Bread is the thread
The barn floors are in, and Union is feeling like a French tavern. There is something about the way Paris eats and feeds itself that I’ve always wanted to capture in a restaurant. I wanted to build something from what I saw in the taverns, tabacs and cafés I used to frequent; something that would lift me up and give me refuge. I saw them as fuelling stations: the warm lights, the mirrors, the marble bars, the vested waiters, the coffees, the demis and the wine—the bustle and the clatter of it all. Just being there makes you hungry.
There’s one other thing that every Parisian eatery has, a common thread that pulls it all together: a good baguette. A good baguette makes everything better. It’s a companion for saucisson, rillettes, cheese, preserves and butter. It’s there to wipe up sauce and soup and jus. In Paris, no matter how poor or down and out you are, you can always get a baguette. You can always duck into a place and have a sandwich and a demi at the bar, and recharge for pocket change. Union is going to be a refuge, a place to step out of the city and refuel. It’s good food for bad times. We’re not swinging for the fences here; we’re just trying to punch out a few singles and hit some doubles. We’re going right up the middle, keeping it simple and good. Union needed a good baguette. And because of Simon and Danielle at Brick Street Breads, Union’s got it.
When I was in Paris, my friend Chris and I were knee-deep in oysters and wine on a Sunday at the Baron Rouge when he gave me the idea of making yeast from apples. I immediately thought of the apples at the farm. Once back in Toronto, I called a few bakeries, but no one was interested in helping me out. Then I called Simon Silander at Brick Street, and he was all over it. I brought him some apples I got off a big old tree just outside the farmhouse, and he made this great levain or “mother” (a growing colony of yeast he can use when he starts baking). He’s been feeding it for the past four months. That’s a baker for you. He’s going to use flour from Oak Manor Farms, a farm and now a mill that went organic in the early ’70s when the owners saw how the pesticides were killing their land. So Union now has its own line of bread, made from yeast born from apples at the farm and good Ontario organic flour by a great bakery. It’s the thread that’s going to be there every day and tie it all together.