RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: February 2011

Happy (Inter)National _______ Day/Week/Month!

Out of shame for not realizing that February is National Hot Breakfast Month, I started looking into the convoluted mess that is national and international food-related holidays. There are so many different declarations of these holidays – personal, corporate, and civil – that it’s hard to keep track. There are contradictions and repeats galore: pancakes, for instance, have a national day, week, and month. Plus, there are ridiculous levels of specificity. You can celebrate National Donut Day AND National Cream-Filled Donut Day. Some holidays are tied to specific dates, some are movable feasts. But for the fun of it (and to give me something to tweet about throughout the year… “Did you know that today is…?”), I put together this list, based on the 2011 calendar.

JANUARY
National Hot Tea Month
National Oatmeal Month
28 – National Blueberry Pancake Day
30 – National Croissant Day

FEBRUARY
National Pancake Month
National Hot Breakfast Month
9 – National Bagels and Lox Day
19-25 – National Pancake Week
21 – National Sticky Bun Day
21 – National Biscuits and Gravy Day

MARCH
1 – National Pancake Day (as declared by IHOP) (usually connected to Shrove Tuesday)
7 – National Cereal Day
10 – National Blueberry Popover Day
12 – National Orange Juice Day
23 – National Toast Day
24 – International Waffle Day

APRIL
7 – National Coffee Cake Day
16 – National Eggs Benedict Day

MAY
National Egg Month
14 – National Buttermilk Biscuit Day
20 – National Quiche Lorraine Day

JUNE
National Dairy Month
first Friday – National Donut Day

JULY
11 – National Blueberry Muffin Day
26 – National Bagelfest

AUGUST
National Coffee Month
19 – National Potato Day
24 – National Waffle Day (so named to celebrate the first U.S. patent for the waffle iron)

SEPTEMBER
National Breakfast Month
National Potato Month
National Honey Month
Saturday before Labor Day – International Bacon Day
first week – National Waffle Week
second week – National Biscuits and Gravy Week
14 – National Cream-Filled Donut Day
26 – National Pancake Day (see also March 1)
29 – National Coffee Day

OCTOBER
National Sausage Month
13 – National Pumpkin Festival (close to the Circleville Pumpkin Show)
29 – National Oatmeal Day

NOVEMBER
5 – National Doughnut Day (see also early June)
23 – National Espresso Day
28 – National French Toast Day

DECEMBER
9 – National Pastry Day
17 – National Maple Syrup Day

Kitchen Little | Columbus, OH

Kitchen Little (Facebook / @KitchenLittleOH)
59 Spruce St. (in the North Market)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 221-7327
Open Tues-Fri, 10:30-4; Sat, 9-5 (bfast on Saturdays ONLY)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/Y (both occasionally)

Date of Visit: Saturday, January 8, 2011 at 10:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: Ah, Kitchen Little. A mainstay of the Columbus eat-local scene, a worthy stop in our wonderful North Market, and one of the defining comfort food havens in town. Kitchen Little has been around as an operation for some time, although the name is relatively new. All along, they’ve been a part of North Market Poultry and Game; I wrote an early review of their Cuban breakfast years ago.

The food service area can be found on the western corner of the Poultry & Game stall, which is in the northern section of the market itself.

There are two important details to recommend Kitchen Little’s food: 1.) Their connection to a poultry and game market that features a wide selection of locally-raised meats. 2.) Their location in the market itself, with access to all sorts of fresh produce, baked goods, and spices.

This is the man behind Kitchen Little: Dan Bandman. If you’re at all hesitant about ordering something, just ask Dan to describe each of their dishes.

FOOD: Indeed, I was lured over to Kitchen Little this particular day by Dan’s description of the French toast.

That day, he took challah bread from Omega Artisan Baking down the aisle and soaked it overnight in maple syrup, eggs, cream, and vanilla.

Keep in mind that the options may change by the week, depending on ingredients available. The other dishes available that day included freshly-made buttermilk biscuits

… paired with a rich chicken sausage gravy.

Something new for me: breakfast sliders with eggs, sausage, veggies.


Grits!

My father-in-law ordered the cassoulet (one of Kitchen Little’s hallmarks) with a couple eggs and a side of grits. Kitchen Little is also known for their chicken and waffles, but I didn’t order that today because I’ve had them (and written about them) before. But the chicken and waffles – made using Taste of Belgium‘s waffles – is well worth the taste.

Instead, I ordered a little bit of everything. First, the potatoes fried in duck fat. Very crispy, well seasoned.

Close-up of the French toast. Although it was a little floppy from soaking in the goodness, it was still custardy and rich.

Chicken sausage gravy ready for launch.

Biscuit at the ready.

It’s go time! Biscuit was soft, gravy was chunky and full of flavor. I keep using the word “rich” to describe the food here, but it just fits. That’s comfort food for you: packed with flavors, filling, and using simple ingredients to win you over.

Also got a breakfast slider. The bun was the tiniest bit soggy, but the flavors lined up just right. Would be an easy grab-and-go breakfast if you’re swinging through the market.

SERVICE: Dan and his crew are very friendly, and love to engage their customers with their mission. They can tell you all about the sources of their meat, eggs, bread, cream, spices, and more. That, to me, adds a bonus element to the comfort food: you can take part in the process of your food coming together. So eating breakfast (or lunch) there is a little celebration of what’s great about the market as a whole.

OVERALL: Run, don’t walk, to Kitchen Little. You can find all manner of breakfasts at North Market, be it pastries, sandwiches, coffee, or juice (or pizza!), but Kitchen Little offers you the only full breakfast experience there: French toast, sausage gravy, eggs, potatoes, and the like. Tap into the locavore inside you, and dive right in.

OTHER LINKS:
-> North Market Poultry & Game’s website
-> my (614) Magazine write-up on chicken and waffles (including Kitchen Little)

Kitchen Little on Urbanspoon

Photos: Daybreak Diner revisit


I wrote my full review of Daybreak Diner a couple weeks ago, but just recently the owner, Bill Kinniard, invited us back for another breakfast. We got to chat with him about the diner (which celebrated it’s one year anniversary on February 13), and he let us try some more dishes from the menu. Pictured above is Bill’s Breakfast Fried Rice. I’ve never seen this on a menu before. It’s essentially fried rice – cooked on the flattop with some soy sauce, I think – mixed with scrambled eggs, mushrooms, onions, sausage, and then topped (a la Skyline Chili) with cheese. We split this amongst the table, and devoured it pretty quickly. I can’t imagine eating one of these all on my own – it packs a salty, savory punch – but as a breakfast appetizer, it fits.


My wife tried the Daybreak Breakfast Bowl. Again, you don’t see a lot of bowls on breakfast menus, but this worked. If you like omelets, you can easily get behind this dish, basically an open-faced omelet in bowl. Add cheese, meat, hash browns, and some of their sausage gravy. Good diner eatin’.

I tried Alma’s Five-Star Biscuits and Gravy. I had thought of this on my first visit, but opted for something different. This is good biscuits and gravy. Biscuits are fresh and obviously made in-house; I like how the biscuits are a little irregularly shaped. Baked goods shouldn’t always be uniform in appearance (see: DK Diner donuts). Gravy was good, too: thick and peppery.


Another one of our party tried the Five Star Omelet, a cheese omelet filled with their sausage gravy. Again, don’t think I’ve seen that before. It stayed together fairly well.


And finally, some Grilled Cheese with hash browns. Nothing says breakfast like grilled cheese, right?

Overall, another good meal at Daybreak. Thanks, Bill!

Risser’s Family Restaurant | Womelsdorf, PA

Risser’s Family Restaurant (Facebook)
4055 Conrad Wesier Parkway (map it!)
Womelsdorf, PA 10567
(610) 589-4570
Open Tues-Sat, 6:00 am – 7:30 pm; Sun, 6:00 am – 1:30 pm
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Sunday, November 7, 2010 at 9:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: The “family restaurant.” Now there’s a phrase packed with connotations! What does it bring to mind for you? For me, it recalls small one-off restaurants. Found in small towns around America. Usually close to highways. Definitely family-friendly. Often crowded with regulars. Serving one or two regional specialties but otherwise generally decent food. Family restaurants are close to diners, but bigger. Larger dining rooms. More room for big groups and buffet lines. Many of them, like Ernie Risser’s Family Restaurant, have a small diner side – if you want that type of experience – plus an extensive dining room if the whole family’s come to dine.

ATMOSPHERE: When it comes to the definition of family restaurants, Risser’s is all of the above. Some of my wife’s family is from eastern Pennsylvania, and they discovered it on a visit, parked along Highway 422 between the small towns of Womelsdorf and Myerstown. (Can we say German influences?)

On our visit, we opted for the diner side of things. Truly a tight squeeze. Small stools at the counter, snug little booths. Shiny chrome here and there. Sassy servers.

But the dining room offers more open seating and room for big families. (We returned on a later trip with a group of 15; they easily tucked us into the dining room.)

FOOD: Risser’s gives you all the family restaurant breakfast favorites: eggs, home fries, omelets, French toast, sausage gravy and biscuits. Plus a few not-as-common things: pancakes (called “hotcakes”) loaded with all sorts of fruit. Not just blueberries, but apples and cherries, too. Or there’s the dried chipped beef on toast (aka, an SOS). But no scrapple on the menu.

As we were visiting in the fall, they had a couple seasonal favorites on their specials menu. These include the apple hotcakes, which have apples and cinnamon in them, and the pumpkin pancakes, which are what you’d expect. Or you can go all harvest-crazy and do the autumn hotcakes: apples and cinnamon in… wait for it… pumpkin pancakes.

Good diner coffee. I like the big blue mugs.

We tried the sausage gravy casserole: two eggs, cheddar cheese, home fries, coated in gravy. Sure, it was good. Chunky potatoes. Mostly flavorful gravy. Nothing to write home about, but if you’re a fan of the little-bit-of-everything dishes, this your guy.

Here’s the creamed dried beef on toast. Pretty rich gravy drowning the toast. Nice meaty chunks. But nothing amazing.

A plain old blueberry pancake for my son. Big blueberries. A small lake of melted butter.

And of course, we had to have the autumn hotcakes. Not the greatest pancakes ever, but there’s really nothing to dislike here. I mean, come on… tasty pumpkin pancakes, chunks of apples baked into them, generous dusting of cinnamon sugar, plus a melted pad of butter. Oh, and you pour syrup on it. They’re fitting for the season: warm, sweet, and filling.

SERVICE: Our server was great. The right amount of sass, tempered by quick coffee refills and fast turnaround on our order.

Oh, and this is another mainstay of the family restaurant: the paper place mat with local advertisers.

OVERALL: If you’re traveling down Route 422 in rural eastern Pennsylvania, find a way to stop at Risser’s. It’s good road food – like the Kumm Esse Diner down the road – that offers you a few specialties in the midst of an otherwise ordinary, but solid, breakfast.

Risser's Family Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Blue Sky Cafe | Bethlehem, PA

Blue Sky Cafe (Facebook)
22 W. Fourth St. (map it!)
Bethlehem, PA 18015
(610) 867-9390
Open Tues-Thurs, 7 am – 3 pm; Fri & Sat, 7 am – 5 pm; Sun, 7 am – 2 pm
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Saturday, November 6, 2010 at 10:15 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: I’ve been excited to share this post for a long time. We got to visit some amazing places in 2010 – across the country from New York City to Portland – but for some reason our little visit to the Blue Sky Cafe sticks in my head more than any other. I’m sure I’m idealizing the experience in my memory, but boy, was this a great little discovery.

Early November found us traveling with my wife’s family across New Jersey and Pennsylvania to visit family. Eastbound and entering Pennsylvania, we did some online searching and found a promising lead with the Blue Sky Cafe in Bethlehem. We snaked off the highway exit, winding down to the small valley that is Bethlehem. Here I recalled some high school history classes and saw the remainders of Bethlehem Steel firsthand. Now the center of Bethlehem holds the remnants of that once-great industry, part of which is converted into a casino. Blue Sky can be found in southern slope of the valley, in a small, cute little downtown street. The door is small, the restaurant space old.

ATMOSPHERE: I love love love the feel of cafes like this. It’s small but not crammed. Great feel of a reclaimed old building, with brick walls, checkered floors, bright lighting.

Very busy hum of conversation, as a steady crowd comes and goes. Work from local artists and photographers on the walls.

A skylight above the kitchen allows a lot of natural light in the back. I counted 11 tables, plus 4 booths and 8 seats at the counter.

The kitchen is right there in the open, so you can watch the 8+ workers clattering around as they make you breakfast.

Lots of kooky details in the kitchen, including the bottle of bourbon for your bourbon banana french toast.

And the creative knife holder.


FOOD: Blue Sky’s menu, too, is fun and creative. All of the dishes are at those standard “cafe” prices: maybe $1-2 more than diner food, but the increased price is made up with higher quality fair. The menu is packed with your standard egg combos, plus omelets, frittatas, stirs (made over home fries), sandwiches, sweets, and a whole load of specials. Pictured above is the Mega Breakfast Sandwich, stacked with scrambled eggs, avocados, tomatoes, onions, and pesto. Came with a side of home fries. Overall, very good, although overpowered by the onions. I think the sandwich would be tops without them, personally.

And then, behold, is the Bourbon Banana French Toast. This is kinda why Blue Sky proved itself to be such a surprising and delightful find. Seriously, I think it’s the best French toast I’ve had. The bread was nice and custardy, the bananas cooked without being mushy, and the covering is more of a reduction with the maple syrup and the bourbon. It’s thicker and almost crispy, like that thin sugary glaze on a glazed donut. Altogether, a great dish. I just wanted to keep eating it forever.

Because we’re close to Philly, there’s gotta be scrapple! My second time trying it. Not bad, soft and spicy, but I’m just not a scrapple man.

Some Pumpkin Pancakes. Fluffy and subtle, a little floury and gummy. Quite good.

Their specialty frittata of the day, with caramelized onions, pears, feta, shallots, and sausage. Really magnificent.

The Jon Solomon’s Veggie Stir. Lots of veggies served with scrambled eggs over home fries, side of toast.

Another Mega Sandwich.

More pumpkin pancakes. We had a big group.

And the Antonio Veggie Stir. Adds sausage to the veggies and feta.Notice the color in all the breakfast dishes!

SERVICE: Our server really made our experience great, too. For the life of me, I can’t remember her name, although she told us she had recently moved from St. Louis, I believe. But she was warm and smiley, she handled our large group smoothly, and you could tell she took pride in the restaurant.

The table setup, too, made the experience complete: Cholula hot sauce at the table, mini salt and pepper grinders. The coffee came in mismatched mugs, and our server automatically brought milk for it.

OVERALL: Part of me wishes I could find a way back out to Bethlehem again, just to go here. It was such a delightful find and we enjoyed some wonderful food and service. Blue Sky would be my regular joint if I lived in Bethlehem.

NOTE: From the time between when I wrote the post and the time I finished it, Blue Sky changed their website. You can still find bits of the old version, which looks cooler and fits their vibe better. The new one is simpler and clunkier. Not sure what happened, but I hope they redesign to something more like the old one.

OTHER LINKS:

Blue Sky Cafe on Urbanspoon

Time To Eat Diner | Bridgewater, NJ

Time To Eat Diner
270 Route 202/206 North (map it!)
Bridgewater, NJ 08807
(908) 704-9221
Open Mon-Fri, 5 am – 3 am; Sat & Sun open 24 hours
Accepts cash and credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Friday, November 5, 2010 at 9:30 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: In northern New Jersey for a family wedding, we needed some sustenance. One part of being the resident food blogger in the group is that everyone will turn to you when looking for breakfast, even if you’ve never been to the city before. Fortunately, my wife and I triangulated reviews between Yelp, Urbanspoon, and Google and came up with the Time To Eat Diner.

Time To Eat is like many of those roadside diners that capture some sense of the small diner, while still being built out enough to accommodate large groups. It’s the diner + the dining room. You can have your sit-at-the-counter, flashy-chrome diner experience, or you can have the plusher big family dining room experience.

ATMOSPHERE: Kudos to the Time to Eat crew for being able to accommodate such a large group. They stacked together a bunch of tables in the back of the dining room and gave us a harried server.

The atmosphere is just what you would expect. Small booths, kitschy 50’s memorabilia, and that just-off-the-highway feeling. It makes me think of the Broadway Diner in Baltimore.

Plenty of Elvis.

And Elvis guitars and Elvis clocks.

FOOD: I get a little nervous when I see menus like Time To Eat’s. They’re like a short novel. Pages and pages of items. It gets hard to sift through, even if breakfast only takes up three of those pages. I think of this as the Cheesecake Factory syndrome, in which the menu is so huge that you know there’s no way all that food didn’t just come out of a freezer. Because we had a big group, we ordered a big variety of things. Some hit and miss.

First off, coffee. Very good. A step up from the standard diner coffee. I liked the big mugs, and the individual serving plates with spoon and creamer. Also scoring points for the diner: colorful dishware. I like seeing that.

I tried the Sampler: two eggs, hash browns, bacon, sausage, pork roll, toast. Eggs were fine. The hash browns were okay, a little on the mushy side. Bacon, fine. Sausage, very good. Reminded me of English sausage: a little more plump. I ordered this dish partially out of curiosity over the pork roll. I’ve never encountered that on a menu before, nor have I seen taylor ham (also on the menu). I asked our server to clarify, and she said they are basically the same thing, and that they’re both essentially country ham. So: pork roll = taylor ham = country ham = salted ham.

My wife ordered the Eggs Benedict Florentine. It came with a side of hash browns. It was okay, but there was definitely a funny taste to the spinach and the hash browns. Almost metallic. A little off-putting.

Everyone’s toast came together in a basket. I find this charming because it reminds me of toast racks typical of an English breakfast. But it also confuses me, because I didn’t know whose toast was whose.

Also ordered a side of Potato Pancakes with sour cream. These were pretty good: crispy outside, warm inside.

Er… an omelet. I forget which one. Like I said, a lot of dishes…

The Toasted Bagel with Lox. This was a definite hit.

Breakfast burrito with all the accoutrement.

Country Fried Steak & Two Eggs. I had a taste of this, and it was quite good. I wish I had ordered this instead of the Sampler. I loves me some country fried steak.

Crepes! Sweet and tasty. Canned fruit filling.

Pancakes! Sausage! Eggs!

A veggie omelet!

Corned Beef Hash, with eggs and potatoes.

Lots of combos! French toast, eggs, sausage…

…or pancakes…

…or bacon!

SERVICE: Our server did a very good job, considering she had such a large group all to herself. She seemed pretty harried, but all told, the food came quickly and she got all of the orders exactly right.

OVERALL: I don’t know when I’ll next be in Northern Jersey. If I am, I don’t know if I’d stop at Time To Eat again. I think it’s worth at least one visit: the location is interesting (although a little hard to get to if you don’t know the local highways), the service is great, and I guess there’s enough variety on the menu that you’re bound to find something you’ll like. But I think the so-so dishes, especially the eggs benedict florentine, left me feeling like one visit is enough for me.

Time To Eat Diner on Urbanspoon

Daybreak Diner | Columbus, OH

Daybreak Diner (Facebook / @daybreakdiner)
1168 E. Weber Rd. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43211
(614) 261-4560
Open Mon-Fri, 7 am – 12 pm; Sat & Sun, 8 am – 2 pm
Accepts cash and credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Monday, January 17, 2011 at 9:30 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: In my opinion, Columbus can always use another diner, especially to serve a neighborhood that doesn’t have one yet. So we were pleasantly surprised when we glimpsed the tiny store front of the Daybreak Diner down Weber Road. My brother-in-law and I are always on the lookout for more diner breakfasts, so we headed there on a free Monday morning.

ATMOSPHERE: The diner was pretty quiet – only one other customer – when we first arrived, although the tables slowly filled up. Daybreak Diner is very diner-y. It’s like the owner had a checklist of The Things You Need In A Diner that he checked off one by one as he opened the restaurant. (P.S. that’s not a bad thing.)

Counter with stools? Check. Big open grill? Check. Brown coffee mugs? Check. Pastries under glass? Check. 1950’s memorabilia? Check. Daily specials written on a chalkboard? Check.

It’s all there. The only thing I didn’t like about the atmosphere were the TVs tuned to Jerry Springer or Maury Povich. I have nothing against TVs in restaurants; in fact, most of my favorite places will have a TV running a local/national news station or the Weather Channel. More and more I find daytime television off-putting, and while these TVs weren’t loud (that would be an entirely different issue), I just found it at odds with the laid-back diner atmosphere to have half-bleeped arguments and Maury repeating, “You ARE the father” in the background while I eat.

FOOD: Daybreak’s menu surprised me with a few new things for breakfast. Aside from the diner mainstays of egg combos, omelets, French toast, and pancakes, there are more unique offerings like a Cheeseburger Omelet, Breakfast Fried Rice, and Captain Crunch French toast.

Coffee was served in those beautiful brown diner mugs. Check! The coffee itself was so-so diner coffee.

See that? That, to me, is a good diner breakfast: a big plate full of food. This is the Three Eggs platter. Toast and sausage were good, scrambled eggs done just right, not dry at all, and the hash browns were some of the best I’ve had in Columbus. Browned evenly without being burned, nice mix of seasoning on it. I saw the owner make a huge batch on the flattop, pouring them from a bag. I assumed they were frozen, but he said on Twitter they were not, so I’m guessing they were pre-made in the back? Maybe they’re not the greatest hash browns ever, but more places in Columbus serve home fries, so hash browns are always welcome. They’re my preferred preparation of breakfast potatoes.

Out of curiosity, we had to order the Captain’s French toast. Mind you, we’ve had a superb version at the Blue Moon Cafe in Baltimore (and one featured on the Food Network, at that), so our standards are pretty high. Our expectations were dashed a bit when we saw that the Captain Crunch was sprinkled on top of the toast, rather than being part of the batter. I prefer it grilled to the bread itself, so that the sugary cereal gets caramelized and crusty. This was simply good French toast with a dusting of crushed cereal.

SERVICE: Our server was very nice. Took care of us just like you would expect. Very friendly. Kept our coffee refilled, helped accommodate my 2.5-year-old son, and the food came out quickly.

OVERALL: A mix of reactions, but overall very positive. The food blends nicely with the diner atmosphere and the service. Most dishes were maybe a $1 more than their equivalent at other diners around town, but nothing beyond-the-budget. And there’s some more interesting stuff on the menu that will make me return. At the very least, I want to have more of those hash browns.

OTHER LINKS:

Daybreak Diner on Urbanspoon

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 276 other followers