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The Deets on Sweets for Eats

November 6, 2011

I’ve had ice cream for lunch. That day I drank one and a half Boston Shakes from The Snowman to write this piece for All Over Albany was truly great. But I stuffed myself silly ice cream blended with rich whole milk, topped with more ice cream, hot fudge and whipped cream.

Surely at some point in my youth I had a candy dinner. I know if left to their own devices, or the influence of one certain “Auntie” Young Master Fussy and Little Miss Fussy would have been perfectly happy munching on their Trick-or-Treat bags for their evening meal.

But these sugar-fueled meals are the rare exception to the rule.

People look askance at those who might decide to eat nothing but cake for dinner, and someone who wanted to eat something sweet and chocolate-filled for lunch might face the derision of their peers. That is, except at breakfast. I’m not even going to look too closely at why it’s okay to stuff your face with sweets for breakfast. I think that would be the mouth of this proverbial gift-horse. Instead I simply plan to delight in this peculiar fact.

At my first ad agency job in San Francisco, I would start my day with a donut and coffee at my desk. It seemed like a perfectly sensible thing, from this east coast transplant’s perspective. But this was no ordinary ad agency. It specialized in natural foods, and some of the staff looked at me like I was from mars.

Which is not to say all Californians felt this way. To the contrary.

Long before she was Mrs. Fussy, she and I would go out for a regular Saturday morning brunch. Our favorite spot was a little place in Berkeley called Le Bateau Ivre. At the time they had something called a “Basket of Bread” on their breakfast menu. But it wasn’t. It was a basket of pastry. Sweet, sweet, pastry. And more than once, I enjoyed this order for my morning repast with several cups of their coffee.

On the other side of the San Francisco Bay was a place called Hobee’s, where one morning we met some old friends for breakfast. We were told the thing to get was their blueberry coffee cake. And in all honesty, I ordered actual food to go along with the cake. But it’s only the cake that I can still remember. Hot from the oven, crowned with a scoop of butter that was melting and running off the edges of the streusel topping.

Damn that was good. And it could have easily been a meal to itself.

The very existence of coffee cake as a dish, is an explicit approval of the notion that cake can be served with morning coffee for sustenance. Donuts and coffee don’t vary too much from the formula. I’m sure a quick Internet search could tell me which came first. But it’s really irrelevant.

Because this is just about a parade of breakfast sweets. Muffins don’t sound like sweets, but they totally are. They are just cupcakes without the icing, and generally without the chocolate (but a banana, chocolate chip, walnut muffin is hardly an unthinkable concoction). Muffins can also be sliced and “toasted” on the griddle. And if you’ve never tried that, you are missing out on one of breakfast’s great joys.

Two words. Bear Claw.

As long as we are talking about sweet almond flavored breakfast pastry, I would be remiss not to mention the almond croissants from Mrs. London’s. To me, they are actually guilty of gilding the lily of this incredible bakery’s near perfect classic butter croissant. But people love these, and nobody is getting something this heavy for dessert of lunch. An almond croissant is breakfast. Period.

My favorite croissant-like sweet breakfast came from a bakery I had to pass every morning on the way to work on the Berkeley Oakland border. It was called La Farine, and their specialty was something called a morning bun. It was a swirl of buttery dough, that was generously sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, and set to bake in a muffin pan. The butter, sugar and cinnamon would caramelize on the bottom in such a divine way, while the top pastry remained dry, crisp and impossibly flakey. Whenever someone on my team was celebrating a birthday, I’d always bring in a box of these divine treats for breakfast.

Here in Albany, I’m thrilled to have discovered the great donuts of Troy. They are virtually the only thing I get at Bella Napoli and are amazing, in a very classic authentic donut kind of way. All except for their glazed. For glazed you have to go up the hill to The Cookie Factory. Given how good and cheap they are, it’s hard to justify a $4 Pika’s Liege Waffles that can be found at the Troy Farmer’s Market. You might not want to buy a dozen of them for friends, but if you just by yourself, it’s a worthwhile indulgence.

Surely I’m leaving out some great breakfast treats, not least of which is the cheese Danish. But if I don’t stop now, we’ll be here forever.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Jess permalink
    November 6, 2011 10:30 am

    While all this sounds decadent, I’m currently scarfing down your steel-cut oatmeal recipe.

  2. Ellen Whitby permalink
    November 6, 2011 11:13 am

    You forgot to mention Pain de Chocolate? Shame on you!

  3. November 6, 2011 11:19 am

    Schuyler Bakery in Watervliet for the best donuts that i have ever had.

  4. addiesdad permalink
    November 6, 2011 3:06 pm

    I have fistfights with my family over Mrs. L’s almond croissants. They are manna from Heaven. The Brittany and cinnamon melt-ways are pretty awesome, too.

  5. November 6, 2011 11:13 pm

    I am also a fan of Mrs. London’s almond croissants. On a similarly indulgent plane is the bread basket from Balthazar, obscenely priced at $21 but delicious enough to justify the expense. Hey, it’s NYC.

  6. -R. permalink
    November 7, 2011 12:34 pm

    The apple fritters from Bella Napoli are quite divine as well, albeit the fact they are roughly the same size and shape as a catcher’s mitt; at $2.25 each, who’s complaining?

    You do, however, seem to consume a lot of sugar. Have you ever attempted to completely eradicate sugar from your diet for any period of time?

  7. matt permalink
    November 11, 2011 5:40 am

    I believe it is ok to have sweet treats for breakfast cause you will burn off all the sugar and stuff while you are going about your daily duties. If you load up on the sweet treats for dinner then you will probably have trouble sleeping cause you’ll be all hyper. And blueberry coffee cake sounds amazing, especially fresh and warm from the oven.

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