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Monthly Archives: January 2011

Due Amici | Columbus, OH

Due Amici (Facebook / @dueamici)
67 E. Gay St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 224-9373
Open Mon-Sat, 11 am – 11 pm; Sun, 11 am – 9 pm (brunch served Sat & Sun 11 am – 4 pm)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Sunday, October 31, 2010 at 1:00 pm

IMPRESSIONS: Due Amici is one of the anchor restaurants in the still-budding section of Gay St. downtown. This strip of restaurants, hotels, and shops is defying the difficult lack of crowds downtown outside of the Monday to Friday working hours. Due Amici is known for producing some high quality Italian fare throughout the week, but one of their big weekends draws is, of course, their brunch.

Their space is a classy update of an old downtown building. I’ve always been a fan of the big wooden floors, tall ceilings, and huge brick walls. The restaurant is split into three sections.

You enter in the middle, with the hostess stand, waiting area, and bar. The bar’s nice and swanky-looking: big mirror, house-made flavored spirits in progress. To the right of this room is a smaller room for private rentals.

To the left is the main dining area: booths, tables of all sizes.

ATMOSPHERE: Despite the more sophisticated atmosphere, Due’s brunch still has a pretty casual vibe. We saw families with kids of all ages, sport coats and blue jeans, all mixed in a very talkative buzz.

FOOD: The brunch menu features a pretty wide selection. I would say it’s vegetarian-friendly, but there’s definitely more big meat dishes. But they’ve got everything covered: appetizers, pizzas, traditional breakfasts, salads, pastas, seafood, plus bigger entrees. We sampled a mix of things. They have a special deal on selected items (at the top of the menu) that lets you choose an entree plus a brunch drink (Bloody Mary, Bellini, or mimosa) for $15. Pretty sweet deal for the amount of food and drink. We tried a couple. The first was the asparagus and mushroom frittata. The eggs were nice and moist, as were the vegetables and mushrooms. Came with a side of hash browns, which are diced and nicely browned. A little hard to eat with a fork, but the flavor’s all there.

We also took a stab at the breakfast pizza (not part of the $15 deal). Features bacon, sausage, cheese, roasted tomatoes, with an egg on top. We took our server’s suggestion and ordered the egg over easy so we could dip the pizza slices in it. I was a big fan of the whole pizza, especially the sausage and tomatoes. Nice freshly-made crust, too. And definitely best with a dipping egg.

My favorite bit of the meal, however, was the Due Brunch Burger. It’s a standard burger with bacon, lettuce, tomato, and cheese, but adds a fried egg, basil aioli, sandwiched between two halves of a toasted English muffin. The burger was very well constructed. The egg yolk is medium, so it doesn’t run. The real highlight, however, is the 1/2 pound of black Angus beef. I just can’t describe it adequately – it’s delicious, grass-fed beef, very flavorful, cooked medium. One of those bites that you take that just stops you. Maybe it’s been too long since I’ve had some properly treated beef, but this burger made us both say “wow.” Seriously, one of the best burgers I’ve had in Columbus.

Another favorite for Due brunch fans is their Bloody Mary cart. Get your customized Bloody Mary made table-side.

We let the server recommend ours: she used their house pepper-infused vodka, tomato juice, clamato, horseradish, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, red pepper flakes. Garnished with pickle, celery, lemon, and banana peppers. I’m not a huge fan of Bloody Marys, so I’m far from being the expert, but ours was refreshing and delicious. It’s such a big mix of flavors and textures that it’s bound to complement at least one of your dishes.

Plus there’s just the fun of watching the Bloody Mary construction.

SERVICE: The service matches the casual atmosphere. You can banter with your server, they make suggestions, food comes out quickly. Great conversation with the server handling the Bloody Mary cart.

OVERALL: Good, good brunch. Nice pricing, whether you want to go big with steak and shrimp, or you want a deal with the $15 special. Upscale-but-casual atmosphere. High quality food, especially that burger. Good for families (our 2-year-old did fine). A definite reason to head downtown on the weekends.

OTHER LINKS:
-> the (614) Magazine write-up on brunch spots (including Due Amici)

Due Amici on Urbanspoon

Cambridge Tea House | Columbus, OH

Cambridge Tea House (Facebook / @CambridgeTHouse)
1885 W. Fifth Ave. (map it!)
Grandview, OH 43212
(614) 486-6464
Open Tues-Fri, 8 am – 4 pm; Sat & Sun, 8 am – 3 pm
Accepts cash and credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N

Date of Visit: Friday, December 10, 2010 at 9:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: My wife and I have a lot of fond memories of having tea in England. We’ve traveled there multiple times for school, and highlights of the trips include tea at The Orangery in Kensington Palace, The Pump Room in Bath, or curling up in the lobby of the National Theatre. In some ways, we’re always looking to recapture those experiences back in the States. We already know that Columbus is a great coffee town, but I’m finding more and more that we’re a great tea city, too. Tucked away in locations like Short North, Dublin, Bexley, and Marble Cliff are little teahouses demonstrating that there’s more to tea than slam-dunking a teabag into a mug. I haven’t explored many of these places, but I may not need to search much further after discovering the Cambridge Tea House.

You’ll find Cambridge Tea House by heading west on Fifth Avenue, away from central Grandview. I’m actually not sure what part of town this technically is: Grandview, Marble Cliff, Columbus? It’s part of a small, old-looking line of storefronts with a small parking lot. I initially thought the name Cambridge was maybe an homage to English tea, but I think the name really comes from the cross-street of Cambridge Boulevard, where the store is located.

The setting is small and intimate. Detailed stonework and brick, intricate patterns on the napkins and valance. Lots of pastoral images. There are a total of 4 booths, 4 small tables, and 1 bigger table. A small chandelier adds to the light pouring in through big windows.

A place like Cambridge Tea House brings certain adjectives to mind: quaint, cozy, dainty. And I use those nicely. The Tea House does not serve your calorie-packed, greasy spoon breakfast, but chances are, if you’re headed there, you’re not looking for that.

Instead, you’ll find a setting that is comfortable and cozy, with a menu of pastries, quiches, soups, and other items that complement the tea service.

FOOD: First and foremost on their menu is the tea. They have a sizable tea menu, featuring herbal, green, white, black, and oolong.

And the best part about the tea service? They know what they’re doing. The tea pot was served covered with a cozy, the mugs were heated, the tea served loose leaf at the proper temperature. We chose a Paris flavored black tea, which the menu says includes a blend of bergamot oil and black currant. It was just a little sweet, and a perfect complement to our meal.

The centerpiece of our breakfast was the Hot, Creamy Oatmeal. We added the fresh fruit on the side. Served with cream and brown sugar, and a side of toast and butter. Big points for presentation, as you can see.

The oatmeal is made from big rolled oats. It’s thick, sticky, and a filling meal for the colder months.

My favorite of the meal were the cream scones with jam and homemade cream. The cream isn’t quite like real Devonshire cream (it can’t be because of different food regulations, as true clotted cream is made from unpasteurized milk), but the texture and flavor are still superb.

We also tried their quiche of the day, which was a red pepper quiche. Again, nice mix of flavors with the eggs, cheese, and peppers. Served with a side of fruit and their tea bread; that day’s was a moist pumpkin.

SERVICE: Our service was very sweet and fitting with the location. It’s a small crew there, including owner Mary Boesch and head chef Sarah. But they all clearly know their stuff, whether it’s tea, breakfast, lunch, or other events.

OVERALL: I’m very pleased to have discovered Cambridge Tea House. The location is intimate, the details in decoration are delightful, and the food is a great match to the tea. Especially those scones; I keep thinking about those and the cream. I’m clearly focused on breakfast, but there’s a lot more here: they have a promising lunch menu, they offer cooking classes and themed candlelight dinners, and best of all, they serve a proper afternoon tea. You can round out your own collection with tea, teapots, and accoutrement for sale. too.

OTHER LINKS:
-> my (614) Magazine January 2011 write-up, including Cambridge Tea House

Cambridge Tea House on Urbanspoon

Worthington Inn | Worthington, OH

Worthington Inn (Facebook / @WorthingtonInn)
649 High St. (map it!)
Worthington, OH 43085
(614) 885-2600
Brunch served Sundays, 11am – 2pm
Accepts cash and credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? N/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Sunday, October 31, 2010 at 11:30 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: Ah, the Worthington Inn. It is truly a Columbus institution. It’s practically tied with the newly-reborn Jury Room downtown as the oldest operating restaurant in the city, since 1831. The Inn’s building is as much an institution as their food. Since the 1800′s, it has served variably as a house, a stagecoach stop, and a hotel, all the while operating as a restaurant in some form. Its current version maintains the food service, but the former hotel portion is now condos, and the upper floors are rent-able for private functions. On top of this rich and varied history, the Worthington Inn’s Sunday brunch is consistently voted one of the best in the city. So it’s time to check it out.

ATMOSPHERE: The Worthington Inn’s brunch lies a little more on the formal side of things, but they manage to still keep it fairly casual. But the house itself supports the formal atmosphere. Enter the front door, and you’ll find room after room of Victorian decorations, low ceilings, fireplaces, creaky floors, and plenty of old wood accents.

It’s worth the trip just to wander from room to room for a bit. Seriously, some of these rooms make me want to grab a pipe, a beer, and a book, and find a big armchair.

There are three dining rooms on the main floor, plus the pub room where the buffet is laid out for you to attack.

The pub sports a nice, long bar with marble counter-tops, big mirrors, and glassware.

The Sunday brunch at Worthington Inn is popular, so you’d best make a reservation (especially with a group). It’s priced at $21.95/person, and that includes the full buffet and drinks like coffee, tea, juice, soda, etc. Bloody Marys, mimosas, and Bellinis are also available. And they make every effort to use pretty high quality ingredients: Amish eggs, great cuts of meat, hollandaise made in-house, and so on.

FOOD: Let’s take a stroll down the buffet line, shall we? I’ve had a few brunch buffets, and they can be hit or miss, but Worthington Inn seems able to avoid the major pitfalls like over-cooked food that sits for too long over the warmers. At the top of the line you’ll find cold salads. Next come the veggies, such as green beans or a mixed vegetable medley.

There are also trays (not pictured here) of your breakfast standards: bacon, sausage, potatoes, and a whole tray of eggs benedict.

Every week, Chef Tom Smith and his crew create three specialties, too. The Sunday I visited they had beef ragu (pictured above)…

…potato-crusted cod…

…and bistro chicken.

At the end of the line you’ll find the gigantic tray of smoked salmon and peel-and-eat shrimp. Knock yourself out.



Aside from the main buffet line, you’ll find two other tables. The first features an omelet station. Custom omelets, made to order.

See? Omelets!

There’s also a waffle bar…

…plus prime rib sliced to order.

The other table is for desserts, all made in-house. Cookies, pies, cakes, what have you.

This is my first plate all loaded up: the three specialties, shrimp, bacon, sausage, and potatoes, plus an eggs benny. Like I said earlier, there can be a certain blah uniformity to buffet food, but I think Worthington Inn manages to keep things fresh enough – and the crowds are busy enough – that the food tastes great and doesn’t get a chance to go stale. My only complaint was the uniform eggs benedict. I’m a huge fan of a good eggs benedict, and these were (necessarily) made in large batches.

SERVICE: I honestly didn’t interact with the servers that much, mostly because of the buffet style, but everyone I did encounter was nice and helpful. Just what you’d expect from from a more upscale brunch. As a side note, you may see some of the upper floors in use if you go for any of the big “brunch holidays” like Easter, Mother’s Day, etc. They open up the second floor and create another buffet line to serve everyone. Then the third floor (pictured above) is available for rentals, too. Like the first floor, the upper levels are decorated in that exquisite Victorian detail.

OVERALL: Yeah, it’s a very good brunch. Consistently voted one of Columbus’ favorites, and while you won’t get anything too funky or off-the-wall here, I wouldn’t call it stodgy either. Worthington Inn has a got the full package: classy location in downtown Old Worthington, well preserved old building with lots of character, and a very popular brunch. All very worthy of a visit.

OTHER LINKS:
-> the (614) Magazine write-up on brunch spots (including Worthington Inn)

Worthington Inn on Urbanspoon

Clever Crow Pizza | Columbus, OH


[UPDATE: Clever Crow Pizza is now closed.]

Clever Crow Pizza (Facebook / @clevercrowpizza)
59 Spruce St. (in the North Market)
Columbus, OH 43215
Open Tues-Fri, 9 am – 7 pm; Sat, 8 am – 5 pm; Sun, 12-5 pm (bfast served Saturdays from 8 – 10:30 am)
Accepts cash and credit cards
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Saturday, January 15, 2011 at 10:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS & ATMOSPHERE: Pizza on a breakfast blog? Why, yes, I believe I will. Clever Crow Pizza has rapidly become one of the favorite pizzas around Columbus. Despite their original location inside the Circus bar in Short North, they’ve garnered enough attention to be featured in Anthony Bourdain’s and Michael Ruhlman’s now-notorious visit to Columbus for No Reservations. (For a full discussion of Columbus’ reaction to his visit, see here.)

Just recently Clever Crow upped its profile by opening a space in North Market, too. Anyone who knows North Market knows that it’s a fantastic incubator for small businesses, so I hope that even greater things will come to owners Gary and Brooke Robinette.

FOOD: This past Saturday, Clever Crow offered up breakfast pizzas for the first time, so I hopped in the van and headed down to a fairly quiet North Market.

Brooke says that the breakfast pizzas will become a standard for Saturdays, and maybe for Sundays, too. They offer two types. The Traditional Pizza features your bacon, eggs, cheese, and potatoes. The Vegetarian drops the bacon and adds onion and goat cheese.

Both slices are served on a bed of arugula, with a dash of (I think) a vinaigrette dressing.

This is the Traditional. In some ways, it was surprising, in some ways, not. Clever Crow’s crust one of their benchmarks – a unique cornbread and sourdough mix – and they handled the breakfast ingredients well. I’ve seen some breakfast pizzas that overload the toppings, resulting in a chunky mess that falls apart, but not so here. The bacon was the right crispiness, the eggs hard boiled and sliced thin (including the yolk), and the potatoes were sliced the right size, too. So in most ways: it was exactly what you would expect a breakfast pizza to taste like. The arugula helps add a special tang of flavor. Overall, not bad, but not as surprising as some of Clever Crow’s other offerings.

Same with the Vegetarian (on the left). Ingredients handled well, good flavors, excellent crust, but about exactly how you would think a vegetarian breakfast pizza would taste.

SERVICE: I chatted only briefly with Brooke, but both she and Gary seem to be doing well with their venture, and they clearly deserve the success. You can read more about their story on their official merchant page of the North Market website.

OVERALL: Great pizza, interesting take on breakfast. I wouldn’t necessarily rush back every Saturday morning for it, because it’s not quite as uniquely awesome as their other pizzas. But I’m excited to see where this will go, and it’s always nice to have another breakfast option in North Market.

OTHER LINKS:
-> Clever Crow’s appearance on No Reservations
-> page for the “Heartland” episode of No Reservations

Clever Crow Pizza on Urbanspoon

Voodoo Doughnut | Portland, OR

Voodoo Doughnut (Facebook / @VoodooDoughnut)
22 SW Third Ave. (map it!)
Portland, OR 27204
(503) 241-4704
Open 24 hours a day
Accepts cash only
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/Y/N

Date of Visit: Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 6:00 pm

IMPRESSIONS: Voodoo Doughnuts is a Portland institution, and you’d better not mess with it. With two locations in town (and a third down in Eugene), Voodoo is synonymous with Portland’s downtown and nightlife. Their donuts, some of which trend toward the ridiculous, have landed the shop on the Food Network and other national stages. Taking the advice of our Portland friends and other trusted sources like reader and Twitter-friend John, we visited the original location downtown. I’m told the new locations are nice, but nothing compares to the “character” of the original. Such is true for many things in life.

ATMOSPHERE: Voodoo is to donut places what Yesterdog is to hot dog joints. It’s old, beaten up, a little dirty (in more way than one), they only take cash, the servers are kinda gruff, and there’s nothing you can do about any of it. For those who don’t know Yesterdog, it’s a hot dog place in my hometown of Grand Rapids. It’s cheap, beloved of native Grand Rapidians, the wooden booths are carved with graffiti, and the dirty tattooed guys behind the counter will yell at you if you order incorrectly. That was our experience at Voodoo.

The space is super small and cramped. Maybe ten customers can fit inside at once. Everything’s pink and a little dark. The only lighting is a giant chandelier hanging overhead.

They’re aggressively cash only, but provide an ATM for your convenience, whether that means getting some cash or carving a tribute to your one true love.

There’s a huge menu, which you can also peruse online. Donuts range from simple cake and custard varieties (at about .95/donut) to wacky specialties that cost $5-6.

Standing at the counter lets you see shelves and shelves of donuts.

There’s also a rotating glass display case with their more creative fare. A glimpse at this case is worth the visit alone. I ordered The Loop, covered in Fruit Loops.

Plenty of seasonally-themed donuts, too.


Many of these donuts feature funky designs or kooky add-ons like cereal, coconut, sprinkles, marshmallows, cookies, or candy.


Their signature Voodoo Doll: a man stabbed with a pretzel stick, filled with jelly.

There’s plenty of dirty bumper stickers and signs plastered around the space. Thank goodness our kids can’t read yet…

Read through their menu for some of the more scandalous names, too.

FOOD: Our group loaded some of their signature pink boxes with a variety and took them home. All in all: very good donuts. A couple of the toppings were a little dried out, but they certainly all tasted good.

The specialty donuts are big, so they’re great for sharing.

The famous Bacon Maple Bar. A great blend of flavors. Sweet and salty all in one. Our sample was a little dry, but I liked it. Even more so if it was filled with cream.

Another signature, the Old Dirty Bastard, covered with peanut butter and crumbled Oreo cookies. A ridiculous wallop of sugar. My favorite of the mix.

SERVICE: Don’t expect any smiles from the Voodoo crew. They’ll take your money and serve you great donuts, but don’t expect them to like it. If being coddled by a customer service representative is your thing, don’t come here. If you don’t care, you’ll be fine.

OVERALL: Later in our visit to Portland, after a fancy Peruvian diner at Andina, we stopped by Voodoo Doughnut for a second dessert. It’s a fun, guilty pleasure. While Voodoo isn’t the most magnificent donut shop I’ve ever visited, there really is something to all the hype. The whole experience is fun, and you can’t argue with a big box of crazy donuts. If you’re ever in Portland, go hang out downtown and pick some up.

FUN NOTE: If you love Voodoo Doughnuts that much, why don’t you get married there? You can.

OTHER LINKS:
-> Gimme Doughnut, short documentary on Voodoo Doughnut

Voodoo Doughnut on Urbanspoon

Helser’s on Alberta | Portland, OR

Helser’s on Alberta
1538 NE Alberta St. (map it!)
Portland, OR 97211
(503) 281-1477
Open daily 7 am – 3 pm (bfast served all day; specials served Mon-Fri, 7-9)
Accepts cash and credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N

Date of Visit: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 9:00 a.m.


IMPRESSIONS
: Helser’s was our third formal stop on our Portland breakfast tour. While visiting friends in PDX, I had Hesler’s on my agenda after it appeared in Breakfast Special along with the Tin Shed, just down the street. The extra bonus with this visit was getting to meet Paul Gerald, author of the book Breakfast in Bridgetown and the corresponding blog. Like myself, Paul appeared in Breakfast Special as the local breakfast blogger food guide. We got to compare Portland and Columbus breakfasts and chat about all things breakfast bloggery.


Helser’s wasn’t my favorite breakfast in Portland, but comparing Portland breakfast places is like comparing Pixar films. Some are definitely better than others, but the quality is higher than most things out there.


Like the Tin Shed, Helser’s is situated along the busy and trendy Alberta Street. They’ve got a sweet corner location with big, bright windows all around. I really love the painted column in front of the door. Don’t know why; I just do.


Inside, the checkered floor, the big chalkboard with specials, the large bar with a full service coffee setup, the bright illumination – all of these things add up to a classic cafe setup. When I think cafe, I think of this.


FOOD
: Again, because of Breakfast Special, we already had our eyes on some of Helser’s featured dishes. All of their food is great comfort food, but there’s lots of fun twists or unusual dishes on the menu. I don’t often see Pigs in the Blanket or Russet Potato Pancakes on breakfast menus, and I would love to return to Helser’s to sample more. Pictured above is my wife’s dish, the German Pancake, or Dutch Baby. This isn’t your traditional pancake, but more like an open pastry baked with lemon juice and powdered sugar, then served with lemon slices and syrup. You’ll have to wait a little longer for it to be prepared, but this was our favorite dish of the meal. It’s a huge pancake, sweet and flaky, but with touches of tangy lemon.


I immediately zeroed in on the Scotch Eggs and Potato Pancakes. I love a good scotch egg. Not many places in Columbus serve them. If you’ve never had one, a scotch egg (no, it has nothing to do with the distilled spirits) is a hard boiled egg, wrapped in sausage, then breaded and fried. Helser’s version is excellent: egg cooked just right, crispy breading, good seasoning. I was so-so on the potato pancakes, at least texture-wise. They taste very good, and they’re browned perfectly. I even liked the horseradish sauce (and I generally don’t like horseradish), but the internal texture of the pancakes didn’t quite work. I think the potatoes were cooked unevenly, so occasionally I had bites that were too hard.


Another good find from their menu: toasted crumpets. I can’t say I’ve ever had one. Nice soft texture, barely sweet. A good side to any of their meals.


Paul ordered the Pear and Harvati Pie, and I snapped a picture. It takes the two ingredients and bakes them into custardy tart. Again, very creative and unusual things on the menu.


And the standard side of Brioche French toast for our son. He certainly didn’t say no to it.

SERVICE: Our server was great. Fast, helpful, interactive. I was a bit predisposed to liking the service, after Breakfast Special featured one of their servers, Leah, talking about her work. We got to meet Leah and chat with her about having PBS film there.


OVERALL
: Again, Helser’s wasn’t my favorite Portland breakfast, but there’s plenty to like here. The service and location are top-notch, and the menu offers a lot of hard-to-find breakfast eats. Some of them just worked better than others. And I certainly wouldn’t say no to a return visit, especially to enjoy the bright atmosphere and try more of the menu.

OTHER LINKS:
-> a taste of Helser’s from WQED Pittsburgh

Helser's on Alberta on Urbanspoon

Gravy | Portland, OR

Gravy (Facebook)
3957 N. Mississippi Ave. (map it!)
Portland, OR 97227
(503) 287-8800
Open 7 am – 3 pm daily
Accepts cash and credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N

Date of Visit: Monday, October 25, 2010 at 9:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: Stop two in our Portland breakfast tour! Our Portland friends had whispered to us about a restaurant called Gravy. One of the most appealing breakfast restaurant names I’ve heard in a while…

ATMOSPHERE: We’ve heard tell of Gravy’s long lines and packed houses on the weekends, and that can be frustrating or add to over-hype. But we found ourselves fortunate enough to visit on a slow Tuesday morning; we were ushered right to a table. Gravy’s layout is wide open, with big windows and skylights. Lots of natural lighting illuminates the browns and creams, the wood accents, and big pieces of art on the walls. You can also see right into the open-topped kitchen. Seating includes about fifteen tables, plus a few stools at the bar. Overall, a relaxing atmosphere punctuated by a fantastic music selection.

FOOD: Of all the great breakfasts we had in Portland, I am still craving Gravy’s the most. The prices are a little steeper: like $12-for-a-scramble steeper. HOWEVER, you get what you pay for. You could easily split a $12 scramble between three people. Everyone would have plenty to each, and you’d only be spending about $4 per person. Their breakfast menu isn’t extensive, but it covers all the basics: scrambles, omelets, hash, sandwiches, pancakes. I immediately eyed the list of scrambles, and settled on The Dalise: ham, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, peppers, onions, and cheddar, covered in gravy. Served with the most awesomely huge portion of done-just-right hash browns. Look at the picture above: the hash browns must have been cooked in their own pan. They come out like a giant bird’s nest. The whole breakfast was very well seasoned, cooked to the right consistency, and just a big delicious mess.

My wife is always a fan of smoked salmon, and well, we’re in the Pacific Northwest. She ordered the Smoked Salmon Hash & Eggs, which was even better than my scramble. Large chunks of fresh salmon, soooooo well seasoned, mixed with veggies and eggs on top. Probably the best dish we had in Portland, and on my list as the best hash I’ve ever had.

If I look at this picture too long, I start drooling.

We ordered their French toast for our son. He loved and devoured it. Made with challah bread. On a side note: Gravy’s coffee was also very good; their own special blend. Points to them for offering chilled cream for our coffee, without us having to ask.

Our friend ordered the Oatmeal Brulee (and my wife ordered it on a later visit). Gravy is well known for this dish, and I can see why. Along with the salmon hash, it quickly joined my list as the Best Oatmeal I’ve had.

These pictures don’t fully communicate the size of this bowl. It’s like if you cut a softball in half, hollowed it out, and filled it with oatmeal. And this is thiiiiiiick oatmeal, filled with fruit and nuts, topped with brown sugar, and torched. This probably isn’t the healthiest oatmeal ever, but a big warm bowl of cooked oats, fresh fruit, and caramelized sugars is still worth something.

It’s like an oatmeal cave! This continues Gravy’s streak of monster portions. The restaurant and neighborhood may feel a little trendy and a tiny upscale, but Gravy is pushing big, classic comfort food.

OVERALL: In our short time in Portland, we made a return visit to Gravy. That’s despite great breakfasts at The Tin Shed and Helser’s on Alberta. All of their food is big and flavorful. Great combinations of textures. You have to know how to play the prices to your advantage: if $12.75 is too much for Smoked Salmon Hash & Eggs (yeah, that’s steep for me), consider splitting it with one or two people. I think the food is worth it. They landed two dishes on my list of favorites.

OTHER LINKS:
-> official website for Mississippi Ave., Gravy’s neighborhood

Gravy on Urbanspoon

Photos: family breakfast at Real Food Cafe


Visiting my family in Grand Rapids over Christmas break, we managed to gather all together for the first time at our family-favorite stop, Real Food Cafe. Until this year, we never could have fit all sixteen of us (my parents, their four boys, their four wives, and six grandchildren) in the restaurant at once. But Real Food recently opened an expanded seating area that allows for less waiting and larger groups. My parents are regulars at Real Food, so Dad called owner Frank Amodeo a couple weeks ahead of time to let him know we were coming.


It was pretty awesome to see all of us lined up at the tables, parents, grandparents, and kids all enjoying one of our favorite breakfast stops. We were served by one of Frank’s daughters, Sophie, who handled our group without breaking a sweat. One thing I love about Real Food is their presentation. Many breakfast places use bland colored dishes, but Frank and his crew throw in a dash of color, at that goes a long way. I recommend this for any breakfast joint.


Probably my all-time favorite breakfast dish: their Eggs Benedict. I couldn’t resist taking another picture of it.

Our Christmas and New Year’s included a lot of wonderful family time, and this was one great moment of it. I hope that your holidays were filled with the same fun and community.

Photos: sausage and sauerkraut omelet


Happy New Year, everyone! Just sharing some photos of a post-New Year’s creation. As I was eying our leftovers, I asked on Twitter whether a sausage and sauerkraut omelet would be any good, and got a resounding “yes.” I was thinking omelet because my brother and sister-in-law gave us two dozen eggs from their urban chicken farm in Lexington, Kentucky (see above).


So I went for it. Chopped up one of the spicier sausage links, grabbed a dollop of sauerkraut (bet you’ve never heard sauerkraut referred to that way before).


In the pan…


…all coming together.


Plated!


And eaten. The result: very, very good. The sauerkraut brought some helpful moisture to the interior. In retrospect, I could have added some cheese, maybe Swiss. But I think this could become a post New Year’s tradition! Looking forward into the new year with breakfast.

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