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Dithering at the Diner

November 2, 2015

Breakfast. I love it. Lately, I’ve been trying to make sure to eat a little something every day before I leave the house. Because the truth is that while I love breakfast, most of my life I’ve been happy to skip it.

Now that I’m older, I don’t step outside until I’ve had my coffee and some cereal.

The cereal can take many forms. Once the winter is here in earnest, I suspect one of the forms will be slow cooker oatmeal. But for now it’s either granola and yogurt, or flakes and milk. If we have any of the Cowbella creamline whole milk on hand, it’s flakes. If not, it’s granola. These days there is only one milk for me, and that’s this non-homogenized full-fat variety from our local pasture-raised Jersey girls. Man, that stuff is good.

Do you know what’s even better than breakfast? Second breakfast. But when you care about the integrity of your food, and where the ingredients may come from, eating breakfast out can be a bit of a minefield.

Fortunately, I’ve found an answer that I can live with, and I think it will make some of you happy.

Maple syrup at diners typically isn’t. Toast mostly comes from supermarket sandwich bread which really shouldn’t be called bread. But that’s okay, because the jelly is typically just packets of high fructose corn syrup too. Corned beef hash can come from a can, and try not to think about where that beef may have come from. Sausage can just be scary. I don’t know why Thomas puts soy flour in his english muffins, but I don’t want that either. Conventional potatoes are grown in such a way that some potato growers won’t eat them.

So what’s left?

I’ve made peace with the egg and cheese sandwich on a hard roll for a long list of reasons, but it starts with the hard roll. For the most part, local purveyors of the classic breakfast sandwich partner with neighborhood bakeries for the rolls. Perhaps it’s naive, but my hope is that places like Prinzo’s don’t screw around and actually make bread out of the stuff you think bread should be made out of.

American cheese is no longer my sworn enemy. I was surprised after reading Modernist Cuisine at Home that the combination of cheese and sodium citrate, which reportedly makes brilliant macaroni and cheese, is the same combination that produces the impossibly creamy individually wrapped slices of cultural decay…I mean…American cheese. It’s not the decline of civilization, it’s just molecular gastronomy. The more I repeat this, the more I’ll believe it.

Eggs themselves are the trickier part. Most eggs are produced by chickens kept in deplorable conditions. But I figure if you’re in the diner you’ve got two choices. You either find a way to push that thought out of your mind, or you live with lumpy oatmeal. Again.

After my latest egg and cheese sandwich from the Blue Ribbon Diner in Schenectady, I went out the the Schenectady Greenmarket and bought a dozen happy eggs as penance.

No such penance was performed after the egg and cheese sandwich from Eggy’s Place. If you don’t know, that’s the food truck tucked away in the shadow of Albany’s Central Warehouse. I tried one from there recently, and it knocked my socks off. In fact, I was so impressed that it made the top of this week’s Local Yelp.

As it turns out there is no egg and cheese at Eggy’s. I had the bacon, egg and cheese. It’s not really a fair fight. Even though I didn’t want the bacon, this was one of those rare preparations that do this breakfast meat justice, and make taking the nutritional hit worthwhile.

Take note. Eggy told me that last year he stayed open until December, so you’ve still got time to make it down there before he packs up for the winter. Unless of course he’s able to winterize the truck this year, which he hopes to do.

Me? Much like Colonel Kurtz, I’m just going to keep crawling along the razor’s edge of guilt and delight…and surviving. That’s my dream. That’s my nightmare.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Constantine Katsifis permalink
    November 2, 2015 10:39 am

    Hello Daniel,

    We could give you a very different diner experience at Americana, but then again, you’ve moved 300 miles away :(

    Breads are house made from I bleached flour.
    House made marmalade and jams
    Cage free eggs (though I am learning that term is too loosely used)
    Avacodo toast
    Steel Cut Oatmeal
    All fresh Squeezed juices.
    Real butter
    Real cheeses (even what’s considered higher quality American cheese is like buying a fully loaded Yugo)

    • Constantine permalink
      November 2, 2015 10:40 am

      Typo *unbleached flour

    • November 2, 2015 10:43 am

      I know all too well. Your diner came up in conversation with my sister as we ate second breakfast at our local diner.

      Specifically, I was mentioning the slow roasted tomatoes and the philosophy on leftovers. Keep fighting the good fight.

  2. Dave permalink
    November 2, 2015 10:50 am

    I made the sodium citrate cheese out of good aged NY cheddar in a loaf pan last summer. Ran it through my meat slicer and had perfectly square, sharp, melty cheese slices. Perfect for burgers and egg’n’cheeses.

    I think I did it again, but with Nine Pin as the liquid, and that was good too. Anyhow, that sodium citrate cheese is really neat. I recommend messing around with it.

  3. November 2, 2015 11:40 am

    Have you ever gone back to try Jake Moon? I remember you had a not-so-positive yelp review years ago. But, it’s still my favorite place to get a laid-back ‘real food’ diner breakfast.

    • November 10, 2015 7:58 pm

      I love Jake Moon. But if you go there on a weekend (which, for me, is typically the only time I can really go out for breakfast), be prepared to wait a while for your meal (not necessarily for your seat – we were seated right away – just for your meal). My last meal there was well worth the wait (eggs benedict with house cured salmon and dill hollandaise, omg), but I also had no where to be that afternoon. If I had, well, I still would have loved that breakfast but I would have been quite annoyed.

      I bet midweek if it isn’t crowded it would be fantastic.

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