1024 Wait, What Season Is It?

So Friday night Shane finally gave in to the weather and turned on the heat.  It was 26 when I left for work that morning, bundled up in my jacket, cowl, and gloves, shivering at the bus stop in the pitch black at 7am.  It was the beginning of soup weather, which was all I’ve wanted to eat for the last week, and at least 3/4 of what I planned to make this week.

That is, until I popped the kitchen window open this morning to vent the breakfast heat and smells and discovered that it was NEARLY 70.  It is the last week of October, right?  I was wearing flannel pajamas and fuzzy socks last night, right? I did pull my tomatoes out two weeks ago because the growing season is over, right?

Fried green tomatoes
Photo by eirikso

Speaking of those tomatoes, they’ve been sitting in a big paper bag in the corner waiting for me to figure out what the heck to do with them. I’ve gotten recommendations for chili or pickles, and I’ve had good intentions of frying them, but for the most part they’ve just been sitting there awaiting my attention. This morning I discovered two things: first, nearly a dozen of the tomatoes have ripened! The paper bag trick works! Second, fried green tomatoes are damned fine breakfast food.

fried green tomatoes
Photo by kthread

This was my first time making fried green tomatoes – in fact, it might be my first time EATING fried green tomatoes – so I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious these were! The tomatoes were small, maybe 2″ in diameter, so we only got about 3 slices out of each. I used Mollie Katzen’s recipe from Sunlight Cafe, which called for an extremely minimal batter – just polenta and salt – so these aren’t the great batter-coated beasts that I saw all over Flickr while looking for photos to illustrate this post. Super simple, super delicious, and when served along with bacon, scrambled eggs, and slices of Avalon‘s Italian bread – an amazing breakfast on an amazingly beautiful morning.

Recipe:
Mollie Katzen’s Fried Green Tomatoes from Mollie Katzen’s Sunlight Cafe

1017 Proclaiming the Virtues of Toast

This morning I was reminded that the simplest breakfast can be the most wonderful.  I’m not talking about the half order of crab cake benedict that was still almost too much food for me.  I’m talking about this:

Cinnamon Raisin Bread - Toasted and buttered

We were all up and ready for breakfast at 8 this morning, so we decided to try to get in at Angelo’s, a UM dining institution since the 50s.  As you may recall, we tried to go to Angelo’s for a free breakfast on Shane’s birthday, but were unable to find anywhere remotely close to park – and besides, there’s almost always a line.  8am on a Sunday morning – even during Homecoming weekend – must be a magic hour, as we got the last spot in the Angelo’s lot and were seated right away.

Frankly, I don’t get waiting in line for breakfast.  I’ll do it on occasion for something special, but in general, the longer I wait to eat my first meal of the day, the crankier I’m going to be.  This is compounded by lack of caffeine – even worse if I happen to be hung over.  Fortunately none of these things were the case this morning – the wait, lack of caffeine, or hang over – I only mention them in the context of not understanding why anyone would stand out in the cold to wait for breakfast at Angelo’s.  It was fine.  It wasn’t anything special.  Shane had to send his eggs back because they were barely cooked.

Honestly, and as I mentioned before, the stand-out part of breakfast for me was the raisin toast.  Angelo’s bakes their bread in house, so your side of toast is something grander than your average white bread.  Mom and I shared her side of raisin toast – thick slabs of bread studded with sweet raisins, which you could then top with cinnamon sugar from a shaker on the table.  Simple.  Delicious.  Golden, on the edge of brown.  I ate the rest of my breakfast, but would’ve happily traded the crabcake topped with a perfectly poached egg for another slice or two of raisin toast.

1004 Stone Soup Kitchen

The hardest part of my last morning in Atlanta? Deciding between Ria’s Bluebird and Stone Soup Kitchen for breakfast. Both have adorable websites. Both were about a 20 minute walk away. The former supposedly has the best pancakes on the planet, while the latter has cheese grits. Cheese grits? Done and done.

Stone Soup Kitchen

SSK is everything I could want a diner in the South to be. Colorful characters. Impeccably fried eggs. A good biscuit and a bottomless cup of coffee. Sunshine and no hurry. The cheese grits didn’t blow my mind, but they were a great excuse for a nice walk on my last morning in town. But then so were the sweet potato biscuits that I picked up to take home.

Miles walked: 3.75


If you go:
Stone Soup Kitchen
584 Woodward Ave
Atlanta, GA 30312
(404) 524-1222

1001 Sweet. Potato. Biscuits.

If there’s one thing the South does well, it’s biscuits. There are many other things they do well as well – fried chicken, grits, greens, naming things Peachtree – but I’d like to talk about biscuits for a moment. Sweet potato biscuits to be precise.

Sweet. Potato. Biscuit.

Now if you’re like me and have spent most of your years above the Mason/Dixon line, you may be unaware of the fact that biscuits go with anything. You may also be unaware of the fact that you can make anything with sweet potatoes. And you would certainly be surprised to learn that putting sweet potatoes IN biscuits produces something so sweetly harmonious that you just might fall off your breakfast chair out of joy.

Well, that’s what happened to me this morning at Highland Bakery. OK, I might be exaggerating about the falling off the chair bit, but I certainly am not exaggerating when I say that once I bit into this crumbly biscuit, I very nearly lost all interest in the rest of my breakfast, including both bacon AND coffee.

I’d tell you about the rest of my meals from my first full day in Atlanta, but to be honest, nothing quite measured up.  The opening keynote of the conference was interesting, and I liked walking through the Sweet Auburn District.  It was fun to have dinner with Suz and Ken, though our actual dinner was a bit underwhelming.  We parted ways late in the evening, and I wandered back to Dawn’s with visions of sweet potato biscuits dancing in my head.

Miles walked: 6.25


If you go:

Highland Bakery
655 Highland Ave NE
Atlanta, GA 30312
(404) 586-0772

A2 > SF

Where to begin!

We left Ann Arbor on the 1st in the middle of the afternoon, a flurry of bags and mopeds on the porch and cats wanting attention. Part of our trip was paid for with flight vouchers, so we had to fly through a Midwest hub – which meant that the much more convenient Detroit airport was out of the question. Instead we drove two hours to Grand Rapids, left our car with Shane’s moped acquaintance, and were ferried to the GR airport withOUT the much desired side-trip to Founders for Nemesis. Sorry, Shane.

Our flights – first a 20 minute hop to Milwaukee, then about four hours in the air to SF – were uneventful, and we enjoyed the free cookies, even though they were served cold.  “Fresh baked”?  Riiiight.  Our second flight was operated by Frontier, each of whose planes bear an animal portrait.  Get it, “bear”?  Anyway, our animal co-pilot was Sarge, the bald eagle, who took good care of us and of Nancy Pelosi, our flight’s VIP.

Sarge

We rolled into SF around 9pm local time, but by the time we claimed our luggage, took the airport shuttle to the BART, rode the BART to downtown, and walked a mile mostly uphill to our hostel, we were feeling every minute of the time difference and the long day. Our hostel – the Green Tortoise – was conveniently located near Chinatown and a bunch of sex shops, none of which were particularly interesting at that hour of the night. What was interesting was our private room, comfy bed, and sweet oblivion.

In the morning, refreshed by a hot shower and a good night’s sleep, we queued up for breakfast at Mama’s on Washington Square, just a few blocks’ walk from our hostel.  Now, it’s not that I’m opposed to waiting in line for good food.  I think there are times when this is a perfectly reasonable thing to do – like when you’re trying to get brunch in Chicago, for example.  This might also explain why we rarely find ourselves getting brunch anymore – we wake up hungry, and the idea of standing in line for an hour when we’ve already delayed breakfast by an hour or two is just unbearable.  We were subsequently told that the line at Mama’s can take more than an hour, but since it was 8:30 on a Thursday, our wait was between 20-30 minutes.

Who in their right mind waits in a 20-30 minute line for breakfast at 8:30 on a Thursday?  Tourists, that’s who.  And every dang person in the line was a tourist, replete with guidebooks and maps and loud conversations about Cleveland.  As tourists ourselves, we had little room to talk, but I think the line strengthened our resolve to seek out neighborhood places, not ones in the guidebooks.  Once inside, we ordered our breakfasts – a French toast sampler for Shane and a tomato and prosciutto Benedict for me – then settled down for coffee and people-watching.

Happier than she appears

I look somewhat stricken in this photo, but really I’m just hungry and undercaffeinated. Breakfast fixed all of that promptly:

Tomato & Prosciutto Benedict

Oh beautiful pile of delicious savory things! The eggs were overdone and the prosciutto overly salty, but the hollandaise was mild and the slices of heirloom tomatoes helped to even it out. The breakfast potatoes were excellent. Shane was less satisfied with his breakfast – the French toast was dense and barely, well, French toasted – but between our two plates, we left full and happy.


If you go:

Green Tortoise Hostel
494 Broadway (Broadway and Kearny)
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 834-1000

Comfortable, clean, and free meals – breakfast every day, dinner three nights/week. Bring your own towel or pay $1 to borrow one. We paid around $65/night for a single room with a shared bathroom, which is absolutely cheap by SF hotel standards.

Mama’s on Washington Square
1701 Stockton Street (Stockton and Filbert)
San Francisco, CA 94133-2914
(415) 362-6421

Go early, or go prepared to stand in line for 30-90 minutes. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

0808 Breakfast at the Lithuanian Club

We joined my parents at the Lithuanian Club for a fundraising breakfast for a memorial for veterans of the Korean War – a good cause, but a pretty lousy breakfast.  Pop referred to the biscuits and gravy by their military name: shit on a shingle.  I enjoyed my fruit cocktail in a tiny styrofoam cup, and Shane was astonished to see that not only was beer available at the bar at 8am, but there were a number of beers being consumed at said hour.  Pop often gets tickets to these sorts of events from his patients – sometimes they’re good, sometimes not, but they’re always interesting!

Shane

There are a variety of reasons that I find places like the Lithuanian Club so fascinating. Social clubs of this sort inhabit an entirely different part of the world that that with which I’m familiar. I have no one ethnicity or homeland on which I pride myself – my family tree is a jumble of Germans, with a few Dutch, Irish, and English thrown in for good measure, but they’ve all been here at least a century. We were transplants, landing in Rockford when my parents were 30, with two kids and another on the way, and with Pop in the early days of his medical career. We settled in a part of town that was full of cul-de-sacs and two car garages, where sidewalks were optional and most moms stayed at home. We interacted with the kids and families from our neighborhood, our school, and our church. Those were our third places.

Bingo

I wonder what will happen to places like the Lithuanian Club in the next few decades. The median age at breakfast was easily 70 – my parents, at 57, were among the younger in the room.  My parents’ generation had the PTA and other school organizations, fitness clubs and rec sports leagues, and frequently two workplaces’ worth of potential colleagues and friends.  And if we want to meet like-minded individuals, there are a bajillion Facebook groups.  So what of social clubs?  Will they just cease to exist?  Is it our responsibility to maintain them in the face of more efficient online alternatives?

0619 With the Family

To be honest, I don’t really remember much about breakfasts growing up.  I know that my parents wouldn’t ever buy us sugar cereal, at least not when we were small, so if a box of Corn Pops came into the house, it was because one of us had bought it with our paper route or babysitting money.  Sugar cereals were something we’d look forward to when staying with our grandparents, who would buy the little sampler packs in anticipation of our week-long visits in the summer.

I do remember eating sunny-side up eggs with Pop while he read the newspaper when I was very small, and Sunday trips to Stockholm Inn for Swedish pancakes after church – I didn’t like “Swedos”, and would get eggs or regular pancakes, while being able to eat a Super Stack was a point of pride for my brother.  I remember Pop occasionally making pancakes with chocolate chips or blueberries, and I remember that we had pancake molds in the shape of a dinosaur and a bear.  I remember making eggs when I was very young, cracking an egg into a ramekin, covering it with water and then plastic wrap, and climbing up on the counter so that I could reach the microwave.

As an adult, I’ve enjoyed having breakfast with my parents when I go home for a visit – I’m usually up early, and so can sit at the table and nurse a cup of coffee with them while they listen to the Sunday puzzle before the rest of the house wakes up.  Breakfast this morning – in lieu of a Fathers’ Day brunch – was coffee, French toast made from Zingerman’s challah (not waffleized this time), and sausage links from our pig.  It turns out that Mom really loves French toast but rarely had it when we were kids because none of us were huge fans – so I was glad to be able to make a breakfast that was a treat for everyone.  Pop came in from walking the dog just in time for the first slices to come off the griddle, and Shane was just waking up as I put on the last slices.  Despite being half-awake from last night’s drive, I think I managed a decent, if a bit almond-y, breakfast.