first.

My Grandmother would toss lots of stuff on bread that she’d toast. She used to broil cheese on bread and that was her version of a grilled cheese sandwich. I took a cue from her and toast bread then rub garlic on it and toss some chopped up tomatoes or other vegetables and call it lazy man’s bruschetta. Unfortunately for most people in San Francisco today lazy tends to be the norm. Finding a friend who is a foodie that can cook is kind of rare nowadays. Most of what people are spending their money on food wise has been prepared by someone else. Yes I cook so of course I’m going to not understand why other people don’t, but we’re talking about toast here. You can go to a bakery like Boudin and buy a loaf and ask them to cut it thick for you. You take it home, toast it, toss a bunch of stuff on top [if you’re slick you’ll put it under the broiler…] and you’re done.

The only reason there is $4 thick toast is that people don’t bother to do it for themselves. For the people who started selling it I think it’s a good idea. If you’ve never made it or bought it, it is something special. I had a poor period and a friend of mine gave me a 10lb bag of flour and a jar of yeast. That reminded me I knew how to make bread and I never felt hungry and I was able to do some pretty incredible things with it because when you’re hungry your mind sees everything as something you can turn into food [at least if you’re a guy like me.]

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Incidentally, the $4 toast, after doing a little search didn’t start in San Francisco. It started in Japan as a breakfast item too. It has scrambled egg on top and is sprinkled with chives and is sold as tamago toast for the equivalent cost of…$4

Looks pretty good and I’ll have to give that a try one of these days now.

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49 Mile Drive: Stop Four, Haas-Lilienthal House

The Haas-Lilienthal House is San Francisco’s finest Victorian house museum, and is open to the public year-round for docent-led tours. In addition, it houses the offices of San Francisco Architectural Heritage and functions as residence and popular event rental site.

Built in 1886 for Bavarian immigrant William Haas and the family, it was occupied by 3 generations of his family until it was donated by them to Heritage. The Haas-Lilienthal House was opened to the public for tours in 1972. It is the only intact private home of the period that is open regularly as a museum, complete with authentic furniture and artifacts.The House beautifully exemplifies upper-middle class life in the Victorian era. Considering its age, the House has never been significantly remodeled or modified and remains one of the very few examples of its era in the neighborhood. Built of redwood & fir, the House withstood both the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes with only minor damage.

Designed by Peter Schmidt, it is an exuberant example of Queen Anne style, with its prominent open gables, varied styles of shingles and siding, and turreted corner tower topped by a “witches cap” roof. The original cost of the House was $18,500 [significantly more than the average for the day, which was $700-2000] Because it was the house of a merchant and not the mansion of a millionaire, it is an informative illustration of how early San Franciscans might have lived at the turn of the 20th century.

William Haas was born April 24, 1849, in the village of Reckendorf, Bavaria, to a family of modest means with many children.

In 1865, sixteen-year-old William and an older brother, Abraham, sailed for New York City. He arrived in San Francisco on October 9, 1868, and joined the grocery firm of Leopold Loupe and Kalman Haas. His first recorded address, in Langley’s San Francisco Directory of 1869, was the Nucleus Hotel, on Third and Market.

The Haas-Lilienthal House tours are every Wednesday, Saturday [noon-3pm] and Sunday [11am-3pm]. Tours leave every 20 to 30 minutes and last about 1 hour. All visits to the house must be guided. Reservations are not required. General admission is $8, and admission for seniors and children under twelve is $5.

You can also rent out the house for special occasions. If you are interested in renting the house [you can get it for 8 hours for $2950 January-November, $3400 in December] You can visit the SF Heritage Site for more details.

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