Bahamian Breakfast

This morning we wandered around the Port Lucaya marketplace, getting our bearings, then stopped at a local joint for breakfast. I asked our server for a recommendation of a local favorite, and without hesitation she suggested the tuna and grits. How could I say no?

It was excellent. The tuna was mixed with onions and a spicy sauce and was bursting with eye-opening flavor, and the grits were creamy and spicy, all at the same time. Add in a delightful dining companion, a hot sun, sunglasses, reggae and steel drum music pumping from the sound system, and the sea tang heavy in the air, and it took all of my willpower to refrain from washing it down with an ice-cold bottle of Sands.

Greek Yogurt — Under There Somewhere

I’m down in Cincinnati today, meeting friends for breakfast at the Maplewood. You order at the counter, sit down, and wait for the food to be delivered. I got the Greek yogurt, figuring it would be a nice, light, nourishing choice. This enormous bowl is what I got.

I’m guessing there’s some Greek yogurt somewhere under the blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, seeds, honey, granola, and kiwi fruit. Kiwi fruit? It’s a new take on an old favorite.

Breakfast Of Champions

Wheaties would probably disagree, but this morning in Boerne (pronounced “Bernie”), Texas the breakfast of champions is a very enticing pastry tray from Bear Moon Bakery.  Scones, muffins, and other delectable trifles, with coffee of course, are perfect choices when you’re getting ready for a morning river tubing adventure.

Corned Beef Hash At Katzinger’s

IMG_5584In one way — and admittedly probably only one way — I’m like the Most Interesting Man in the World:  I don’t normally eat breakfast, but when I do I prefer it to be a good breakfast.  An Egg McMuffin just isn’t going to do the job.

Fortunately, there are many great breakfast places near our house.  One of them is Katzinger’s, the deli at the corner of Livingston Avenue and Third Street that many people identify as the kind of gateway to German Village.  Katzinger’s is legendary for its excellent sandwiches (the chicken liver options are particularly compelling) and has a terrific cheese section too, but it’s no slouch when it comes to breakfast, either.

My rule of thumb at a breakfast place are pretty basic:  can it deliver of a mouthwatering plate of corned beef hash?  Even a borderline kitchen hack like me can prepare scrambled eggs and toast some bread, but corned beef hash requires much more skill.  Is the corned beef cooked so that it is tender and flavorful, or is it so tough and chewy that it needs to be soaked in egg yolk before you can choke it down?  Does the proportion of meat to onion and potatoes hit the sweet spot?  And, equally important, does the resulting platter that comes to your table look like the glorious definition of everything that a really good breakfast should aspire to be?

Yes, I’d say Katzinger’s does a pretty good job on the corned beef hash test.

Breakfast At Pistacia Vera

IMG_4978Yesterday morning Russell was heading back to Detroit, so we decided to have breakfast before he hit the road.  We took a short walk to Pistacia Vera.

Pistacia Vera is one of those Columbus eateries you might not have heard about.  I think there’s a reason for that: German Village residents are trying to keep it a secret, because it’s great and they don’t want to have to fight crowds to get a table.

The restaurant has great coffee, lots of very tempting pastry options, and a small menu of breakfast options like quiches, croque monsieur, and muesli and yogurt.  Russell went for the muesli and yogurt, and I got a ham and cheese croissant.  We both ordered cups of Pistacia Ver’a excellent coffee, served Americano-style.

Russell’s greek yogurt was topped with crunchy toasted grains and almond slices and some fresh fruit, and he relished every bite.  My ham and cheese croissant was buttery, light and flaky, and went perfectly with my cup of coffee with a bit of fresh whole milk added.  I think we got the day started off right.

If you haven’t tried Pistacia Vera, you really should.

The Generic Conference Room Breakfast

If you’ve been to a meeting in one of our major cities that starts at 9 a.m. or before, you’ve seen something that looks an awful lot like this spread.  It’s the generic conference room breakfast.  You grab a plate, bleary-eyed, and shuffle on down the line.

There are certain staples.  There’s coffee, of course, with sugar packets and little plastic creamers and plastic stirrers.  Sometimes the coffee will have a little name plate telling you the type of bean being roasted, but more often it’s just coffee, period, served in a generic metal dispenser where you push down the big button at the top and the coffee gushes out into a generic paper coffee cup.  Who cares about the blend?  We’re here for a meeting, and we just want the caffeine.

IMG_2984If it’s a top of the line spread, there will be bottles of juice, but more often the drink options are coffee, coffee, coffee, water from a pitcher, and cans of soda.  If you don’t want to pump yourself full of coffee, you can enjoy an early morning Sprite instead.

Of course, there are always bagels galore, with some pats of butter, little tins of creamed cheese, and containers of jelly.  The serving platter usually features some baked goods like muffins or scones, too.  And, because we might conceivably want to eat healthier, there’s some sliced melon, and grapes, and a few other fruits tossed in to make the plate look colorful.

And sometimes there’s something, well, odd.   In this edition of the generic conference room breakfast that I encountered yesterday morning in Manhattan, there was a large bowl of hard pretzels.  Pretzels?  A chance to fill the blood vessels with salt at 9 a.m.?  Not exactly the breakfast of champions, but it was New York.

Is all of this food even edible, or is some of it plastic?  Does the stuff that isn’t consumed — which usually is about 95 percent of it — get recycled or donated to the nearest homeless shelter?  How many businesses In New York City, and Washington, D.C., and Boston, are dependent upon baking up those generic bagels, and brewing that generic coffee?

How To Treat The Surly Waitress?

Recently we were out for breakfast at one of those diner-type places with an extensive, descriptive menu and lots of choices.  We’d been there before, scrutinized the menu, consumed the food, and enjoyed the experience.

This time, though, we had a waitress whom I’ll call Madge — because she looked like a Madge.  You know the type:  probably in her 50s, raspy cigarette voice, dyed hair, has worked at the place for years, hates her job but can’t change her life, will do what is necessary to keep that paycheck but radiates a surly, “don’t cross me” attitude.  No friendly banter.  Just place your order promptly and let me serve the food and move on.

Normally this kind of server wouldn’t bother me.  I much prefer the brisk, no-nonsense old pro, for example, to the fake-friendly chatterbox who won’t shut up, the incompetent who botches your order, or the lurker who repeatedly intrudes on your conversation.

In this case, though, one member of our party wasn’t brought an English muffin on the side, and when we asked about it the waitress reacted with barely controlled hostility.  She curtly responded that it wasn’t part of the order, because the egg dish already was served on an English muffin.  We knew that wasn’t true because we’d been there before, ordered the same kind of dish, and gotten an English muffin on the side.  “Are you sure?”  “Could you bring one now?” we asked.  “I think I know the menu, honey,” she replied dismissively.  “It’s not part of the order.”  You’d think she would simply bring an English muffin as part of good customer relations, but that simply wasn’t part of Madge’s worldview.

Who wants to have a semi-angry encounter with a waitress over breakfast?  The incident was off-putting — but then Madge unforgivably compounded things.  During a stop to fill up our coffee cups, she made some brusque remark about knowing the orders after working there for years and then barked out a laugh.  Why bring up the unpleasant incident again?  Her asinine comment just made us stew about it even more.

Finally the meal ended, and we had to make the tip decision.  Normally I’m a generous tipper; I remember being a waiter and how tough the job is.  Sure, Madge was an unhappy jerk, but I don’t think I would completely stiff a server unless they served me food with glass in it.  I rationalized that Madge wasn’t going to change, and leaving her no tip, or only a penny, was just going to make her treat the next group of customers even worse.  Madge had brought our food and kept our coffee and water glasses filled, even if she was an ass with a vulcanized soul.  So, I left her a tip, but one that was below normal.

As we walked out, one member of our party scanned the menu again, confirmed that an English muffin was part of the order, and went back in to confront Madge.  That probably had more of an impact on her day than leaving no tip, but the whole incident still bothers me, and I wonder:  for the good of humanity, should I have left no tip?

Breakfast At The Philco

IMG_2116Today we decided to head down to the Short North for lunch before Richard started on his way back to Pittsburgh.  We parked and walked down High Street, looking for a restaurant option that struck our fancy.  We ended up at the Philco Bar + Diner.

The first thing you notice about the Philco is its size.  It’s intimate and snug, with a bar/counter, three booths, and a few high-top tables.  It’s decorated in classic diner lines — booths and stools and stationary seats at the counter — but with more muted colors.  We strolled in a few minutes after noon and lucked out, getting a table in the back that had just been vacated by another party.

The second thing you notice about the Philco is the menu.  It’s like a diner menu, but with a twist.  Nutella grilled cheese?  Sweet chili meatloaf?  Johnnycake sliders?  Hmmm.  And, like any good diner should, it serves breakfast all day.

So, even though it was technically lunch time, I had to try one of the breakfast options.  I decided on the baked grits with two eggs over easy, and the three of us shared an order of maple ricotta cornbread.  The grits were hot and creamy and tasted great with a little egg yolk mixed in.  The cornbread was also very good, with the maple adding sweetness but not overpowering.  The service by the counterman was excellent, too.

The world needs more diners.  The Philco is doing its duty at filling that crying need.

Un Petit Dejeuner A Jardin Du Luxembourg

Today Richard and I planned to eat every meal outdoors.  However, our plans were complicated by the fact that today is Sunday, as well as May Day.  Many businesses were closed, which threw a bit of a wrench into our plans.

The view from our park bench

After waking up we walked over to the Luxembourg Gardens (Jardin du Luxembourg), which are very close by our apartment.  Across the street we found a fine patisserie and bought the makings of our breakfast.  Richard chose a few apple tarts, and I decided on a croissant.  Then we went in search of coffee, which was a challenge.  The only place with carry-out coffee that we could find was McDonald’s.  We were a bit sheepish about going to a McDonald’s in Paris, but we really wanted coffee and we had no other options.  So, under the golden arches, we ordered two cafe au laits, grande.

Then we walked over to the Jardin du Luxembourg, dodging the many joggers and flower sellers who were circling the periphery of the park.  We found a place to sit that was just perfect, on a shaded bench next to a fine piece of statuary surrounded by flowers, and dug in to our repast.  The cafe au laits from Mickey D’s were surprisingly good, and the croissant was great — rich, flaky, and buttery.  Richard’s apple tarts were equally good, with a spicy apple compote tucked inside a slightly heavier, glazed pastry.  Say what you will about the French, but can we all agree that these guys know their baking?

The band at the Jardin du Luxembourg

After we sat, sighing with satisfaction at enjoying such a fine petit dejeuner in such a beautiful location, we noticed a band setting up at an adjacent bandstand and decided to stay and have a listen.  It was a 12-piece band with an odd assortment of instruments that included a xylophone, a piccolo, and a tuba.  They played an eclectic form of music that sounded like a jazzy version of oom-pah-pah Alsatian favorites, with the Austin Powers theme song thrown in for good measure.  As the band played a crowd gathered.  It made for a very memorable breakfast.

The Jardin du Luxembourg proves the value of urban parks as a place for memorable gatherings and communal activities.  It is a fabulous place.