Breakin’ Fast. Like A Boss.
Okay. I’ll admit it. A few weeks prior to a major midwestern U.S. road trip is not the time to make major declarations against the consumption of meat.
Not that I made any major declarations, mind you. I’m not really a major declarations kind of girl. I’m more of a let’s-timidly-dip-our-toes-into-these-foreign-waters-before-committing-to-the-full-on-skinny-dip-because-hey.-there-may-be-eels-in-there kind of girl. I don’t like to make a major declaration because often the pressure of publicity still isn’t enough to keep me from failing, and I’ve kind of gotten really good at failing these days, so I find that it’s just best to not keep tallying up my tab, right?
FAILURE, while it’s a very helpful learning process in life, isn’t exactly a resume booster.
So I didn’t make any major declarations about eating less meat, unless you count me saying, “Hey, I think I’m going to start eating less meat” as a major declaration. And I could see where you might see it that way if you’re the type of person who can’t let a single day go by without consuming some type of flesh-based protein, but honestly, Justin and I have only been eating meat for one meal maybe 3-4 times per week for years. In fact, I remember one night a couple of years ago when we were sitting at the table, enjoying a particularly delicious meatless meal, when I said to him, “Hey, babe. I think I’m going to start making more vegetarian dishes each week.”
Then he gave me the look — the look that told me he would’ve been much more receptive to this news if I had announced it with my shirt off.
“What you don’t realize,” I said with a smile, “is that I already have been making more vegetarian dishes each week.”
He realized that was true and that he hadn’t actually noticed, and ever since then it’s been a fairly smooth ride. He’ll eat my lentils and quinoa and black bean burgers because he’s a man who’s secure in his love of food and can actually admit they’re quite tasty, as long as I occasionally concede to a real burger (because there’s really no substitute) or maybe a thick, cherry-centered filet.
Twist. My. Arm.
So things were good for a while until, lazin’ one night on our $40 Craigslist leather sofa with the cigarette burn in the armrest (aka. the COMFIEST, most stylish sofa in probably the entirety of the western hemisphere), and Justin clicked on the documentary Vegucated on Netflix. And. I won’t get into the gory details because this isn’t that kind of blog, but let’s just say that I have now become the type of person who thinks a lot more about where my meat and animal products come from, thereby reducing my consumption drastically.
But I’m not an extremist. Asking me to stop eating cheese is like asking Rosie O’Donnell to stop expressing her opinion. It’s not natural.
But red meat in my diet is now mostly reserved for special meals out. And chicken, with very few exceptions, has pretty much been ruined for me forever. And I’d be able to stick to that completely if it weren’t for eggs.
Those damn eggs.
See, I wouldn’t say I’m really a “breakfast person,” but that just means I’m simply not motivated to make breakfast. I’m totally a “morning person,” but I find it’s best to fix a simple bowl of yogurt with granola and use the rest of my energy during those precious limited hours to write or work out or do business-related things because by the time my tummy starts rumbling for lunch (usually something involving an avocado or leftovers), the bulk of my motivation and creative energy has dwindled for the day. So it’d be a shame to waste that time fussing over omelets, right?
But when I’m traveling, breakfast is a whole different story. Breakfast is an event. Another opportunity to relish the awesomeness of food. And, bonus, I usually don’t have to make it.
When perusing back through the pictures of our midwestern U.S. road trip, I couldn’t help but notice that:
1. I consumed some pretty phenomenal breakfasts, and
2. All of them contained eggs. And many contained meat. Oops.
I found this interesting, because I’m kind of weird when it comes to eggs. I don’t love them in omelet form, or over-cooked scrambled (except in stir frys), or basically any form where they get kind of hard and rubbery. If I’m going to indulge in eggs, they need to be like silk — smooth and pearlescent, often with voluptuous golden yolks that drench the dish in cholesterol-laden richness.
Katie’s Egg-clectic Road Trip Breakfasts
On our first morning in Cleveland, my blogging friend Shelly took Justin and I out for breakfast at one of her favorite places, Borderline Cafe in Lakewood. And while the tiny room certainly took a minimalist approach to decor (it felt a bit like sitting inside of an egg yolk), they most certainly did not take a minimalist approach to taste. Shelly and Justin both ordered the breakfast tacos, but the promise of poached eggs (my favorite egg preparation) lured me into ordering their creative southwestern version of eggs benedict — toasted English muffins topped with generous portions of house-made guacamole (have I mentioned my weakness for avocados?), tomatoes, bacon, two poached eggs, chipotle lime sauce, and fresh cilantro.
I like to have at least one foodie friend in every city.
Justin’s breakfast tacos.
And my southwestern eggs benedict.
I’m not gonna lie — breaking open poached eggs to watch the yolk drizzle out makes me giddy.
The coffee was decent. Just coffee. But the benedict? I could eat that every day.
Need to Know:
18510 Detroit Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44107
Good to Know:
They’re closed both Monday and Tuesday!
After bumming around Cleveland with my brother for a bit, he took us to his boyfriend’s cabin in Port Clinton, Ohio. I’d never heard of Port Clinton, but I quickly learned that it’s an adorable little beach town on a southern peninsula of Lake Erie — the kind of place where seagulls inundate the rooftops over which shops below sell nautical-themed trinkets and sugary flavored popcorn (which, by the way, was phenomenal). It’s the kind of place that wouldn’t be complete without a local “greasy spoon,” and Port Clinton’s Ala Carte Cafe did not disappoint.
Feeling confident and slightly hungover, I ordered what amounted to a heaping pile of biscuit, sausage gravy, home fries, over-easy egg, and a handful of grated cheddar, just for good measure. (Apparently under the old ownership, it was custom to serve this with a slice of Kraft singles, and some people still ask for it. I’m so glad they switched.) It was basically one brilliant compilation of the best parts of all diner breakfasts, and I’m telling you — it’s probably one of the best 72,000 (approx.) calorie breakfasts I’ve ever eaten. EVER.
There’s that yolk again.
Yes, I realize this looks disgusting. But you have to understand — this will go down as one of my best breakfasts of all time. BONUS — the coffee was out-of-this-world delicious.
Need to Know:
Ala Carte Cafe
225 Madison St.
Port Clinton, OH 43452
Good to Know:
This place gets PACKED. Get there early and, unless you luck out like we did, expect to wait. But it’s totally worth it.
One of the very best parts of our road trip through the midwest was waking up at The James Hotel in downtown Chicago. From there, we had approximately 867 thousand breakfast options within walking distance, and we eventually settled on Pierrot Gourmet @ The Peninsula.
Justin ordered a basic mushroom frittata with leeks and gruyère cheese, but I zoned in on the Breakfast Flatbread with fromage blanc, thick, chewy bacon, scrambled eggs, gruyère cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, chives.
I loved the presentation, but the coffee was disappointing. For the prices, this needs to be taken up a notch.
THIS was breakfast.
If you’re gonna go, go big.
This is as far as I made it.
The breakfast flatbread had a perfect medley of sweet sun-dried tomatoes, salty thick cubes of bacon, and creamy cheese. But tip — for the love of Devon Sawa, order ONE flatbread to split if you’re not dining alone.
Need to Know:
Pierrot Gourmet @ The Peninsula
108 E. Superior St.
Chicago, IL 60611
Good to Know:
Seriously. Order the flatbread. For the entire table.
Feeling a little fancy one morning, my sister took my dad, his wife, Justin and me to one of her favorite breakfast spots in the Chicago suburbs, Suzette’s Creperie. There, amongst the white linen tablecloths, stemmed glassware, and flowered saucers, I continued my established modus operandi by dining on “Suzette’s Benedict” — toasted brioche and sliced ham all tucked inside a three-cheese soufflé with Gruyère and baked, then drizzled with a lemon cream sauce. It was by far the prettiest breakfast of the trip, but I’m going to be honest — I missed having a poached egg with something called a “benedict.” In fact, I petition that they change the name to “Croque Monsieur Breakfast Soufflé,” which is much more accurate.
The fruit was delicious and the soufflé was good, but the coffee was somewhat disappointing again.
Need to Know:
211 W Front St.
Wheaton, IL 60187
Good to Know:
The “Suzette’s Benedict” is worth ordering, but 1) It is not a benedict, and 2) It takes a while for them to make it because it’s baked fresh.
The last stand-out breakfast I consumed was at the Daily Dose Cafe in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where another blogging friend Dee, a DIY extremist and purveyor of curbside furniture finds, took me one morning. Perched at the counter of the nondescript diner, (you know, the kind of place with a gravel parking lot), I devoured the “Hand Chive” — approximately eleventy-billion calories of perfectly cooked scrambled egg, ultra rich cream cheese, and a sprinkling of chives all stuffed inside a flaky, butter croissant.
Sometimes I still dream about this sandwich. I ordered a chai latte which was good, but not amongst the best I’ve ever had.
Need to Know:
Daily Dose Cafe
6010 40th Ave.
Kenosha, WI 53142
Good to Know:
This place is tiny and very much a local’s dive. The service is friendly, and I’d definitely go back.
The truth is that each and every one of these breakfasts was a divine indulgence, made even better by the company I had for each, and the experience of which I wouldn’t trade for a 10-pound bag of calorie-free Reece’s Peanut Butter Eggs.
If I had to pick a winner, it would be Breakfast #2 – not only for the brilliant combination of all of the best greasy spoon diner foods piled onto a single plate, but for the simple fact that they had the best coffee. Which, based on the interior surroundings, was a complete and utter surprise.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about dining out for breakfast, it’s that a place can have the fanciest, most delectable menu options around, but if they don’t spring for the good coffee, it can bring down the entire experience.
What’s your favorite breakfast experience?