Remember the TV commercial that told us, “The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup”?
Whoever wrote that never ate at my favorite breakfast places. Here’s just a sampling of can’t-miss destinations for your morning meal.
There’s no better place to start than with New York’s world-famous iconic delis. The king of them all, the CARNEGIE DELI, is no longer in business, so if you haven’t had their legendary Eggs & Corned Beef Hash by now, you’re SOL. But you can still go KATZ’S for lox and bagels, BARNEY GREENGRASS for Eggs with Sturgeon or a Salami Omelette, and RUSS & DAUGHTERS in Soho for Shakshouka, a concoction of red peppers, tomatoes, onions, paprika and cumin topped with fried eggs and accompanied by thick-sliced Challah Toast.
Also in New York: the incomparable NORMA’S in Le Parker Meridien hotel. This Midtown hotspot serves breakfast and lunch only, and yes, you WILL need a reservation. But you’ll also be rewarded with gargantuan plates and platters of beautiful, witty, and delicious morning treats.
Next time you’re in Los Angeles, head to ROSCOE’S in Pasadena, where I first encountered Chicken & Waffles. For a complete write-up on it, read my April, 2016 blog post about Roscoe’s.
Once in San Francisco, a colleague told me that I needed to try SEARS for its Silver Dollar Pancakes. At the time, I was designing commercial interiors for department stores (including Sears), so I figured, why not? Sears was an institution, right downtown, and packed to the gills every morning. In fact, we had to wait 30 minutes for a table. So were San Francisco’s breakfast cognoscenti onto something? Not really. But here we are nearly half a century later, and I’m talking about it, so they must have been doing something right.
In Germany, we had to make do with hard bread, cold cuts and cheese. However, it was pretty good hard bread, cold cuts and cheese.
In Sweden, and recently in Reykjavik, Iceland, breakfasts are quite similar. Hotels offer smorgasbords – sometimes quite lavish spreads – while restaurants and cafes lean toward simpler offerings like open-face breakfast sandwiches, often featuring clever combinations of ingredients – probably an ode to the famous OSKAR DAVIDSEN restaurant in Copenhagen.
In Italy, on the other hand, breakfast is almost always simple and traditional. You’ll enjoy sweet rolls with your espresso every morning, and in the South, around Naples, SFOGLIATELLE. Italy’s answer to the croissant, it features layers and layers of puff pastry formed into a clamshell shape, and it can be loaded with all sorts of fillings, like ricotta, honey, prosciutto, figs, you name it. A couple of those with a glass of blood orange juice? I like starting my day that way.
Paris? Here you have your choice of simple or spectacular. At the upscale hotels, things can get pretty fancy. Eggs Benedict isn’t just carefully composed, the Hollandaise is formally napped tableside with a flourish unique to the French. Ever had Baked Eggs in Truffle Cream? Me neither. But if someone else is paying, you can try them for breakfast at the Plaza Athenée.
Sophisticated folks, I’m told, have breakfast radishes. Hmmm?
I’ll take a pass, though. Just give me some steaming coffee, fresh squeezed juice, and freshly baked overnight croissants, slathered with butter and apricot jam. Check out Joanne at L’Avenue on Rue Montaigne with the Herald Tribune “havin’ fun now.”
And then, of course, there’s England…
Now, England has the distinction (some would call it dubious) of some internationally renowned meals ranging from Shepherd’s Pie and Bangers & Mash (sausages and potatoes), to Fish & Chips and Sunday Roast. But perhaps they’re best known for their hearty, rib-sticking English Breakfasts.
To quote W. Somerset Maugham: “To eat well in England, one should have breakfast three times a day.”
A place that we love for breakfast is THE WOLSELEY, right on Picadilly, near Green Park and the Ritz. It’s crowded and it’s good.
Hotel breakfasts in London can be delightful. Smoked Scottish Salmon and Blini…or Smoked Haddock (Finnin Haddie) (a favorite of mine, not Joanne’s) with Poached Eggs … or Avocado Toast … or Baked Beans and Chorizo Toast. Joanne had a Dosa once, a southern Indian sort of thin pancake made from a fermented batter of rice and lentils, served with a chutney or sambar (tamarind dip). It was okay, just okay.
A basic English breakfast of poached eggs and back bacon (Canadian bacon) is hard to beat. And hotels can be very accommodating. For example, my 10-year-old granddaughter does not tolerate gluten very well. When we mentioned that to our waiter, he immediately went to the kitchen and returned a few minutes later with gluten free croissants. Okay, okay, I know: Gluten free frequently doesn’t taste so hot. However, with the amount of butter and marmalade that she lathered on…well, I think they tasted pretty good, after all.
Here’s a couple of English touches that I love: the toast caddies with the diagonal half slices standing at attention. Also the miniature jars of marmalade, honey, jam and jellies. How many of those little “cuties” find their way into people’s purses?
At any rate, I’m told that the origin of the proper English breakfast dates back to the 1300s and eventually morphed into a favorite of the wealthy British gentry, always as a breakfast feast before a hunt. It’s been interpreted by the Irish with the addition/substitution of white sausage and fried soda bread, and by the Scots with Scotch eggs and often haggis (sheep’s liver and lungs along with oatmeal encased in the sheep’s stomach). Yuck and double yuck. (Ever wonder why you never hear much about Scottish cuisine?).
But then there’s this: the “mother of all English breakfasts”….the Full Monty.
Think about The Whole Enchilada.
The Whole Shebang.
The Whole Nine Yards (said to refer to the length of ammunition belts in the war).
No, the Full Monty refers to World War II British General Bernard Montgomery, Monty, who in battles against the German General, Erwin Rommel, in North Africa, was reported to start his day with a Full English Breakfast, including blood sausage, baked beans, mushrooms, back bacon (not the streaky bacon we’re used to), grilled tomatoes, hash browns and occasionally Bubble & Squeak (fried cabbage, bacon fat, potatoes and onion).
Take a look at HAWKSMOOR STEAKHOUSE in London (listed with Manny’s as one of the world’s Top 10 Steakhouses). They serve up the best Full Monty Brunch I’ve ever seen. They even add pork chops.
I’ve always said, “If you’re going to fire a gun, fire BOTH barrels.”
HAWKSMOOR fires both barrels.