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Bungling Breakfast

March 15, 2011

Ordering wrong at breakfast is a talent of mine. Perhaps it has something to do with not thinking very clearly first thing in the morning. Maybe it has to do with a certain inflexibility about what I want to eat first thing in the morning. It’s even possible that I have too many too strongly held opinions about breakfast food.

French toast, oatmeal, maple syrup, pancakes, scrambled eggs, poached eggs, and omelets all sound just like normal diner items, but in reality they are minefields.

Before Mrs. Fussy and I were married and before we had children, we would occasionally go out for a nice brunch at a good place somewhere around the San Francisco Bay Area. The first time we did this I ordered the brioche French toast with a fruit compote, and she had the duck confit hash with poached eggs. Mine was middling at best, but hers was brilliant. From that day on, whoever ordered the best dish out was said to have gotten the duck confit.

Without Mrs. Fussy’s guidance I would have missed the scrapple and basted eggs at the diner in Pennsylvania in favor of the Greek omelet.

And I’ve had similar lapses of judgment locally. I went to Mike’s Diner with Little Miss Fussy and left scratching my head as to why people like it. And I suffered through a lackluster bowl of oatmeal on my first trip to Dan’s Place II as I watched beautiful things come off the grill headed for other tables.

But I’m learning. And Leah the Nosher is helping.

She and I are engaged in a bit of a diner exchange. I share a special place with her, and in turn she will share a special place with me. Because there is no better way to experience a place than with someone who loves it and can guide you towards the best things on the menu.

LtN loves Mike’s, as do other people I know. On my first trip to the diner I was underwhelmed with their spinach, leeks and feta omelet. The leeks appeared to be more onion-like than any leek I have ever encountered. Plus the omelet itself was very flat, very rectangular, and very wrong.

My mistake was ignoring the boxes drawn on the menu to call out the diner’s deluxe pancakes. Apparently they don’t offer corn any more, but among other varieties of the form, they make oatmeal and buckwheat pancakes. I generally don’t order pancakes out, because seriously nothing can compare with what my father-in-law makes down on the farm.

If I’m ever compelled to come back to Mike’s, I won’t complain. I’ll just sit myself down to a short stack of their buckwheat pancakes, maybe with raspberries cooked inside, or just unadorned with a hot mug of coffee to wash them down. They are good, and without question the best thing I’ve had from the menu. Perhaps a juicier fruit like blueberries would cut back on the desire for maple syrup, because like most diners Mike’s syrup does not come from trees.

Sharing a meal with a food obsessive is a lot of fun. But sharing a favorite place with someone who has a critical palate requires a bit of bravery.

LtN could not believe we were going to Dirty Dan’s. Apparently few people go there sober, thus the warning signs prohibiting foul language. But I had to go because I had been haunted for far too long by the image of those breakfast treats coming off the griddle.

You know what Dan’s knows how to do? Put a crust on things. And it’s impressive. Even the scoop of corned beef hash that was dug from an industrial sized Hormel can looked amazing after it came off the flattop. Just make sure to get the sausage and the potatoes.

I would surely have ordered these on my first outing to the diner had I come in for breakfast just fifteen minutes later. But when I arrived, the grill was empty. And without any visual cues for what they did well, I opted for my hearty and healthy oatmeal and coffee.

It was only after I started eating that people filed into the restaurant and the grill got busy. And that’s when I saw their sausage for the first time. What a sear. It looks like a thick sausage link that has been sliced down the middle and pressed onto the grill. The oatmeal was sad to begin with, and it got even sadder when confronted with these tantalizing alternatives.

With a build up like that I wasn’t sure if this breakfast would live up to my glorified memory. And I was apprehensive about bringing a friend along to try and critique the food. But it was great. Although in my memory I had thought the sausage was contained by a casing. In reality there’s no casing, which doesn’t make it any less delicious.

I could pick nits all day about almost anyplace. But the bottom line is that Dan’s Place II is great for breakfast and isn’t just for the inebriated craving a greasy meal.

Hopefully all this practice will improve my breakfast instincts. At the very least it’s nice to have company. Although once Little Miss Fussy is in school full time, I’m looking forward to a quiet breakfast alone with plenty of coffee and the morning paper. It’s been far too long since I’ve engaged in one of my favorite old-man activities.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. March 15, 2011 10:37 am

    Ordering wrong just plain sucks. I stick to a few of my favorite things, including anything that’s delicious with over easy or poached eggs, including benedicts and hashes. I had a phenomenal brunch on Sunday, while J’s was just ok. (Oddly enough, his was literally duck confit hash. But mine, in your sense, was “the duck confit.”)

  2. Tonia permalink
    March 15, 2011 10:44 am

    My boyfriend does this regularly. He always gets what we call food envy whenever we go out to eat. I always seem to make solid choices. I keep telling him to order what I order. He never learns. Instead… he will sit the whole time staring longly over at my food. :-)

  3. Tonia permalink
    March 15, 2011 10:45 am

    oops *longingly* … no coffee yet this morning.

  4. March 15, 2011 1:43 pm

    Oatmeal at a greasy spoon? I agree- that is definitely ordering wrong. Wrong wrong wrong!

  5. March 15, 2011 6:21 pm

    Funny, I was thinking about you this morning related to this, Dan.

    Here is my question for the Professor:

    If I am going to a new restaurant and am desiring to judge it, what is the best way? I want to say you have blogged this before: should I order what I am in the mood for, order food I think I understand well, or order “the house specialty” – despite the fact that I may not have a good reference point for judging its quality?

  6. March 15, 2011 9:55 pm

    Mike’s Diner is down the street from my house and we’ve never tried it. But if Leah likes it, I suppose we probably should.

  7. April 1, 2011 9:05 am

    If you want to order right at Dirty Dan’s, you get the Emmy Bull Burger. They’re certainly not the only place that puts an egg in a burger, but they sure do know how to work that grill.

  8. April 2, 2011 1:34 pm

    Tonia, your comment reminded me of one of my favorite words: Groak

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