RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: December 2009

Breakfast with Nick at the Wild Goose New Year’s Festival!

Hey there! You’re welcome to join me for breakfast this Saturday, January 2 at 9 am at one of my favorite new breakfast joints in Columbus: The Best Breakfast & Sandwiches. This is part of the Wild Goose Creative New Year’s Festival. Each year I take a group of folks out into the Columbus community to enjoy some of Columbus’ best breakfasts and to chat about food writing. You’re welcome to any and all events in the Festival – you can buy tickets ahead of time or at the door (although you don’t have to do for this event – just show up, if you like!).

Best Breakfast & Sandwiches is located at 5916 Westerville Road, in Westerville. They’re in a section of the strip mall that’s a little further back from the road, so keep an eye out for it!

Photos: Captain Crunch French Toast

Over Christmas we found ourselves watching episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on the Food Network. I’m a big fan of the show, because host Guy Fieri champions the unique, local, family-owned, one-of-a-kind restaurants around the country. We need more of those places. I’m especially interested whenever he highlights breakfast joints, so one particular episode, in which he visited the Blue Moon Cafe in Baltimore, caught my eye. One of Blue Moon’s signature dishes is their Captain Crunch French Toast. It looked too delicious, so we had to try making it. A quick Google search turned up this recipe, which someone worked out from the D, D, & D episode itself.

The basic process is like any other French toast. The batter is heavy cream (we used Snowville whole milk), sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and nutmeg. We skipped the nutmeg because of some family members’ aversion to it, although I’m sure you could doll this batter up with any spices you like. The recipe calls for Texas toast – we just thick sliced some white bread from Giant Eagle. Then you crush up some Captain Crunch, give the bread a bath in the batter, roll it in the cereal, and throw it on the griddle!

After a few misfires, we had it down pat. To borrow a family phrase, “How bad can it be?” I mean, we’re talking French toast… with Captain Crunch.

A couple things that we learned…
1. keep your pan/griddle/flat top at a medium-low heat. The recipe recommends 3 minutes per side, and that worked for us. But if the griddle’s too hot, the cereal will burn. You want it carmelized.
2. soak the bread in the batter a little bit, but not too long. That way the cereal sticks to the bread better, and you’ll bet a more custardy inside. But if soaks too much, the inside gets mushy.
3. you have to be hands-on when dipping the bread in the cereal. Press the battered bread into the crunch, sprinkle it on, rub it in.
4. feel free to press the toast onto the griddle a little bit with your spatula. We found that that cooked the insides a little more, and helped formed a solid shell around the toast.

We served it with a little bit of real Pennsylvania maple syrup, although you don’t need much. There’s sugar in the batter, and… well, you’re working with caramelized Captain Crunch here. Enjoy – and let me know if you try it!

Photos: Eggs in a Nest!

Everyone seems to know this dish by a different name: Toad in a Hole, Hens in a Basket (see Cafe Corner), Eggs in a Basket, and so on. I know it as Eggs in a Nest. My wife introduced me to it years ago, and we’ve since perfected the art. If/when I start a breakfast diner someday, Eggs in a Nest will be a featured menu item.

Eventually I’ll do a more in-depth how-to post on this dish, but for now I had to share pictures – this batch just turned out too good. Basically, you take a slice of bread, butter it up, cut a hole in the middle, put in the frying pan, and crack an egg in the middle. We usually toast another piece of bread, to dip in the runny eggs. And be sure to fry up the middle that you cut out – we call it the nubbin – it’s the best part! This is a perfect meal to start a cold morning. It’s not too filling – an egg and two pieces of toast – but gives you a good boost to start the day.

Photos: Spicy Maple Bacon Cupcakes

It’s cupcakes for breakfast again! Scarlett from CupcakeYumYum was nice enough to share some of her Spicy Maple Bacon Cupcakes with us!

Bacon, that amazing food that can do anything, has again taken cupcake form. Like the bacon cupcakes from Surly Girl Saloon, these ones reminded me of bacon and french toast (always a winning combination!). Scarlett said she uses real maple syrup in the frosting and the cupcake, which makes the smooth and soft frosting especially delicious. The bacon was appropriately crispy, and the pecans added a nice savory toast. These are small, single-bite cupcakes (at least when I’m eating them), so be careful – it’s easy to pop half a dozen of these without noticing!

Travels with WQED Pittsburgh Part 2: Skillet

Another morning out with Rick, Bob, and Glen from WQED Pittsburgh. Yesterday we visited Best Breakfast and Sandwiches; this morning we hit up Skillet. This is my second visit to Skillet overall (see review), and interestingly enough, both visits have been accompanied by television crews. I need to have a normal breakfast there sometime!

We ran through a similar routine as last time. Rick and the crew interviewed the owners and some customers, got shots of the restaurant inside and out, filmed me entering, ordering, and eating my breakfast, then interviewed me about breakfast, the blog, Columbus, and much more.

And again I got to try some more specials (the documentary is titled Breakfast Special, after all). This time around I tried a savory cobbler recommended by Angie. Patrick put this together: it’s a puff pastry filled with root vegetables like carrots and potatoes, plus Swiss chard braised in pork fat (oh yeah!), then topped with two poached eggs and a simple salad.

My, did this dish pack a wallop. The Swiss chard had a huge savory and fairly salty flavor. Almost a little too much to take in all at once, but the pastry (which is barely sweet) and the root vegetables offset that. And those two delicious poached eggs – farm-fresh, locally raised eggs – simply, simply delicious. You haven’t had eggs until you’ve had them straight off the farm.

This was my stopping point. I had to ask for a box. So filling and so big on flavor.

Bob and Glen filming customers while they eat. Most folks seemed pretty nonplussed by the camera crew, and Patrick, Kevin, and Angie all seemed to enjoy having us back!

This ended my couple of days with Rick and the crew. It was a lot of fun. I got to eat back-to-back breakfasts at two different places in town, see some of the ins and outs of television production, and talk about one of my favorite topics: breakfast! Couldn’t ask for a better couple of mornings. Maybe I should write a proposal to the Food Network to turn my blog into a show…

Anyway, Rick’s documentary Breakfast Special is due out in June or July 2010. You can follow along with their breakfast travels on Rick’s blog or on the show’s website.

Travels with WQED Pittsburgh Part 1: Best Breakfast and Sandwiches

This morning I was fortunate to join a crew from WQED, the PBS affiliate in Pittsburgh, as they visited Columbus while filming for Breakfast Special, a show about breakfast in America due out next June. Producer Rick Sebak contacted me and asked for suggestions in Columbus.

Stop Number #1 took place this morning at Best Breakfast and Sandwiches. Beth and I visited for the first time last week (review here), and it became an instant favorite. When Rick asked for suggestions, I wanted to highlight two types of Columbus breakfast joints: the traditional and the innovative. I think these two things define the Columbus breakfast experience, and Best Breakfast is a great example of the traditional. Pictured above is owner Tom in the kitchen.

They served breakfast to all of us. Here’s Glen the sound guy with his sandwich.

Filming Kelly while she interacts with customers.

This is Rick Sebak, producer of the show. He’s created a number of documentaries about some of the most fascinating aspects of American culture: flea markets, hot dogs, cemeteries, amusement parks, the Lincoln Highway, and many more.

During this visit I ordered the Country Fried Steak. The gravy on it was similar to that of the Sausage Gravy and Biscuits, although without the chunks of sausage, obviously. It was delicious and peppery, and as Tom observed, the fried steak itself had “actual meat” in it, it wasn’t just a pile of bread chunks. The potatoes, toast, and eggs were excellent as usual. For some reason, I like getting the scrambled eggs here, even though I normally go with over-easy. Some sort of highly-tuned breakfast intuition, I guess, led me to order these scrambled eggs.

What amazed me most this time around, as I sat for a couple hours near the door while we filmed, is how EVERY customer was greeted by name at the door. All sorts of people came steadily pouring in, and all the folks at Best Breakfast knew their names, their jobs, their stories, all sorts of stuff. Suzanne or Jan kept pointing out customers and suggesting I talk to them about various aspects of the restaurant business or about breakfast in general. It was incredible to witness something like that, and how they knew so many names. They even pointed out a few customers who visited Best Breakfast twice a day. Suzanne pointed out one pair of gentleman and said, “If we served dinner, they’d be here for that, too.”

A big thanks to Tom and Jan, the owners, as well as Kelly, Suzanne, and the rest of the crew at Best Breakfast! I hope to be visiting again soon!

Breakfast Special

This weekend I get to tag along with producer Rick Sebak and his crew out of WQED, the PBS affiliate in Pittsburgh. Rick contacted me after finding my blog here. They’re creating a show about breakfast in America, titled Breakfast Special, and Rick wanted to interview me and some folks from Columbus. Friday morning we’re visiting one of my new favorites, Best Breakfast and Sandwiches in Westerville, and Saturday morning we’re hitting up Skillet in German Village. Should be a fun time – I’ll try to take some pictures!

In all, they’re visiting about 10-12 cities across the U.S. to get a sampling of breakfast across America. The show is due on PBS sometime next June.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 291 other followers