Welcome, dear readers, to The Takeout Draft, our recurring feature that combines our love of food, fantasy sports, and arguing on Slack.
Every month or so, we will select a topic of conversation from the food and drink world. Takeout writers will then field a team via the snake draft format. After three rounds, The Takeout commenteriat will vote on who they believe was victorious in that week’s draft. At the end of 2020, the staffer with the most weekly victories will select a charity of his/her choice that The Takeout will make a donation toward.
Speaking of which, an announcement: The winner of the most Takeout Drafts in 2020 was... A TIE! Aimee Levitt and Allison Robicelli each won four drafts apiece last year, which means they’ll both be making respective charitable donations.
Aimee has chosen to donate to Felines & Canines, a no-kill shelter in Chicago that not only rescues abandoned or neglected animals, but works to “strengthen the human/animal relationship through counseling, education, and compassion.” Donations go directly toward the care of the animals.
Allison has chosen to donate to the Black Church Food Security Network, which works toward “a sustainable, community-centered, food system supported by Black Churches and Black Producers, led by those most directly affected by food insecurity.” Donations support Black farmers, as well as help build the infrastructure for sustainable food supply chains across the country.
Now, back to the cutthroat competition at hand. The previous Takeout Draft: Best chocolate mint items was one in which Dennis Lee left us all in the dust, thanks to his wildly popular selection of Andes Mints. We couldn’t be happier to celebrate his first victory.
New year, new us. While everyone is trying out the post-holiday fad diet du jour, we’re here to talk about all the best breads. It’s a stunningly rich category and we only have three picks each to assemble the best team. Who among us can win your hearts?
Competing in the Thunderdome this week are members of the Takeout staff: Aimee Levitt, Marnie Shure, Lillian Stone, and Dennis Lee. The randomizer has selected a draft order:
1. Lillian Stone
2. Marnie Shure
3. Aimee Levitt
4. Dennis Lee
Now, let’s get this bread.
Marnie: Lillian, you’re up!
Lillian: Well, well, well
Aimee: Choose wisely, Lillian.
Lillian: Everyone, I’d like to start things off in a vampire-repelling manner: My first pick is garlic bread.
Marnie: Wow wow wow
Aimee: An excellent choice. I want some now.
Lillian: It makes everyone happy. You absolutely cannot resist plucking up the corners of your little mouth when it arrives at your table and/or doorstep. Where from? Doesn’t matter. You can’t mess up garlic bread.
Aimee: Especially if you smell it in advance.
Dennis: Why did I not even think of that as an option?!
Lillian: Smell it. Dip it. Crush it in your hand.
Marnie: I’m furious that garlic bread is off the table
Lillian: I’m sorry! It makes me feel like a Little Leaguer annihilating a pizza buffet, and I feel good about that.
Marnie: I’m mostly furious that I have to follow that up. In the spirit of 2020, I’m snatching up sourdough
Lillian: There it is. There it is.
Dennis: Everyone take it easy, I’m going to get crushed
Marnie: I don’t think I liked sourdough when I had only had grocery store stuff. But we took a family trip to San Francisco when I was a teen and it OPENED MY EYES
Aimee: Did you have a bread bowl?
Marnie: Once I came back from San Fran, I started ordering broccoli cheddar in a sourdough bread bowl at Panera like it was my job
Lillian: Have you ever worked with a San Francisco starter? My friend mailed me one last year and it’s ridiculous. Total game-changer.
Aimee: I learned last week that some of those starters go back to the 19th century. It’s amazing.
Marnie: They survived the earthquake?
Aimee: Yes! A baker at Boudin allegedly carried one to safety.
It’s too much work to babysit a starter.
Dennis: People really do babysit them and practically sing them to sleep
Aimee: What would you sing to a starter?
Lillian: Anything by Sir Mix-A-Lot.
Marnie: BAD by Michael Jackson, but BREAD
Dennis: You’re going too hard, I’m singing Sade
Lillian: This is No Ordinary Loaf
Aimee: Okay, I’m torn here, but I think I’m going to go with bagels. Because when I lived in St. Louis and there weren’t any, I was so distraught that I resorted to making them myself.
Lillian: Oh my god, how did I not think of bagels?
Aimee: Because you grabbed garlic bread.
Marnie: The bread category is so much more fruitful than I had imagined
Aimee: Or we’re rising to the occasion.
Marnie: Favorite bagel flavor/maker?
Aimee: Oh, man, it’s choosing a favorite child. I love hot bagels fresh out of the oven. The best ones I had were in New York (Ess a Bagel; I worked near there and used to buy bagels in the evening to keep my hands warm) and in Montreal. I like egg and garlic, and I’m starting to appreciate sesame seed.
Dennis: The only Montreal style I’ve ever had came from a restaurant called Reno here and it was really good! I’d never known you were just supposed to bite into them but it was sort of an instinct and it made sense
Aimee: I heard that Eastern European Jews used to use them as teething rings.
Dennis: I’m picking: Tortillas!
Lillian: Ooh! Corn or flour?
Dennis: I love both, but for the bready sake I’m going with flour tortillas!
Marnie: We use tortillas in just about every meal and this did not occur to me. I need to rethink my relationship to the term “bread”
Dennis: Well to be fair, I googled the definition to make sure I wasn’t messing it up, and some people do categorize them as a flatbread, which makes sense to me…
Dennis: They’re so versatile since you can eat them unheated, or you can griddle them off, wrap stuff in them, or just eat them!!!
Aimee: Exactly! And they’re not hard to make.
Lillian: Best tortilla you’ve ever had?
Dennis: Oh, that’s a hard one. El Milagro is just my favorite tortilla maker. I’ve never tried making one at home yet.
Lillian: I’m usually team corn tortillas all the way, but I had a flour tortilla at La Taq in San Francisco a few years ago that I still think about all the time. It had that very flexible, lightly stretchy texture. So smooth, so sturdy.
Marnie: Incredible. But even more incredible is that Dennis gets another pick
Dennis: Oh yes, and my second pick is plain ol’ cheap white sandwich bread!
Aimee: Sadly underrated. I love white sandwich bread.
Lillian: I’m so glad somebody picked it! White sandwich bread rules, and it gets such a bad rap among food people.
Aimee: I make it at home all the time. It makes the best toast.
Dennis: I know people talk shit about cheap bread, but it’s a lifesaver and can pretty much be used for any sandwiches. Plus it makes great grilled cheese. I know people like sourdough grilled cheese sandwiches, but they’re almost too chewy for me to enjoy.
Marnie: I love when you hold a sandwich with soft white sandwich bread and it sort of flattens where your hands were
Dennis: Yes, a true testament to the power of unnatural leaveners. White sandwich bread and American cheese sandwiches are the best!
Aimee: Also peanut butter and jelly! It sits so well in a school locker.
Lillian: Yes! And it’s the only choice for bologna
Dennis: For some reason I read that as lasagna and I was thinking…maybe Lillian’s onto something
Lillian: White bread lasagna! My mother’s recipe
Dennis: When you take the crusts off it to make small sandwiches it looks fancy too
Marnie: I love that we’re supposed to tear down each other’s picks in the draft and instead we’re just so excited about all bread
Dennis: I’m sure someone is going to be taken down
Marnie: We shall see......IS IT AIMEE?
Aimee: My choice is brioche.
Lillian: LET’S GET HER
Aimee: Have at it.
Marnie: An impervious choice. My god
Aimee: Is it cake? Is it bread? Is it the best French toast? YES!
Lillian: Okay, I actually really want to know how everyone feels about this, because I only like it with French toast and that’s all. Not on savory sandwiches or in bun form. Thoughts?
Marnie: I think… that you’re wrong :/
Lillian: We’re fighting we’re gonna fight
Dennis: I have a hard time deciding if it’s good for burgers
Marnie: Such a good burger bun, in my opinion! Depends on the burger, though. It has to be a really rich, salty burger. If it’s a dull gray one, the brioche sticks out awkwardly
Aimee: I like it for burgers, as long it’s with a sharper cheese. Don’t forget, it’s the bun in the Popeyes chicken sandwich and all its imitators.
Lillian: I totally forgot about that. Maybe I’ve just had some crappy brioche buns and they’ve turned me against the bread in its purer forms?
Aimee: That is possible. There are some crummy brioche buns out there. You can taste the preservatives.
Marnie: Okay I guess it’s time for my second pick, and I’m going with a big, flashy fella
Dennis: Pick Subway bread so we can all win
Marnie: Absolutely not. Focaccia! I always enjoyed this stuff, but the opening of an Eataly in Chicago has caused my focaccia appreciation and consumption to skyrocket. Y’all been to that focaccia counter?!
Aimee: Oh, man, Eataly.
Dennis: There’s a whole counter?
Marnie: A whole AREA
Lillian: You can focactch me there on a monthly basis
Marnie: It’s a testament to focaccia’s richness that a lot of the tourists at Eataly just refer to it as pizza and no one corrects them
Aimee: Or a testament to the patience of the Eataly staff.
Lillian: That place is heaven on earth
Dennis: It’s hard for me, the olive oil section is so big I get scared
Lillian: Scared you’ll get trapped in the olive oil bottle and have to grant a tourist three wishes?
Aimee: “Take me to Michigan Avenue!” “Take me to the Rock ‘n’ Roll McDonald’s!” “Take me to the top of the Sears Tower!”
Dennis: Now I’m even more scared
Lillian: Ladies and germs, brioche yourselves: I am choosing the mighty yeast roll.
Marnie: ……..why, though
Lillian: DO YOU DISAGREE
Wait... do y’all not like rolls
Dennis: let’s all be silent and make lillian second guess herself
Marnie: I guess my thinking is, they’re always served with food that is good enough on its own
Aimee: They’ve always been the best part of Thanksgiving for me.
Lillian: Aimee gets it!!! The ROLL is the food that is good enough on its own!
Aimee: There’s also Lambert’s Cafe in Missouri, where you throw them.
Dennis: A plain roll or buttered?
Lillian: My parents’ house is five minutes from Lambert’s. They throw them plain (very hot, be careful) and then you butter at your leisure.
Aimee: A hot roll with butter melting on it is divine.
Lillian: Texas Roadhouse rolls? Claire Saffitz’s sour cream and chive rolls? Those little pull-apart frozen rolls?
Aimee: It’s sad, though, that many rolls have a very short life.
Lillian: The good news is there are always more rolls to look forward to.
Dennis: oven to face
Lillian: This did not go how I planned.
Aimee: Be brave! Stand up for what you think is right!
Marnie: Yeah, I mean, you can have ‘em!!!
Lillian: More for me and Aimee!
Dennis: Marnie and I are throwing our own bread party then
Marnie: With **checks notes** tortillas and white sandwich bread
Dennis: We’ll make breadritos
I already feel overwhelmed, carb-wise
Marnie: Well, you’ve only got one pick to go! And Lillian’s on her last one.
Lillian: Oops, sorry, I was just loafing around….That SUCKED but my final pick does NOT: I’m going naan, baby.
Aimee: Ooooof, that is a good one!
Marnie: WOW SWIPED MY FINAL PICK
Dennis: This is gonna get hairy, isn’t it
Lillian: We’ll keep it naan-violent
It is the LORD’S VESSEL. Hot and puffy, lightly buttered or garlicked.
Perfect for dipping, sopping up, or just eating solo. It just doesn’t get much better.
Aimee: That’s yet another thing I miss! It’s still good when you get it for takeout, but when you have it hot and fresh it’s sublime.
Marnie: Garlic naan might actually be more generous with the garlic than most garlic bread I’ve had
Lillian: That’s true! This place I used to visit served it with extra garlic in a fancy little silver dish with a fancy little lid. I liked that.
Dennis: Mad respect
Aimee: SIIIGGGGHH. What is this place? I must go as soon as I’m allowed out again!
Lillian: It closed! Do you want to know something gross, though?
Aimee: of course
Dennis: sounds like we’re not getting a choice
Lillian: A few weeks ago I had a totally bare fridge so I made macaroni and cheese and put it on naan for a little pizza. And it? Was delicious
Marnie: That is the sort of resourcefulness I aspire to
Lillian: It is called Living Alone
Aimee: It can be marvelous.
Lillian: Anyway, that’s my last pick. And also maybe what I’m having for dinner.
Dennis: Invite us over
Marnie: I WISH my final pick was what I was having for dinner (we’ve already landed on pizza): Buttermilk biscuits
Aimee: Why can’t you have both?
Marnie: When pizza’s on a biscuit, you can eat pizzaaaa anytiiiiime
Dennis: Delicious. So heavy. I had a biscuit crust breakfast pie from 7-Eleven once and I can’t say it wasn’t good
Lillian: Do you like square or circle?
Marnie: Whatever has the most butter
Aimee: That is the correct answer.
Marnie: The smell of biscuits might be the most intoxicating smell of everything in the bread category
Aimee: Agreed, though all bread smells amazing.
Dennis: I hate to say it…but Jimmy John’s baking bread sells itself
Lillian: Do you ever do sweet toppings like preserves or honey?
Marnie: Sometimes jam, but honestly I love the biscuit by itself! I don’t like obscuring its buttery flavor with much of anything. If I’m going to eat a metric ton of butter I should at least make the most of that pure experience
Lillian: That’s beautiful
Marnie: Is it as beautiful as Aimee’s final pick?
Aimee: We shall see. It all depends on what you think of… challah. (I have to pick it. It’s the first bread I ever made.)
Dennis: Cue “Beautiful” by James Blunt
Lillian: I SAW HER ON THE SUBWAY, SHE WAS WITH ANOTHER MAN
Dennis: This is going to sound really stupid…but what are the main differences between brioche and challah?
Aimee: Brioche has butter. Challah does not, so you can eat it with meat and still be a good Jew, if you consider keeping kosher essential to being a good Jew.
Dennis: That is 100% what I needed to know
Aimee: We used to make challah every Friday at my Jewish nursery school.
Lillian: What?! That’s way cooler than what I ate at nursery school
Dennis: Baby Aimee!!!!
Marnie: Did they have the kids braid it and all?!
Aimee: We could make whatever shape we wanted. At Passover, we also had to build things with blocks and pretend to be slaves until the kid who was Moses freed us.
Dennis: Sounds intense. Korean school was not like that, I can tell you that
Lillian: What if the kid who was Moses got distracted?
Aimee: HE DID NOT! There were ample song cues. What did you do at Korean school, Dennis?
Dennis: Learned to be angry that my Saturdays were taken away from me during the school year, but we learned Korean and some traditions that I forgot about promptly. And I also learned how angry one can be at oneself for not taking Korean more seriously.
Aimee: That sounds like Hebrew school, except it was Sundays, Mondays, and Wednesdays. And I never really learned Hebrew.
Dennis: Languages are hard. So’s picking bread
Lillian: Challelujah to that
Dennis: Dammit Lillian
Aimee: Okay, I snorted at that one.
Lillian: I’m SORRY
Aimee: You are not. Dennis, the final pick of this amazing draft?
Dennis: My pick, drumroll please! drumdrumdrum…Shokupan, Japanese milk bread!
Marnie: WHAT A FINALE
Lillian: OH YES
Dennis: That is a gamechanger in all ways. It’s soft, sweet, and has that ultra delicate white bread texture but finer!
Aimee: It makes such good sandwiches!
Dennis: It makes a really refined grilled cheese, and egg salad sandwiches on shokupan will make you wonder where you’ve been your whole life before then
Lillian: Oh wow, I’d have never thought to use it for grilled cheese
Aimee: I need to buy a Pullman pan so I can make some and have it come out perfectly square.
Dennis: Yeah, it’s so delicate and gets small when you cook it, but that’s also the joy of it
The not-so-fun joy is having to track it down at Mitsuwa, but that’s okay. It seems to be the fancy bread that bakers are making for pop-ups or bakeries now, so finding a loaf isn’t going to kill you
Aimee: Sandos for everyone!
Dennis: I can’t believe none of you picked it!
Aimee: It was on my longlist.
Marnie: TURNS OUT WE LOVE BREAD. And so, so many great options were left on the table
Lillian: Did anybody have beer bread shortlisted?
Dennis: Not I. My remaining ones were Hawaiian rolls and Martin’s Potato Bread
Aimee: I had cinnamon swirl bread, pita, and rye.
Allison Robicelli: My picks, had I been able to join, were Martin’s potato bread and Hawaiian rolls.
Lillian: My runners-up were beer bread, Amish friendship bread, and bread bowls. I’m your dad.