Start your morning off right today! It’s National French Toast Day, celebrating a dish that, for all its savory components, ends up being a sweet breakfast treat. Although the dish is called “French toast“, it’s not actually French: the idea of soaking bread and frying it has been around since the 4th or 5th century. Back in the Middle Ages, it’s thought that French toast comes from the popular style of “pain perdu,” or “lost bread”, finding a way to reuse pieces of bread that have already gone stale. Nowadays we typically use fresh bread to make French toast, but stale can still be turned into something delicious with this preparation. Modern French toast is made by soaking bread into an egg mixture (which can include milk, vanilla extract, spices, anything you want to flavor your bread with) and then frying it on a griddle until it’s crispy brown. After that, you can add anything you like to it to make it sweet, or even savory: the typical toppings to a French toast breakfast are fresh fruit, confectioner’s sugar, and of course, a healthy dollop of maple syrup. But French toast can also be a savory breakfast, if you add gravy, bacon, onions, or cheese. In some culinary cultures, like India and the Czech Republic, the savory toast reigns supreme, and you may even find such toppings as peppers and gherkin pickles on your French toast!
They won’t put pickles on your French toast, but if you head to Norma’s on 56th Street, you’ll definitely have enough variations to find your favorite French toast. There are lots of places around the city that serve some amazing classic French toast and some great, interesting variations, Norma’s definitely makes its name in New York City restaurants based on its French toast. When celebrity chef Alex Guarnaschelli says that the best French toast she’s ever had has been the Chocolate Decadence at Norma’s, you definitely pay attention! They have five different varieties, all with different taste profiles, and all sound absolutely delicious for brunch: while the Crunchy French Toast is smothered with warm caramel sauce, the savory Super Cheesy French Toast has caramelized onions and applewood smoked bacon. (How can you go wrong with bacon??) But most people put their money on the Chocolate Decadence: covered in strawberries, pistachios, and the highest quality Valrhona chocolate sauce, it’s a breakfast that definitely lives up to its name, and can make you forget about almost everything else on the menu. Set in the Le Parker Meridien hotel, Norma’s is on the swanky and expensive side just for breakfast, but after you’ve tried the French toast here, you’ll be certain that breakfast should be the most important meal of the day!
Le Parker Meridien, 119 W 56th St
“The breakfasts, in fact, are more fairy tale than real at Norma’s, where the 15 griddle selections include superbly light, lemon flavored pancakes, dense blueberry pancakes with Devonshire cream and brioche French toast that actually tastes like brioche. I haven’t tried the foie gras French toast — I was about to say it was too rich for my morning meal until I remembered how much I liked the duck confit hash, served in a football-shape iron skillet. The menu also includes more than a dozen egg dishes, fruits and cereals, sandwiches and even a bacon cheeseburger with fries, definitely too rich for me.”–The New York Times
“Norma’s Donut Even Go There French Toast, which is cheesecake-stuffed and coconut-rolled french toast served with orange drizzle and vanilla ice cream, is a popular dish.
Another favorite (well, my favorite), is the Chocolate Decadence French Toast. I can finish this chocolatey, gooey, strawberry-y, pistachio-y, and whipped creamy plate of deliciousness in about ten minutes – that’s how good it is.”–Elite Daily
“Norma’s, hands down the best brunch you could possibly find in NYC, or perhaps the world. Located in the Parker Meridian Hotel, this posh restaurant serves incredible brunch items like Chocolate Brioche French Toast, Creme Brulee French Toast, and Artichoke Eggs Benedict. Actually, you can’t really go wrong with any of the menu items- be prepared to share!”–Inside New York
“Whatever you do, you cannot leave Norma’s without ordering the Chocolate Decadence French Toast ($25). Featured by Alex Guarnaschelli on The Best Thing I Ever Ate, the chocolate cake French toast mountain comes in at about 6 inches tall and with sliced sweet strawberries between each layer and whole pistachios and valrhona chocolate sauce drizzled on top, you’ve got yourself the most indulgent brunch dish in New York City. You may be taking care of your caloric intake for the week with this one dish, but each warm, rich, and decadent bite is worth it. wEE consider Norma’s a good spot for a frou frou power brunch on an expense account or special occasion brunch, as not much on the menu is under $20. You’ll definitely spend a pretty penny to indulge.”–Eatery Expert
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“As for the food, we only tried the 2 aforementioned items. I will recommend the Chocolate Decadence French Toast to anyone coming here for brunch. And since they serve brunch everyday, you could possible come here for lunch dessert. Essentially, it is like a chocolate cake that they somehow make into french toast. I do not understand how that is possible, but as mind boggling as it sounds, the immense surge of flavors and emotions is undeniable. Overwhelming sensations and tears have this dish summed up in one word: GLORIOUS.”–Timothy T.
“I ordered the foie gras brioche french toast. Jon had the crispy french toast. The crispy french toast was two very large pieces of bread, coated in egg and puffed rice, then generously topped with powdered sugar. It was the epitome of french toasts and Jon could only finish one slice! My fois gras french toast was a 3 inch thick slice of bread, hollowed out and filled with fresh mushrooms and asparagus, then topped with d generous slices of foie gras. It was rich, decadent, filling, flavorful, and everything I wanted and more. I had too much foie gras, too much toasty goodness, too much flavor to handle.”–Suanne L.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!