Oh, sweet three pound infant baby Jesus. Sometimes you put something in your mouth and it folds you a little bit. Your spine just curves over to the awesomeness of the moment. Call it the slouch of the intensely pleased. That’s what the new bruschetta at Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant did to our table. It’s a simple riff on the fruit-cheese paradigm from chef Ted Smith, and it is perfect. The elements:
Toasted levain bread: Levain is French bread made from wild yeast—simply water and flour, left to sit for a week or longer to develop a ripe and intense flavor without the help of instant yeast. The patience pays off. Bankers Hill uses levain from Hillcrest-based bakery, Bread & Cie. The toast is buttered because they care.
Bucherondin: A mild French goat cheese from Sevre et Belle, a dairy cooperative in the Poitou-Charentes region of western France (that region produces 80 percent of the country’s goat cheese). Made from pasteurized milk, it has a creamy texture, with an interior like a cheesecake. It was one of the first French goat cheeses to be imported to America. On its own, it has a bright, lemony flavor. Smith whips the cheese to give it a lighter, almost mascarpone-ish texture.
Apricot-ginger jam: Smith makes his jams in the marmalade style. Marmalades are citrus-based, made from the peel and the pulp of the fruit. They’re cooked for a long time and, unlike jams or jellies, they have no pectin (the natural fiber found in most plants). For this version, Smith uses organic apricots, fresh ginger and lemon zest. The ginger gives it an ever-so-slight zing.
Two cherries: The first is a Rainer cherry—a hybrid between the Bing and Van cherry. Rainers produce an extraordinarily large amount of glucose (sugar), making them one of the sweetest cherries in the world. They were created by Harold Fogle in 1952 as part of Washington State University breeding program, and named after Mount Rainer. The other is the deep red Bing cherry, cultivated in the U.S. by Chinese national Ah Bing in the mid-1800s. Oregon and Washington grow about 60% of America’s sweet cherries. Smith gets his from Andy’s Orchard near San Francisco. And, according to the California Cherry Board, we’re just finishing up the sweetest six weeks of the cherry season.
Kumquat simple syrup: The cherries are dressed with this. Simple syrup is, of course, sugar water and the basis for most American cocktails. The sweet-tart citrus gives an acidic element to the cherries that you need to cut the fat of the Bucherondin.
Micro-Arugula: Anytime you hear micro, it just means the leaves are less than 14 days old. Some studies have found micro-greens to have four- to six-times the nutrients than mature leaves of the same plant. With arugula, you obviously get the vegetal, peppery bite against the sweet fruit and fatty cheese.
Photo by Troy Johnson