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A Hearty, Healthful, and Delicious Breakfast

March 14, 2019

I know it’s only Thursday, but tomorrow I’ve got to talk about cocktails, so today let’s talk about brunch. Brunch is one of those meals that I really want to love, but these days I’m finding it extra challenging.

In part, this is because I’m trying to eat smaller portions of more healthful food. Of course that opens the door to a million different opinions on food and health. Mostly, I’m trying to limit refined grains, sugars, and deep fat fried foods. Fattier meats are okay in moderation, but I am trying to lean more towards vegetables and lower fat sources of protein. And of course, I’m trying to do it all while still prioritizing deliciousness.

That makes the average breakfast menu in this part of the world a minefield, and the hunt for a hearty, healthful, and delicious breakfast harder than you might imagine.

Toast is one of my favorite things. No joke. I love toast. The smell of toast in the house has me craving toast. But when I’m eating out, for the most part, toast is a hard pass. Why? Most bread is awful stuff, and I want as little to do with it as possible. I don’t even like calling it bread. It should be called extruded and sliced bread product, or something like that.

Pancakes, when they are good, are worth every single calorie and whatever units in which blood sugar spikes are measured. Most pancakes aren’t worth your time. But it’s hard to even know, because I won’t even touch the things if real maple syrup isn’t available. I have no interest in maple flavored corn syrup, or high fructose corn syrup in anything. This is why at roadside diners I generally encourage my kids to get the chocolate chip pancakes, because they are sweet, and don’t require any “pancake syrup”.

Waffles, same thing. Sadly, that means chicken and waffles are out too.

French toast is even worse. It combines the crap “extruded and sliced bread product” with the issue of being covered with something that’s not real maple syrup. Nutella isn’t the answer either. Nor is powdered sugar. Plus, good french toast is such a delight. And It’s something I can make very well at home, if I do say so myself.

Omelets can be fine, but they drive me bonkers. Three eggs is far too many eggs. Some might say that two large eggs aren’t quite enough. I think the answer might be using two duck eggs, since they are a little bigger. Mostly, I’m not a fan of the stiff, well-browned folded omelets. Nor do I particularly enjoy the rolled omelet made in seconds on a diner’s flat top griddle. There are good versions out there, but again, these are so easy to make at home.

So, what do I want?

Thanks for asking. Because I’ve been thinking about this a little bit. There was a cafe in Oakland, California I went to a few times, and it had one of my favorite brunch dishes. However, it’s going to sound really weird. You’re just going to have to trust me.

It was a bowl of soft polenta, enriched with an egg.

The egg was simply whisked into the hot corn porridge, so there was no runny yolk to pop. This wasn’t a dish for the instagram era. Although it was like eating a bowl of sunshine. It was decidedly savory, but you could pour a little real maple syrup over the top if you wanted a hint of sweetness. And that’s what I did.

Is making polenta easy? Kind of. It just takes time. And stirring. Plus cleanup is a pain in the neck. This is the kind of food that I would love to pay someone a few bucks to whip up for me. The same is true for a good bowl of steel cut oats. Not the wet mushy rolled oats. But those hard oaty nuggets that have been fried in butter, and slowly simmered with milk, water, and salt. Getting a bowl of those delivered to me in bed, is probably one of the best treats I could ever ask for. I’ll have to try and remember that next time one of the Fussies wants to butter me up.

If these dishes exist on local restaurant brunch menus, I haven’t encountered them. There are also all kinds of ways to dress up good oats.

While we don’t have great fruit in the Capital Region during the winter months, what about a segmented citrus salad? That’s seasonal. Where is my bowl of supremed heirloom citrus?

Fortunately, I’m happy with simple things like two poached eggs on a pile of crispy homemade corned beef hash. That’s a go to. And I still want to get back to Perreca’s for more eggs in purgatory. Yes, those are all about toast, but Perreca’s toast is one of the few places where it’s made from actual bread.

Is anybody with me on this?

I feel like this is an especially bad problem in this part of the world. There’s something about that classic American breakfast that I just don’t get. And maybe if I was going to spend the day out farming, or if I had just completed morning chores before sitting down to a giant plate of carbs on carbs on carbs, I’d feel differently.

The bottom line is that I’m not feeling all that bullish about American brunches. I think it may be time to look beyond the borders of this country and take a peek at how the rest of the world starts their day.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. llcwine permalink
    March 14, 2019 10:15 am

    What about getting really good stone ground grits and adding your egg on top?

    • March 14, 2019 10:59 pm

      Yes. I’d go for that. See my review for The Breakfast Spot in Albany. Eggs, cheese grits, and fried whiting. So freaking good. The fried fish would be a bit of a caloric splurge these days, but I would do it in a heartbeat.

  2. chrisck permalink
    March 14, 2019 10:16 am

    The new Yemeni restaurant on Central (near Quail) has a savory breakfast menu. I am particularly eager to try their spicy bean dishes with or without eggs. “Beans… it’s what’s for breakfast.”

    • March 14, 2019 11:00 pm

      Dang it. I was teasing this in today’s post. I’ve got a brunch on my calendar at Sheba Al Yemen next week. Way to ruin the surprise. :-)

  3. March 14, 2019 10:46 am

    Not with you on the eating out toast thing. Plain white bread, yes. So order whole wheat, rye or sourdough. They taste good and give you something to sop up the runny yolks and other juicy bits. My go-to breakfast is bacon, eggs over easy and hash browns with a request for A-1 sauce and Tabasco. The A-1 goes on the potatoes and the Tabasco on the eggs along with salt and pepper. It devolves into a delicious stew that’s the best part of the meal, and you need toast to enjoy it.

    • March 14, 2019 11:06 pm

      Do you know what’s good for mopping up egg yolks? Hash browns! Home fries are a close second. But whole wheat toast? I challenge you to check the bags of bread your favorite breakfast place is using to make their whole wheat toast, and take a snapshot of the ingredients. Chances are it’s still not what I would consider to be bread. Same goes for “sourdough” and “rye.”

      As far as your breakfast sauce strategy goes, I salute you. There are millions of people who don’t mind the spongy crap that gets turned into breakfast toast. And if you are among them, more power to you. I’m glad you can enjoy it, as well as those incredible loaves you make at home. It’s just not for me.

  4. albanylandlord permalink
    March 15, 2019 1:27 am

    I know I sound like a broken record, but the brunch menu at City Beer Hall is amazing, and real food. It only took my 6? years to get there. And they should have YesFolk tonic kombucha if you want instead of alcohol. Go look at the menu, I’ll wait….


    @chrisck, Thanks for the info on the Yemeni place, looks like it is right next to Ichiban. I will totally try that. Daniel let me know if you need any help with brunch there ;)

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