Aimee Levitt's piece on Baker Miller Bakery & Millhouse for the Food Issue covers the history and concept of this Lincoln Square spot devoted to baking from grains milled in house, including a picture of its quaint, wooden hand-operated mills. But when I went there last week, I saw a new piece of equipment—on every table, no less—that's not old school but relatively modern: a toaster. (Shades of Bob & Ray's House of Toast, no?)
Insert jokes about the Portlandian absurdity of paying big bucks for artisan toast if you want, but as co-owner Dave Miller explains it, it's all perfectly logical. They have a big, hulking beast of a commercial toaster oven behind the counter, but people weren't happy with the level of toasting that it was producing to begin with—too much, too little. Then it settled the issue by breaking, and they've been waiting on the part for a couple of weeks. They had to get some kind of replacement toaster, so why not let people toast their own damn toast? Especially in a shop where you had your own choice of butter and jam, and did that yourself. It's an Adam Smithian paradise of toast choice.
Miller proudly demonstrates the versatility of the unit he found. It has a rubber exterior so it doesn't get hot, a stop button for when you think your toast is done, and a little fold-out rack on the top for keeping your toast warm (which he admits he hasn't actually tried yet). I test it on a slice each of their sourdough and a sunflower seed bread; maybe because the bread is so dense, it takes considerably longer than a slice of Butter Krust to brown in any appreciable way, at least two full cycles.
But then, it's not an afterthought on the side of eggs and bacon, either. This is the ribeye steak of toast, two thick and seriously substantial slices of bread with deep, complex flavors, as far from ordinary white toast as an Irish stout is from Bud. It's satisfaction with every bite, and after consuming two slices I'm seriously considering skipping lunch. Toast. Try it some time.
In other food news . . .
The Chicago Food Film Festival begins Wednesday, November 19, and runs through Saturday, November 22, featuring documentaries about food as well as tastings from local makers of food including Eddie Lakin of Edzo's, Paula Haney of Hoosier Mama Pie Co., Big Fork Sausages, Takoz Mod Mex Food Truck, Begyle Beer and others. You can save 10 percent on tickets with the promo code READER10.