March 23 – Melba Toast Day
Alright, so. With just the sheer number of restaurants in New York City–the standards, the up-and-comers, the rightfully overrated, the beautiful local dives–I thought I could get away with doing an entire year-long blog highlighting national food holidays without hitting the same restaurant twice. I mean, the statistics were behind me, weren’t they? There’s literally thousands of restaurants in the city; surely, I could find unique ones for each food holiday.
Then Melba Toast Day came along.
Melba toast, the brittle, crunchy little cracker-type bread we see commonly in a bread bowl at old-time diners, is a popular diet food that dates back to the late nineteenth century. Yet another food craze started by opera singer Nellie Melba (like Peach Melba Day), nowadays it’s mostly been pushed to the back shelf of the grocery store, especially in the modern low-carb diet age. The most famous purveyor of melba toast, Old London, even had a New York City link: up until two years ago, its main factory for creating melba toast was up in the Bronx (until it moved to North Carolina).
See? I should have done this blog two years ago! Easy peasy, go up to the Bronx today, get a few melba toast free samples and be on your way. Not so easy anymore.
Just as it has lost its popularity on the diet foods shelf, melba toast rarely graces the dinner plates of New York’s fine restaurant establishments. I only found one restaurant that acknowledges it serves melba toast in one of its dishes, and not as a pre-packaged slice along with your dinner rolls. Only thing was, I had already recommended the place!
If you recall, I showcased La Silhouette for Chocolate Souffle Day back on February 28. And they sure do make a great chocolate souffle, still arguably the best in the city. But they also are the only restaurant I found that serves melba toast, theirs as a vehicle for their foie gras appetizer. I was in such a conundrum! But then I decided, hold on: some restaurants are that good that they are, and should be, known for more than one signature dish. If a restaurant was known as only being good at making one thing, they probably wouldn’t be around very long! And the foie gras at La Silhouette is superb: hailing from the Hudson Valley, it’s served “naked”, or without additional garnishes or flavorings, to really savor the taste. The melba toast itself is something to write home about: La Silhouette makes the toast themselves in house, so it’s softer than commercial breads (and doesn’t come in a cellophane wrapper!). If you stopped by La Silhouette for a chocolate souffle last month, this dish is definitely worth a return trip!
362 W 53rd St (between 8th Ave & 9th Ave)
“Among the appetizers, savor the torchon of foie gras ($24), presented naked on the plate, flanked only by Melba toast and a quenelle of slightly sweet quince and pear chutney. Outdated, maybe, but tasty.”–Village Voice
““This looks lovely,” muttered one of the grizzled Francophiles at my table as he examined an old-fashioned torchon of Hudson Valley foie gras, which was smooth as proverbial silk and served with two disks of Melba toast and a spoonful of delicately chopped pear chutney.”–New York Magazine
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“The food was absolutely splendid. The foie gras was creamy and flavorful and I was pleasantly surprised at the melba toast being softer than I expected it to be.”–Marilyn S.
“The course salt on top added a nice little crunch, and the sweetness of the quince really took away the slight bitter edge organ meat has. The melba wasn’t the usual thin, brick-like kind you find in plastic packaging but was thick, soft, and flaky.”–Katie E.