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Preview: the breakfast blog

the breakfast blog

in search of the best eggs in town

Updated: 2018-03-20T00:17:12.734+11:00


How breakfast saved my life...


This is an usual post for the Breakfast Blog.  But yesterday things happened at the Boston Marathon which rekindled my desire to share an opinion or two.  First, I must apologize for a long silence.  I now have twin two-year-olds, and that makes it very hard to keep up the fast pace (or any pace) of breakfasting and writing that once prevailed.  Second, I want to share a story about how too many eggs possibly saved my life.

Yesterday, I ran the Boston Marathon.  I was on pace to finish the race around 3 pm.  But I was also feeling the effects of a few too many plates of eggs and bacon during the months prior to the race.  Let's face it.  I was too chubby for optimal marathon performance.  And thank God.  Had I been any faster, there's every chance I would have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and there's every likelihood my family, friends and colleagues would have been cheering at the finish line.  It's a scenario that came very close and it fills me with a mix of distress, anger and outrage.

But I was lucky.  My last few miles were slow enough that I was stopped about 1 km before the finish line.  And my kids (bellies full of scrambled eggs) overslept for their nap, which meant they and my wife did not quite make it to the finish line.

Others were not so lucky.  I feel for them and their families deeply.

As an Australian living in Massachusetts, you develop an interesting perspective on the good and bad of American culture.  And what I can tell you from first hand experience is that Boston Marathon day brings out the very best of America.  For 26 miles (42 kms) the course is lined with happy, cheering faces, egging you on to the finish line.  About half way, you pass a long line of screaming Wellesley College girls begging for kisses.  No kidding.  And the vast majority of runners are in the race to raise money for charity.

For my part, I was running for Team Red Cross, and if there was any comfort to be had on such a horrible day, it was that I was proud to have done something to support an organization that provides critical relief when shit like this happens.

So if you have the resources and share my outrage at what happened, please make a donation to the Red Cross.  I have never felt more strongly about making a shameless plea for donations.

Donate to my Team Red Cross fundraising

And be sure to enjoy every mouthful of every breakfast.  Your time in this world is precious.

Power Breakfast trends in the USA


They took out the bit where I said this is not actually a recession fad but a longer term trend... but you get to watch me shovel some eggs benny into my face...

Break of Dawn, Orange County


Fancy eggs in the most unlikely of places. In this case, a shopping strip in Orange County, playing host to a very impressive serve of designer eggs benedict. Nicely trimmed poached eggs, artsy swirls of pesto hollandaise, fat slabs of juicy ham, all carefully balanced on a couple of slices of toasted potato bread. They do breakfast in style at Break of Dawn, 24351 Avenida De La Carlota, Laguna Hills, California. And not a real housewife in sight.


Dutch Pancake Cafe, Stowe


Apparently someone at the New York Times called it the world's most decadent breakfast. I can confirm that you will not leave the Dutch Pancake Cafe hungry. Indeed, if, like me, you order the monster pancake with shredded potato, onion and cheese, you may want to declare the rest of the day a no-ski zone. Either that, or run the risk of a serious ACL injury halfway down your first set of moguls. The human knee is only designed to carry so much weight.


Harvest, Cambridge


You can have brunch a la carte but only in the (dingy) indoor bar area. You can sit in the nice outdoor patio but you need to order the prix fixe full brunch menu with more food than you really want to eat. No... wait... OK, you can sit in the patio and order only what you want. But first you'll have to explain it a second time to the next snooty waitress who will tell you, once again, that you can't, etc, etc, until eventually you wear them down. Welcome to Sunday brunch at Harvest.


The food is pretty good. The service needs work.

Snooze, Denver


Most people rave about the pancakes. But who wants pancakes when there's a signature house-made English muffin to be had? A rare treat and one that didn't disappoint. I am now thinking of every reason I can to spend more time in Denver. Because more time in Denver means more visits to Snooze, an "eatery" singularly devoted to breakfast...


Lucile's, Denver


Being surrounded by mountains it seemed like a good idea to order pan fried mountain trout. I was in Denver, after all. Lucile's came well recommended. And the Eggs Pontchartrain sounded good: trout, topped with poached eggs, smothered in bernaise and served with grits, biscuit and home fries. Indeed it was good. But only good. Not great...


Stephi's on Tremont, Boston


It was something of a hash frenzy, my Boston Summer breakfast spree. Duck hash at Mistral. Potato hash at Henrietta's. And last but not least, meatloaf hash at Stephi's on Tremont. I am, as you may have guessed, a sucker for anything hashed and brown. Especially when the brown component happens to be meatloaf, one of America's great contributions to world cuisine. The verdict? Stephi gives good hash...


Which is not surprising, when you consider that the "Queen of Patio Dining" just happens to be married to the "King of Ambulance Chasing", James Sokolove. With Jim making a motza from slip-and-trip lawsuits, Stephi clearly doesn't need the money. So the restaurant must just be for fun. A community service. Because Massachusetts deserves good meatloaf.

Henrietta's Table, Cambridge


I wonder if the Winklevi ever did brunch at Henrietta's Table? Nice and close to Harvard. World class hash browns. What better place to load up on carbs before a big boat race? Or a big law suit for that matter...


Mistral, Boston


Talk about slack. So many months, so little blogging. And so many breakfasts to catch up on. So here goes nothing. A highlight to kick things off, courtesy of Mistral. A rather fancy place in Boston's South End, serving a rather delicious confit duck and root vegetable hash topped with fried egg...


The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman


You know I have a very bad reputation - Avery Tolar

The Cayman Islands can thank John Grisham for their bad reputation. Based on the adventures of Avery, Mitch and Abby, you'd be forgiven for thinking the Caymans is the go-to place for money laundering, over-billing and extra-marital hanky panky. But it's also quite the beach resort. And for breakfast by the beach, it doesn't get much better than the buffet at the Ritz, Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman, Tel +1 (345) 943-9000.


As a general rule, hotel breakfast buffets are things best avoided. Like stingrays. But every rule has exceptions. And the Ritz buffet is one of them. Everything was good. Perky eggs benny. Spicy jerk potatoes. Thick and spongy slabs of french toast. Juicy caramelized banana. Fresh waffles. Custom-built omelettes. Fresh fruit. Local specialties like fish escoveitch. And a very delicious mushroom quiche.

Toro, Boston


There are places in Boston that are popular for reasons I do not understand. And then there are places like Toro, 1704 Washington Street, Boston, MA, Tel +1 (617) 536-4300. Toro is popular because it is good. The food is good. The venue is good. The service is good. The coffee is not horrible. You can even get an Aperol Spritz.


Hampton Inn, Princeton


For an illustration of the moral hazard of serving a free breakfast, look no further than the Hampton Inn, 4385 US Route 1 South, Princeton, New Jersey, Tel +1 (609) 951-0066. I don't know what scared me the most. Was it the yellow crumbles that may well have been powdered eggs? Or was it the collection of pale brown digits that looked like a crime scene from Law and Order: SVU? The hash browns also looked horrible. But at least I could tell they were hash browns.


Now, I'm not saying the eggs were powdered. Nor am I saying any sex crimes were committed during the preparation of the breakfast buffet. And I'm not even saying the food tasted bad. I didn't eat it. I'm just saying it looked a little scary to me. That's all. It may well have been delicious.

Post 390, Boston


You'd be surprised how difficult it is to get baked beans for breakfast in Boston. Baked beans are like Massachusetts Republicans. They exist, but they keep a very low profile. So don't be fooled by the brunch menu at Post 390, 406 Stuart Street, Boston, MA, Tel +1 (617) 399-0015. No beans there. But ask your waiter, and tell them how much you were looking forward to sampling their magnificant house-baked beans, and you never know your luck.


Union Bar and Grill, Boston


Cod cakes. Eggs Benny New England style.


Grigons & Orr, North Melbourne


Well, there's egg and bacon; egg, sausage, and bacon; egg and spam; egg, bacon, and spam; egg, bacon, sausage, and spam; spam, bacon, sausage, and spam; spam, egg, spam, spam, bacon, and spam; spam, sausage, spam, spam, bacon, spam, tomato, and spam; spam, spam, spam, egg, and spam; spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, baked beans, spam, spam, and spam; or Lobster Thermidor aux crevettes with a mornay sauce garnished with truffle pate, brandy, and a fried egg on top, and spam - Monty Python breakfast menu

Unfortunately there was only one spam dish on the menu at Grigons & Orr, 445 Queensberry Street (corner of Chetwynd), North Melbourne, Tel +61 3 9663 5192. Because spam was the highlight of the pan fried spiced ham topped with scrambled egg and drizzled with truffle oil. And you know something's wrong when the highlight came straight from a tin.


The eggs were your average scrambled eggs. The toast was your average thin-sliced toast. And the truffle oil was so lightly drizzled as to escape detection by my amateur taste buds. This may have been the desired outcome of an ingenious plan to cast spam as the spicy star on a bland stage devoid of distracting flavours. Or it may have been a bad day in the kitchen. It was certainly a bad day for hash browns. Mine was extremely doughy and barely palatable.

Could this really be the same place that Preston, Valent and the copycats had raved about? Was it my fault for ordering spam spam spam and eggs, rather than apple fritters, cous cous porridge, or pancakes with Barbados cream? Maybe so (although others have slammed the pancakes).

It is a quaint little venue. They do sell mixed lollies (whoopee). The coffee is good. And the staff are friendly. But, in my biased opinion, if the eggs aren't up to snuff, who gives a crap about crocheted blankets?

13/20 "spam"


Mitte, North Fitzroy


For Melbourne's best poached eggs, go to Mitte, 76 Michael Street, North Fitzroy, Tel +61 3 9077 7379. I'd like to say the world's best poached eggs, but there are two good reasons not to. First, I have not yet tasted every poached egg the world has to offer. And second, I try to avoid saying things that make me sound like a total pillock.


But trust me. These were some seriously good eggs. Nice shape. No puddles of poaching water. Deep, dark golden yolks, oozing to perfection. And a taste so good you'll want to eat these fellas nude. Just shove a bit of pure, unadulterated egg in your gob and enjoy. Or maybe smear it on some Dench toast. But don't dress it up in too many fancy flavours. Try to enjoy the simple pleasure of a fresh, free-range egg.

Which is not to say that Mitte doesn't also give good flavour. Having savoured some naked egg, you can move on to a very tasty chick pea bake, some goat's fetta, a leafy herb salad, half an avocado and a squeeze of lemon. All served up with a couple of slices of very fresh Dench sourdough toast. Ausgezeichnet.

The flavour continues with the Cheap-Eats-Award-Winning potato and chorizo omelette with Collingwood College kitchen garden tomato and fennel chutney, and a tomato, buffalo mozzarella and basil salad. Or for those who like to start their day with dessert, the "breakfast crumble" of cinnamon poached pears and apples topped with a crunchy-granola-ish toasted macadamia crust. Personally, a gut full of such sickly goo first thing in the morning would make me want to barf. But each to her own.

Less sickly, but still sweet, are the pikelets, which I can highly recommend with lemon curd, fresh lemon, brown sugar, maple syrup and marscapone. Really, really good. You can also have them with berries, or with the exotic-sounding middle eastern fruit compote (although this has been said to lack a little zing).

I am, quite frankly, amazed this place has not had the gushing, raving praise it deserves (only Cheap Eats has stuck its neck out with a gong). The food is great. The Atomica coffee is excellent. The venue is a cute little white box in a quaint little corner location. The staff are polite. About the only thing wrong with Mitte is that you have to wait a bit. But that's what happens at good places. If you want fast service, go somewhere bad, where there are no other patrons to get in the way.

19/20 "poached egg perfection"


The Overland, Adelaide to Melbourne


Somehow I managed to enjoy my freshly-nuked bacon and cheese croissant, despite its limp, deflated appearance. I think it was because I was on a train, which is fun, rather than a plane, which is not. Maybe the simple fact of having a steady blood-flow through your legs makes things taste better?


Book Talk, Richmond


Part book store, part cafe, an abundance of fried meat...


Demitri's Feast, Richmond


Growing up in 70s Melbourne, my sponge-like mind was drenched in a singular image of Greek food: the souvlaki. So it was quite a shock to my culinary foundations to be sitting down for a Greek-inspired breakfast at Demitri's Feast, 141 Swan Street, Richmond, Tel +61 3 9428 8659. Can you eat souvlaki for breakfast? If Mark Philippousis went on MasterChef and cooked Cougar-glazed French toast with ouzo foam, would George Calombaris call it Greek toast? Is Nana Mouskouri the original cougar?


You can make up your own mind about Nana. And we can all hope that the Scud stays out of the kitchen. Because when it comes to Greek toast, it's hard to imagine anything better than the Baclava French Toast at Demitri's Feast. Take a big fat slice of fresh Tsoureki. Dip in egg and fry till golden brown. Drizzle with yoghurt and orange-honey syrup. Sprinkle with blitzed walnuts and serve. Delicious.

The rest of the menu is similarly sprinkled with Greek twists. Like ouzo-and-dill-cured salmon served with poached eggs and spinach; omeletta with lokaniko sausage, potatoes and kefalograviera cheese; and semolina pancakes with thick Greek yoghurt, rose jam, pistachios and more of the aforementioned orange-honey syrup. In some cases, there may be just a hint of Greece, in the form of goat's feta added to creamy scrambled eggs, or manouri cheese added to sage mushrooms.


The only thing missing was a breakfast souvlaki. For that, apparently, you need to go Hellenic Republic. Tell them a food blogger sent you. George hates food bloggers.

17/20 "tsoureki is the new brioche"


Friendly Toast, Cambridge


Finally, a diner to die for...


Le Petit Dejeuner, Toronto


When in Canada, be sure to try some peameal bacon, ideally with poached eggs and hollandaise on top...


BOS, Des Moines, IA


It's pretty hard to resist a signature dish, even if it does look like someone just threw up on your eggs...


Great American Bagel, Chicago O'Hare


If I change my first name from "Jamie" to "Professor" it doesn't really make me a professor. And calling a bagel joint The Great American Bagel doesn't mean the bagels are great. They are fine. But they are not great.


Trident Booksellers and Cafe, Boston


Despite its name, the potato chuckwagon is very good...