ReLocavore: Redefining "local"

A locavore moves from Wisconsin to New Hampshire and rediscovers what "local" means.

Fast and Easy Meals on the Go

I don’t typically repost stuff from other sites, but I was super-happy to see Fitmodo including a breakfast recipe that I just LOVE to make – Foldover breakfast sandwich.

I can usually add a bunch of sautéed greens into the middle.

Ingredients:

  • Eggs (between two and four)
  • Tortilla (preferably whole wheat)
  • Olive oil (just a few drops)
  • Spices/hot sauce (recommended)
  • Cheese (optional)

Directions:

  • 1. Put just enough olive oil into a non-stick pan (11 inches, or so) so that the eggs won’t stick. Use a paper towel to evenly distribute it. Turn your burner to low-medium.

  • 2. Add your eggs to the pan. You can pre-scramble them in a bowl if you like, or you can just crack them directly onto the pan and puncture the yolks if you’re in a hurry. Let the eggs slowly cook, undisturbed, almost like you’re making an omelette.

  • 3. While the eggs are cooking, take your tortilla and jab it a bunch of times with a fork to create a rough surface. Don’t pierce it all the way through. Once the outside edges of the eggs are mostly cooked but the inside is still runny, lay the tortilla on top of the eggs, rough-side down. Allow them to sit for about 30 seconds so they stick together.

  • 4. Use a spatula to get under the edge of the eggs, then run it the whole way around so that the eggs slide freely. Then carefully flip the whole thing, so it sits tortilla-side down.

  • 5. Allow it to cook this way for another couple of minutes. If you’re going to add some shredded cheese, do so at this time (though you’ll be making it somewhat less healthy). Shake on whatever spices and/or hot sauce you want, too. Remove from heat when the tortilla is crispy, but not burned. Fold it in half, wrap it in a paper towel, and run out the door.

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This Week in Breakfast: Cafe Metro

So our options for breakfast places are dwindling. The few remaining places on our list are either too far away, too expensive, or just coffee shops that happen to be open on Sundays. We’ll visit the too far away places when Sam and I get a Sunday where he doesn’t have to be at work too early. However, now that Whaleback is open for the season, our Sunday breakfasts are more time constrained. The too expensive places we’re saving for when friends or family come to visit us – nudge. nudge.

I’ve been procrastinating posting about Cafe Metro, our breakfast spot from Sunday, December 16, because that was the start of Mushroom week – there were better things to be posting about than breakfast at a coffee shop.

Cafe Metro used to be the Bagel Basement and was previously the go-to place for hungover undergrads on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Although we encountered some undergrads, I wasn’t sure they were hungover. Plus, we were at breakfast on Sunday at 9am. Isn’t that a bit early for most undergrads? Most of the complaints about Bagel Basement (see the linked article) seem to have been mitigated – the place is clean, well-stocked and has bagels and pastries, plus a few extra weekend breakfast items.

I had a breakfast burrito with chorizo and eggs. I was anticipating greasy and red chorizo sausage. What I got was mildly spiced pork sausage. It was tasty, but not what I was expecting. Sam had a bagel with lox and cream cheese. We also shared a monkey bread, which is like a cinnamon roll, but cut up into pieces and served in a muffin paper. The dough was yeasted and very tender.

 


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This Week in Breakfast: Mountain Creamery

Downtown Woodstock Vermont. Not a good pic, sorry.

Downtown Woodstock Vermont. Not a good pic, sorry.

Sam and I drove out to Woodstock, VT on Sunday to eat at Mountain Creamery. It was a bit of a drive, about 35 minutes, thus in the category of “too far away” to be a regular breakfast joint. Woodstock, VT is an adorable little town propped up by rich tourists visiting the Rockafeller mansion and people with “second” homes.  Mountain Creamery is doing a good job of providing the authentic Vermont breakfast experience, but with enough consciousness-raising menu items to meet expectations from affluent New Yorkers. For example, the menu included maple sausage made from free-pastured Berkshire hogs and organic eggs from the owner’s Sister’s farm. Of course there was real Vermont maple syrup.

So I rag on the vacation spots of the elite, but they do have really good breakfast. Really good.

Blueberry Pancakes Sent from God Itself to Grace the Earth with Wonderment and Joy

Blueberry Pancakes Sent from God Itself to Grace the Earth with Wonderment and Joy. Served with sausage and 2 eggs, scrambled.

Blueberry Pancakes Sent from God Itself to Grace the Earth with Wonderment and Joy. Served with sausage and 2 eggs, scrambled. Note the real maple syrup, and that I had already smeared the salted whipped butter onto the pancakes before taking the picture. 

Never in my memory have I eaten such good blueberry pancakes. My breakfast came with two, along with some eggs and sausage. I could have eaten four more. That good. Platonic Ideal pancakes. Fluffy and syrup-absorbing, slightly tart, with little crispy bits around the edges from direct contact with butter in the hot pan. The blueberries were tiny, full of flavor, and the chef rolled them first in flour, so they didn’t explode blue goo all in the pancake. Each and every bite was full of blueberry flavor and maple-y syrup goodness.

Whatever Sam had for Breakfast

Sam had an omelet with roast potatoes and toast. Three things were remarkable, but not as remarkable as the Blueberry Pancakes Sent from God Itself. First, the omelet had apples and cheese. This is a local flavor, methinks, because who would have thought to put apple in an omelet except for people who also serve apple pie with cheddar cheese. Second, the potatoes were very good due to a generous tossing with a mixture of herbs and garlic. Third, the ingredients in the strawberry jam (jars were available for sale) were, “Strawberries, sugar.”

Sam's breakfast. Omelet with sausage, apples and cheese. Roast potatoes. Toast. Quite Good Strawberry Jam.

Sam’s breakfast. Omelet with sausage, apples and cheese. Roast potatoes. Toast. Quite Good Strawberry Jam.

Back to Discussing the Blueberry Pancakes Sent from God Itself to Grace the Earth with Wonderment and Joy

If I were to close my eyes in envision my ideal blueberry pancake, it would be just about exactly what I had at Mountain Creamery. The only difference would be that I would still be a kid and my Mom would have served the pancakes to me. Mind you, my mother made pancakes infrequently when we were kids, and I only remember a handful of occasions that she made Blueberry pancakes. My point is that the only way these could have been made better was by adding Mother’s Love. Even the whipped butter was salted – adding the mix of salty, fat, sweet, fruity, tender, crispy… All of the ideal flavors and textures.

I think my ideal Upper Valley Breakfast is forming. The biscuits and gravy at Quechee Diner were fantastic. I think I have effectively lauded the greatness of Mountain Creamery’s  Blueberry Pancakes Sent from God Itself to Grace the Earth with Wonderment and Joy. Eggs cooked at 4 Aces Diner were made with real butter and left a little underdone, close (but not exactly) how I like them.

We will likely be back… Almost certainly.


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This Week in Breakfast: EBA (Everything but Anchovies)

We’ve had a long couple of weeks without Sunday Breakfast. Last Sunday, I was sick with a terrible cold, so I stayed in bed for the day and kept my germs to myself. As much as I would have loved breakfast, I was still feverish.

This week, I’m healed up, and we went into Hanover to a old-standby restaurant Everything But Anchovies, that has recently started serving a Sunday brunch. I guess EBAs has served a Saturday breakfast buffet for some time, but is only now expanding breakfast service to Sunday morning.

The service at EBAs is typically a buffet – in the evenings they have a pizza and pasta buffet set out. Following that theme, EBAs set out a brunch buffet. Since the Sunday service was rather new, the place was mostly empty at 9:30. The service picked up more toward 10am. We stayed until almost 11 and the place didn’t fill up. This was our first Brunch Buffet and so had to set the standard for diversity. The buffet included:

  • standard breakfast fare – steam tray eggs, roasted potatoes, sausage links and bacon, pancakes, a waffle machine,
  • Toast, bagels and muffins
  • Breakfast burritos (Unfortunately I didn’t have one, as good as they looked, because they all had cheese in them.)
  • Cold plate (lox, onions, capers, tomatoes)
  • Fruit salad
  • Shrimp cocktail
  • Salmon with wild rice pilaf (the lunch-like entree)
  • A collection of deli-style salads and greens salads
  • Vegetable sides like roast green beans, roast squash

EBAs also had a standard menu, but we didn’t even look at it. The buffet was pretty good, and worth the $11.95 (including drinks) price.

I’m sorry that I didn’t take any pictures. Sam and I were actually really chatty through breakfast (no TVs to distract us this week), and were well-ignored by the waitstaff, who probably struggle to make a living serving breakfast buffet. We gabbed over a long breakfast, going back for TWO plates each and ignoring our books.

My impression was that EBAs had all the benefits of a brunch buffet – fast service, great for big groups, meets different dietary needs, etc… But I admit, the buffet was missing a “star.” It needed the one dish that was so darn good that everybody had to take a bit. I’ve been to two extraordinary brunch buffets, the Buffet at the Capitol Hilton in Washington, DC (PDF), and the Brunch Buffet at Granite City Grill in Madison, WI. I could gush for hours about brunch at the Capitol Hilton. The food is excellent quality, the tea service is spot-on, and the items rotate around for great diversity. The “star” at the Capitol Hilton is the fruit parfaits – local fruits, tart yogurt and homemade granola. They bring them out in trays because everyone wants one. Plus, their croissants are very flaky and buttery. Granite City is a big indulgence – a place to goto brunch when you don’t want to eat for the rest of the day. Granite City has a egg benedict station and the chef has ingredients to make 5 or more variants on the dish. Yes, they will do Hotel Benson eggs – biscuit with ham and a poached egg, topped with cheddar-based mornay sauce. Plus, they put out sauce for everything – gravy for biscuits, au jous for the carving station, homemade ketchup for potatoes.

So missing at EBAs was the “star.” Everything was ok, but nothing was exceptional. I guess it came off more like a mid-tier hotel “hot free breakfast” rather than a coherent breakfast buffet.

I do give them a lot of credit for having a lot of seafood on the buffet: lox, roasted salmon, and shrimp.

We’ll likely go back, but probably for pizza and pasta, rather than breakfast.


Previous Breakfasts:


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This Week in Breakfast: The Lebanon Diner

Note the stark contrast between the white-and-black checked flooring, the stainless steel bar, the pressed tin tiles,  and the “retro” dropped ceiling.

Today we had a good breakfast. We drove down the hill to the Lebanon Diner (Yelp) that is located on the corner of the pedestrian mall in Lebanon. The Leb Diner is a red0-retro. The Quechee diner and 4 Aces used to be dining cars and were refit to modernize the kitchen and increase the size of the service areas. The Leb Diner was never a diner – it’s just a first-floor retail spot on the mall in Lebanon. The pressed tin walls and the stainless steel counter are afterthoughts.

I was happy with their menu selections – basic American breakfast fare. Sam had hash and eggs. I had biscuits and gravy. The B&G wasn’t as good as Quechee diner, but it was made with very good, spicy sausage. Sam’s H&A was also pretty tasty, but they obviously didn’t make their own brisket. The coffee was robust but didn’t taste burnt.

Yes, they serve only real maple syrup, and the don’t charge extra for it.

The bill was a little less than some other places – $23 with tip.

I was quite happy with our experience, but I have to admit, I really hate eating in a restaurant with a television. If you’re in a “sports bar” while “sports” are being broadcast, sure, fill every vertical surface with televisions, pour me a beer and serve up the hot wings. Everywhere else – Please get rid of your TVs or flip them over to the video-of-a-roaring-log station. I just don’t want to see it. The Leb Diner had a flat-panel TV over the counter playing highlights from Saturday’s college football games. The food was good. The service was good. I can’t see myself going back because I don’t want to have to see TV every Sunday morning. Mickey’s Roadside Diner also had televisions, but they were a _bar_ serving food on Sunday mornings before the football game. Leb Diner didn’t have much of an excuse – Turn the TV off.


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This Week in Breakfast: Quechee Diner

This is the second “Diner car” we’ve visited for breakfast.

So, for all of you from Onomonowoc, Neenah-Manasha, or Waukesha, it’s pronounced “KWEE-Chee.” Sam and I had been out to Quechee once before to go hiking at the Quechee Gorge.

We drove about 20 minutes west into Vermont to the village of Quechee to goto their Diner for breakfast. It’s a greasy spoon attached to a tourist-trap strip mall within Quechee, the downmarket tourist area in Close-enough-to-New-York-City parts of Vermont.

It’s also near Woodstock, Vermont, which is the place where Mitt Romney’s friends save each other in their yachts and Sotheby’s sells “cabins” worth millions of dollars.

Tourist-trap “Antique Mall” with a Yankee Candle Company.

So we found the place to be pretty empty, but we were also there very early (8:15, they open at 7) because our hungry bellies don’t respect Daylight Savings Time. By “our” I mean Pidi and Molly – who graciously awoke us at 6:15am with demands for breakfast. Being there early, we had our choice of any booth in the place. By 9am, the booths were full and the counter stools were also filling up. We ordered from the menu of standard breakfast faire – I had a “Hunter’s Breakfast” with eggs, sausage, bacon, french toast, and fried potatoes, $9.50. Paid an extra $1.95 for real Vermont maple syrup. Sam ordered Biscuits and Gravy and a scrambled egg, $7.95.

I ordered the wrong thing for breakfast. Although the french toast was good, it was only warm when it reached the table. The potatoes were good, with crispy exteriors and fluffy interiors. The eggs were blah, but they all are (see more later).

I ordered the wrong thing for breakfast.

Sam’s biscuits and gravy were frickin’ awesome. Best we’ve found out here. Spicy gravy with spicy sausage. Fluffy biscuit. Absolutely YUM. No lumps in the gravy, with an excellent smooth texture with no flour grainyness. I was very impressed.

The waitress was a little rushed, but she was by herself as the place was filling up. The second waitress didn’t come on until about 8:45 and they didn’t have anyone to bus or seat, so tables couldn’t turn around much faster. That being said, we didn’t feel rushed.

Total bill: $23.00.

On the way home, Sam and I lamented that we have not found good scrambled eggs at a restaurant anywhere. Full stop. When I make eggs, I make them very slow, and leave them with some moisture. However, this technique doesn’t work at a diner because it takes a long time, and because the cook works on a flat griddle. I had suggested keeping the egg slurry just at about custard temperature and holding it there, so when an order for scrambled eggs comes in, the chef ladles out hot but not cooked egg slurry into a pan with butter and finishes the last cooking. However, the idea of a warm-but-not-cooked vat of egg slurry causes Food Inspectors’ temple veins to pop out – that’s not going to happen in any restaurant I know. What’s the solution? Sous-vide eggs. This way, the eggs can be kept in a closed environment and brought up just about to done and kept at that temperature until it’s time to serve them. Then the chef can remove the egg packet from the sous-vide water bath and finish the eggs in the pan with butter, a crack of fresh black pepper and some chives or other fresh herbs. I think it would work out great.


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