Last weekend my family and I had breakfast at a small place in downtown Denver called “Syrup”. Syrup’s menu includes breakfast and lunch, but make no mistake; breakfast is king here. I chose the Eggs Benedict with corned beef hash, and all of us shared the Cinnamon Roll Waffle flight – a delight to the senses. It was a breakfast to savor.
Breakfast has always been my favorite meal, or should I say breakfast “out”. People always say “really?”, but I never hear them go on to say whether lunch or dinner is their favorite. Lunch is the neglected and oft overlooked meal of the three – perhaps a topic of its own for a future blog. Dinner represents 95% of what people mean when they recommend a restaurant. Maybe that’s what makes breakfast so endearing to me. It’s the most compact of the meals. Breakfast has its essentials and therefore creativity can only go so far. Dinner has no boundaries, but breakfast can go very wrong if you stray from the expected.
I’ve sampled several of the more exotic approaches to breakfast. I’ve been to the Cafe du Monde in New Orleans for the famous coffee au lait and French-style beignets (fried dough topped with enough powdered sugar to sneeze at). I’ve been to the little Danish town of Solvang, California for aebleskivers (pancake balls with fruit in the middle). I’ve even toured the Kellogg’s factory in Michigan, and to this day I still can resurrect the smell of cooked corn flakes. Put all that aside though, because breakfast for me comes down to just a few essentials on the plate. Eggs any style. Bacon or sausage (the requisite “protein”). And toast or some other form of carb load. At breakfast “out” the eggs may become an omelet or a skillet or a scramble. The bacon may be applewood-smoked and the sausage will have a hint of sage. The toast usually runs a distant second to a freshly-made waffle or fruit-topped pancake. But dress it down and the plate looks pretty much the same as what I prepare for myself at home.
I like breakfast because I’m a morning person (though not one of those restless souls who make it to 5am yoga). I also like breakfast because virtually everything on the menu appeals to me. Except bananas. If I ever opened a breakfast place you’d have to bring your own bananas.
Sunday brunch is not only a favorite meal but a favorite activity. I associate Sunday brunch with family and with special occasions like Easter and Mother’s Day. I love dressing up for church and going to brunch after the service. I love the serve-yourself aspect of brunch – the more options to savor the better. But the “unch” in brunch gets no love from me. As my family will attest to, my plate is always 100% breakfast.
I never understood the term “American breakfast” until college, when I spent a year abroad in Rome. I love the Italians and their “dolce vita” way of life. They perfected the coffee bar concept long before it became a staple in America. But they never gave breakfast it’s proper due. Indeed, “breakfast” in Italy is a small cup of espresso and a hard, barely-sweet roll, downed hastily at the counter before rushing off to wherever it is one is going. No eggs or bacon or pancakes. What’s the fun in that?
In Ireland breakfast essentials include tomatoes and blood sausage. I can’t come to terms with vegetables for breakfast, and blood sausage shouldn’t even be mentioned in a post about breakfast. Again, no fun on that plate.
Here’s an example of breakfast fun. In the classic movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang my favorite scene is with the breakfast machine. Dick Van Dyke’s character creates the magical car of course, but he also creates a contraption that cooks and distributes eggs, sausage, and toast, all while the breakfast plate moves along a heated track, eventually rolling down to the table ready to eat. Genius.
Breakfast places – at least in Colorado – are a born-again trend these days. Rather than Denny’s or Waffle House we now choose from “Over Easy” or “Snooze” or “The Egg & I”. And in the ultimate nod to my favorite meal, McDonald’s recently changed their menu to include All Day Breakfast. I think McDonald’s gets my drift. Breakfast is not just “the most important meal of the day”. It’s the one that should be on the menu morning, noon, and night.