Avocado toast is having quite the moment. Toast, in general, is figuratively on fire, the carb darling du jour at coffee shops everywhere. And avocado is in the midst of a boom all its own. Worldwide, we are eating more avocados than ever.
Avocados have lots of fat and hardly any carbs, making them a favorite among the low-carb dieters. As evidence of their fat content, the texture is buttery, and it spreads perfectly on the sharp, pocked surface of hot toast, where it forms a new material altogether, its own creamy, crunchy layer of food that you are happy to chew and swallow.
In Charlotte, some of the favorite spots for avocado toast include Not Just Coffee and Tupelo Honey (see sidebar).
But beware. There are dangers lurking beneath the crispy, possibly pre-buttered surface of that avocado toast.
An injury known as "avocado hand" has emerged recently in England, where avocado consumption leapt by more than 25 percent annually in recent years. The broad diagnosis of avocado hand includes various form of self-inflicted knife injuries, some of which require surgery, that occur in pursuit of avocado pit removal.
"People do not anticipate that the avocados they buy can be very ripe and there is minimal understanding of how to handle them," plastic surgeon Simon Eccles told The Times (UK). "We don't want to put people off the fruit, but I think warning labels are an effective way of dealing with this." Eccles recalls treating as many as four cases of avocado hand in a single week.
On this side of the pond, things have not reached epidemic stage, although Martha Stewart admits to more than one avocado-related injury. I see on the internet that she now holds the pit-containing half with a folded kitchen towel, which protects her hand from the occasional epic fail.
I now watch avocado toast videos in a state of suspense, which only builds as the avocado waits quietly on the cutting board. Flinchy moments are not hard to come by. One hostess announced, "And now I'll take the pit out, by stabbing and twisting." Another commanded her viewers not to sue if their own attempts went horribly wrong.
As if avocado hand isn't enough to worry about, the avocado toast world recently learned about yet another hazard avocado toast lovers must face: a lifetime of tenancy.
"When I was trying to buy my first home," recalled Australian real estate tycoon Tim Gurner to Australia's 60 Minutes in a now infamous interview, "I wasn't buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each."
Predictably, Gurner was maimed on social media and in the news. Several teams of journalists crunched their local housing and avocado toast numbers to determine how many average-priced orders it would take to forego the average house. Others looked at the math of making avocado toast at home, where one would have to add caviar and poached dodo egg to get the price tag above five bucks for two slices.
Meanwhile, it is entirely possible to pay a lot more for toast in the city than the $19 figure Gurner tossed out. Perhaps he had a point.
Speaking of price, avocados are likely to be expensive this year, thanks in part to severe floods in the avocado-rich countries of South America. But not to worry, because in Mexico, huge swaths of old-growth jungle are being clear-cut in order to plant more avocado trees, all so millennials, especially European millennials, can mutilate their hands.
I first heard about avocado toast years ago — before most hipsters even knew what a macchiato is — from an aspiring coffee shop owner whose wife had just returned from a trip to Los Angeles. I thought it was the silliest thing ever. Now, a decade later, my friend lives in a house that was paid for, basically, by avocado toast — his best-selling slab.
When I asked my friend if he found it troublesome that millennials are trading their dreams of home ownership for some overpriced calories made by some dude with a beard, he was philosophical.
"The real question," he suggested, "is: Which is more important, a new house or avocado toast?"
And if you happen to be in Australia, that latte on the side can be served in an avocado skin.
My friend's avocado slab is built on a thick slice of toasted sourdough loaf. Half an avocado is smeared on, and dressed with salt, pepper and coconut oil.
Personally, I prefer a good olive oil to most coconut oils available on the market. And I fancy a squeeze of lemon or lime.
After the pit has been safely removed, I gently slice the flesh with a butter knife, while the peel is still on, and then squeeze it onto the toast and mash it around. Before adding the oil and lemon, consider adding whatever seasonal delicacies you can assemble.
A thin slice of radish or turnip. Eventually, tomatoes.
In the meantime, a poached egg is a decadent addition to anything, including avocado toast. Some leftover chicken, toasted on the bread sprinkled with cheese, can be smeared with avocado with glorious results. Spinach pesto, pickled jalapenos, capers. Salt and pepper, of course. And chile flakes. It all seems to work just fine with avocado toast.
Just watch that knife.
Five spots in Charlotte where you'll find great avocado toast
Don't worry, millennials, that royally stupid comment from Australian millionaire Tim Gurner on 60 Minutes — you know, the one you may have read about in The Charlotte Observer (breaking news, folks!) about millennials not being able to buy houses because they eat too much avocado toast? — was hilarious at best, utter hogwash at worst.
[Adopt haughty tone] "When I was trying to buy my first home, I wasn't buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each," Gurner groaned.
Oh, hush. You weren't buying anything, you stingy bastard.
So in honor of avocado toast in Charlotte — both the overpriced and economical varieties — here's five spots where you can enjoy it. Some of these places, like Not Just Coffee, dress their avocado toast up real pretty!
1200 E. 36th St.
The Peculiar Rabbit
1212 Pecan Ave.
Not Just Coffee
222 S. Church St.
1820 South Blvd.
204 North Kitchen and Cocktails
204 N. Tryon St.