Brunch breakdown: pressed yogurt at Bar Toma

Brunch is an altar. This is how you worship it.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

Who invented pizza? Who cares? The question at Bar Toma (110 E Pearson St, 312-266-3110) is who masterminded its new brunch menu? The cocktails, which get as much menu space as the food, are light, Italian-leaning drinks like the Cacciavite, a simple, effervescent way to get a dose of Amaro Montenegro before noon. The food is, uh, not as light�a lot of it is an attempt to combine eggs and pizza (e.g., the Italian Diner, which pops farm eggs inside a puffy, calzone-ish �bomba�). Perhaps this is why we were so intrigued by the Pressed Yogurt ($8), a surprisingly savory creation we didn�t think fermented milk was capable of. Chef de cuisine Erik Freeberg walks us through it:

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Photograph: Martha Williams

THE YOGURT
Freeberg wanted to serve yogurt that�s �different and cool and just kind of off the wall,� so he places sustained weight on Greek yogurt for four to five days to press most of the liquid out. �That really allows it to become a more pliable, formable yogurt,� says Freeberg, who�s seen similar techniques applied to ricotta.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

THE FRUIT
Freeberg mixes blueberries, blackberries, apples and tiny peaches together and lets them macerate with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and sugar. Before serving, he adds little fried pieces of focaccia to the mixture, creating a fruit riff on panzanella, the Italian bread salad typically made with tomatoes and cucumbers.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

THE FINISHING TOUCH
�We use a little bit of really nice [Il Tratturello] olive oil to finish it. There�s a hint of olive fruit with that, but it�s a little spicy and kind of offsets the sweetness of the fruit and the richness of the yogurt,� Freeberg says.

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