There's not much out there that competes with the all-around goodness and simplicity of French Toast. I'm not even going to bother qualifying that with an "in my opinion." If you want to argue it as fact, I'll go to the mat for French Toast and I will do so with vigor.
That isn't to say that there aren't higher forms available. Like anything else, a French Toast variation can fall into a quick hierarchy based on the sum of its parts. Let's go ahead and name that most important quality. It's not the bread (though clearly challah is a superior choice). It isn't the presence of exceptionally fresh eggs (just the yolks, apparently). It's not the maple syrup or the amount of butter used to fry impossibly thick slices.
You are running out of patience for my chosen approach, I can tell. We can skip the part where I decry "it" not to be cinnamon or orange zest either.
It's the company. The person who passes the syrup across the table. The one watching the oven timer to ensure the bread has been dried out just enough to promote optimum batter absorption. My company for the affore-heralded French Toast? Unparalleled but wholly familiar to longtime readers. I managed a weekend in the woods outside Seattle earlier this month with Pop, a man of the hour every hour and one for the ages at every age. I think the shot above is a few years old but it best captures the two of us doing what we do best. Scallops in that instance, rather than French Toast.
We did a good amount of cooking, exploring, napping and general indulging (balanced by some elevation run-run-running on my part). A trip out to Denny Creek took us over the river.
And through the woods.
I'm especially proud of this one. Yes I know, pride comes before the fall. But fall was already in high season when I got to Seattle and I am just fine with the hubris that comes with a beautifully stacked lox bagel. That is a work of art. Bless you, Blazing Bagels.
Other moments when we patted ourselves heartily on the back included the day we decided duck pâté, apple slices, crackers and pomegranate seeds counted as lunch.
And the night we decided to find out how sole would taste fried in truffle butter over leeks and chantrelles. In my defense, I did manage to get a lot of vegetables on the plate and we went with lemon sorbet for dessert.
But I think if I had to pick a dish to represent the weekend, that French Toast was it. I mean that was it. Top of the pile and that pile was covered in blueberries. I have to give thanks to Christopher Kimball because Pop had prerecorded the demo we modeled our own toast after on America's Test Kitchen (recipe linked). We added some orange zest and were lucky enough to find eggs at a roadside stand in Woodinville (assured they were exceptionally fresh).
I try to get out there a couple times a year. I love that part of the world but I'm in it for the company. One night after dinner we sat and listened to music for an hour and a half. When his favorite version of "Someone to Watch Over Me" came on, he belted it out with a lack of self awareness that comes with being 92.5 and not giving a damn for anything but things that give joy.
And yes, as the years have gone on there are other, shorter conversations that come up. It would be ridiculous for us to pretend that this will go on forever in kind. I think it's comforting to both of us that it's addressed in the form of him sending me home with paperweights and books and old photos. This time he pledged to be at my wedding "no matter what" and, should that come to pass, I suspect he might come disguised as a French 75 for a different kind of toast altogether. Pop is and will remain a bit of magic. It's not a secret, it's a treasure.