French toast. First brunch.


Our traditional first meal on New Year’s day, throughout the five years we lived in New York, was brunch at Frankies. Thank goodness they have a cookbook. I’ve been practicing the French Toast. (And I’m getting closer. I just need someone to ship me the Sullivan Street Bakery bread they use.) Do you have a first meal of the New Year tradition?

On an unrelated note, this Google Zeitgeist video is one of the best “highlights of 2013”-reels I’ve seen. Enjoy! And again, Happy New Year!

P.S. The best waffles and my favorite way to cook eggs.

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How to make the best buttermilk waffles


Blueberry Waffles
Blueberry Waffles

My mother-in-law makes the best waffles. They’re incredibly light and crispy on the outside, yet still rich and tender on inside. And, even though I’ve learned the secret recipe (which actually comes from an out-of-print Knudsen Dairy Cookbook called, funnily enough, Cooking for Compliments), these are especially nice when someone is kind enough to make them for you. So I recommend making these for someone you love.

Oh, and if you don’t have a waffle iron, it may be time to get on that. (We have—and love—this VillaWare waffle maker.)

Making the best buttermilk waffles
Making the best buttermilk waffles

The first thing you’ll notice about the recipe is that is calls for a generous serving of butter. There are a few tricks to making these the best waffles ever, but I think that stick of butter goes a long way toward making them crisp. Butter is actually an expensive ingredient. Restaurants skimp and that’s one reason you find yourself with sad, doughy or cakey specimens.

The substitution of cake flour for all-purpose is also a special trick that will help you to steer clear of those descriptions—it makes for very tender waffles.

Making the best buttermilk waffles

You can cheat on just about all of the other steps (e.g. substitute yogurt thinned with milk for buttermilk, skip the separated eggs, forgo sifting, and even use all-purpose flour instead of cake), and you’ll still get wonderful results. But I promise you that the extra time you take to get it perfect will indeed earn you those compliments.

Making the best buttermilk waffles
Perfect waffles with maple syrup


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Perfect Scrambled Eggs


The Perfect Scrambled Eggs

Perfecting the soft-cooked egg has made me curious about which other methods of cooking eggs I can learn to do just right. Eggs, after all, are one of the most delicious additions to any meal—don’t you agree? They’re simple, and yet deceptively so: they can go oh-so wrong. So for the next few weeks, I’m going to write a series of posts on perfect cooked eggs.

Up today: Scrambled. Though I know I few folks with a preference for well-done scrambled eggs, it’s my belief that they are, well, wrong. Most likely they just grew up with overcooked eggs (because that’s the most common sin when it comes to the otherwise easy—and sure, default when your omelet failed–task of scrambling eggs). In fact, scrambled eggs should be fluffy and tender, neither dry nor wet but more the latter than the former. They should be creamy and seasoned and rich.

How to Make the Perfect Scrambled Eggs

Of course I turned to my favorite resource once again, Cooks Illustrated, for suggestions. I especially liked their suggestion of adding an egg yolk for every four eggs.

In fact, there are two keys to perfect eggs: higher fat and a mindful eye. (Again, don’t overcook!)

Most recipes, I discovered, advocate increasing the fat level in your mix—often through the addition of half-and-half. But I find that while I’m likely to have an extra egg on hand any given morning, it’s more rare that I have half-and-half. Increasing the yolk content means you still have a higher fat content (which helps prevent overcooking), but that you also have a richer flavor. If you would prefer to skip the step, just be sure your dairy is half-and-half (or add a little cream).

So starting with 2-3 eggs per person, add one yolk for every four eggs (or one for three if you’re making a single serving).

To separate an egg, you have two options. First option: Crack your egg at the midline and hold your two cups (one with egg white, and one with yolk and white) over a bowl and slide the yolk back and forth as you discard the whites from one half-shell into a bowl (or the drain, if you have no intention to use egg whites). Careful not to pierce the yolk. Repeat until the yolk is as clean of egg white as it can be (some white with the yolk is fine, especially in this case). Second option: Wash your hands carefully. Crack the egg into your slightly spread hand (over a bowl or the sink) and gently catch the yolk, keeping it intact while the white drain through your fingers. Add the yolk where needed and wash your hands again!

How to Make the Perfect Scrambled Eggs

Once you have your desired number of eggs, you’re ready to mix them in a bowl. Start with:

4 eggs and 1 egg yolk
2 T milk (or half-and-half, if you have it)
salt and pepper (be generous, roughly 1/8-1/3 t of each)

Beat the mixture with a fork until everything is combined and you have a sunny yellow mix.

Grab a smaller pan than you might initially think (8 or 10-inch is better than 12) to trap more steam.  Next, set your burner to medium heat. When you add your butter (about 1/2 T), it should be hot enough that the butter melts right away but doesn’t immediately rush to foam. If it does, turn your burner down. Once you are happy with the temperature and have coated your pan with butter, you’re ready to pour in the egg mixture.

The Perfect Scrambled Eggs

Constantly scrape a rubber spatula, along the bottom and sides of the pan until the eggs begin to clump, letting the runnier bits fill in the gaps. This should happen quickly (a minute perhaps). Reduce heat to low and keep gently folding the eggs until just slightly wet, perhaps a minute more (or less). The second all of your eggs are clumped (yet still creamy and loose), transfer them to a warm plate and serve immediately.

The Perfect Scrambled Eggs

At a bare minimum, you’ll want to add some more salt to taste. They’re plenty delicious with nothing more. But my favorite scrambled eggs of late are a version of the Cacio e Pepe Eggs I once had at Maialino in New York City. You can add Pecorino and a generous serving of black pepper while the eggs are still cooking, folding it all in, or just add cheese and pepper once you’re done. I opted for the latter.

For 4 eggs, I’d add anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2-cup of Pecorino cheese and at least a tablespoon of freshly ground pepper (white would look lovely if you have it).

How to make the perfect scrambled eggs

The key is to use a fresh, coarse grind of pepper so that you get both the creaminess of the eggs and melting cheese and the sharp bite of the pepper in every mouthful. So delicious!

 the perfect scrambled eggs

P.S. Perfect soft-cooked eggs. Sticky buns. And lemon-rosemary buckwheat pancakes.

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Peels Muffin

Lemon-Rosemary Buckwheat Pancakes (inspired by the Peels muffin)


In our final year in New York, we became semi-devotees to the breakfast at Peels—a hip, Southern-influenced eatery on the Bowery. The food was consistently good, the Stumptown coffee strong… but what kept us coming back was two-fold: first, they open at 8am (even on Sundays), which makes it a rare treat for new parents; and, second, we fell hard for their namesake muffin. We’d order a simple savory—usually the Build-a-Biscuit or even just the scrambled eggs—and a warmed (heavenly) Peels Muffin. It was the answer to the savory/sweet dilemma, because the muffin, with just the right combination of buckwheat, lemon marmalade, and rosemary, was perfectly semi-sweet.

Since leaving the city, I’ve scoured the internet for the recipe. There’s one “inspired by” out there, but it seems to me to have too many ingredients. (Though I haven’t tried it, so who’s to say?) Shuna Lydon, the chef who created the muffin for Peels has shared the recipe for her Lemon Marmalade on her blog, and discussed her preferred buckwheat source, but alas no muffin recipe to date. Truth be told, I was feeling a little lazy about making my own marmalade and looked around a bit for a good jarred substitute. You can find one at a specialty market like Dean & Deluca, but the mostly Italian-made marmalade can be difficult to track down and very expensive.

But then it occurred to me: the same flavor combination of tart lemon, fragrant rosemary, and nutty buckwheat would be perfect in a buttermilk pancake!

And by golly, it was.

For roughly 10 4-inch pancakes, you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour (I used Red Mill brand)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • 2-3 tsp of coarsely chopped rosemary (and maybe a sprig or two for garnish)
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into small dice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk (Or regular milk is fine, too. You can also thin some yogurt with milk, as a substitute.)
  • vegetable oil for prepping the griddle or frying pan
  • lemon curd for topping (maybe some maple syrup, too, if you have a real sweet tooth)

Blend the dry ingredients with the butter (you could pulse in a food processor or smash with a fork or pastry tool). Whisk the eggs and milk separately and then add in the flour mixture until combined. It will seem fairly fluid. Let stand at least five minutes while you check the heat of your griddle. Getting the temperature right is probably the hardest part (you want low to moderate heat). Brush the surface with oil and then spoon on your batter. Usually 1-2 minutes on the first side is right, but you want to wait until bubbles start to form and then pop. Once you have those first bubbles popping, see if you can lift the pancake with your spatula. If the answer is yes, go ahead and flip. The second side will need less time. I usually have to adjust my temperature a little after my first attempt.

Top with generous lemon curd (maybe even put a little between pancakes) and serve warm!

P.S. My review of Peels for Serious Eats New York; and the secret to perfect soft-cooked eggs.

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Perfect soft-cooked eggs


Soft-cooked egg Sandwich

Anytime I read about a foolproof method for cooking eggs, I have to try it out. And this method from Cooks Illustrated, I promise you, proved revolutionary. Tender, but set, warm whites and reliably runny yolks–whether one egg or six–every single time.

All I do is bring a 1/2-inch of water to boil (One-half-inch! As in takes-no-time-at-all) before placing my eggs in the pot, lowering the temperature to medium, and re-covering it. Then I set a timer for 6-1/2 minutes. It turns out that steaming the eggs (placing less water in the pot) actually means there’s less temperature variability owing to the number of cold eggs you introduce, making this recipe work for a simple morning ritual or for serving a crowd.

peeling soft-cooked eggs

After time’s up, I place the eggs in cool water to get them cool to the touch. The eggs are easy to peel (easier than hardboiled eggs) because the whites are so springy.

Soft-cooked eggs are delicious on their own, atop pasta with butter and cheese, on pizza… on nearly anything. Right now, my favorite way to eat these is with salt-and-pepper avocado toast: smear toast with a light serving of mayonnaise, cover with at least half a ripe avocado, top it with eggs and give it a healthy dash of freshly ground pepper and sea salt. Then, let the runny yolks do their job.

soft-cooked sandwiches

By the way, the folks in the Cooks Illustrated test kitchen pointed out that you’ll have the best success with eggs having perfectly centered yolks. It doesn’t make a huge difference, but it’s true: if you wanted to be an absolute stickler for an important meal you’re serving you can hold your eggs up to a bright light and select for the ones with centered yolks.

Soft-cooked egg sandwich

Have a great weekend! Will you try this for breakfast?

P.S. Blood-Orange Salad, my go-to pressed sandwiches, and a cardamon-pear upside-down cake.

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Gramercy Terrace


I’ve been curious about the terrace atop the Gramercy Park Hotel for years! My friend Nora tried to take me there once for drinks, just after we moved here, but it was open to hotel guests only at the time. So I was excited to learn last month that, on May 18, they re-opened a newly renovated roof terrace for daily breakfast and lunch. Like Maialino–the wonderful Roman-style trattoria downstairs–Gramercy Terrace is run by Danny Meyer’s hospitality group; and honestly, that man can do no wrong. (Cf: Shake Shack, Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, Untitled, The Modern, Union Square Cafe… etc.)

I hadn’t needed to, but I made reservations for (gulp) 7:15am on Father’s Day.

As you exit the elevator, you’re flanked by works of Andy Warhol–Bob Colacello, Sylvester Stalone, Douglas Cramer, and others–and faced with views of the city’s water towers and, occasionally, the campaniles that disguise them. It’s a gorgeous space, one that cries for a candle-lit party and which was filled with grey morning light when we arrived. Apparently the roof’s panes slide open (or will, after some repairs) on sunny days, which would be wonderful.

We were there during breakfast (though brunch is offered on the weekends), and we had the option of ordering a la carte or picking and choosing from the continental breakfast set up by the bar. The menu is (not-surprisingly for a fancy hotel spot) on the expensive side, so the continental breakfast (which offered things like peanut-butter milk, monkey bread, a cheese table, and fresh strawberries for your cereal–plus bottomless juice and Stumptown coffee) isn’t a bad deal at $19. We opted instead for their take on eggs benedict and a brioche French Toast. Both were delicious.

By the way, one of the hallmarks of a Danny Meyer restaurant is friendly, completely-accommodating service. Granted we had the place practically to ourselves, but everyone was so kind to Hudson–which goes a long way. In fact I noted there was a sitting room off the dining area playing cartoons for children. It was sort of a funny contrast: on one end you enter a room with a sofa backed by Damien Hirst’s Le Caprice (a large medicine cabinet filled with prescription drug packaging), on the other there was the opiate of the (wee) masses.


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Doughnut Madness


For almost a year, since they opened, I have been meaning to get us up to the larger location of the Doughnut Plant in the Chelsea Hotel. We used to make occasional trips down to the original LES branch, but I have to admit that I usually found myself too impatient with the long line and too frustrated with the cramped space to really enjoy the doughnuts properly. So while the bright and shiny new space might seem a little too fancy-schmancy for die-hards (especially considering its presence in the Chelsea hotel), I really appreciated the quick-moving line, the room to stand, and–even better–the room to sit!

Of course the best bits are the doughnuts! The Doughnut Plant has been officially on the guidebook circuit ever since owner Mark Israel bested Bobby Flay in a throwdown. For years he made his grandfather’s yeast-raised doughnuts–often squared, with interesting glazes and fillings–but now the best known varieties are perhaps his cake doughnuts, the Tres Leches and the Blackout (with chocolate pudding in the cake). We could see why.

Going a little overboard, we got ourselves a half-dozen to sample (cha-ching!): From the cake selection, carrot cake (which tasted exactly like a slice would, down to the cream cheese frosting filling), salty peanut, tres leches and blackout. From the yeast selection, vanilla bean, pistachio, and coconut. The coconut was outstanding (something we already knew from previous visits), but I think I’d recommend the cake doughnuts over the yeast in general. We also tried the Mexican-style churro (different from the kind served in Spain). I agree with many that the Tres Leches was my favorite of all: seemingly simple like a glazed old-fashioned, but so fresh and buttery, and then surprisingly decadent with an injection of evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream.

Oh, nothing like a serving of doughnuts for a healthy lunch. Don’t tell Hudson I said that.

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Pain au Chocolat


A while back we raved about one of our favorite croissants in the city, the pretzel croissant at City Bakery. Well, there’s a new number one these days. It’s hard for either of us to pass by Taralucci e Vino without picking up one of their chocolate croissants. It really is the best croissant I’ve had here to-date (particularly, it seems, at their bakery location on First Avenue). They make an Italian-style chocolate cornetti as well, but our vote goes to the items made with the French-style puff pastry (the almond and cinnamon-raisin croissants are likewise made with this dough and are a close-second to the chocolate).

I particularly like ordering these with Aron because it reminds me that the first French phrase he had me teach him when we were in Paris was “je voudrais un pain chocolat,” and he would walk into pâtisseries and say it with such flair! It is the most important phrase to know… bah oui.

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On the Hunt: Northern Spy


I would wager that it’s a rare weekend that passes without our missing one of our dearly departed brunch favorites, 202 (and its heavenly French Toast). It’s especially been a blow since Hudson arrived–do you know how rare it is to find brunch fare available at 9am here!? Even my mother-in-law, while visiting recently, requested that we return to “that lovely place in the Chelsea Market” and I had to, with lowered eyes, break the news that they had closed.

So while we have Frankies’ French Toast to console us, we’re on the hunt for an alternative to fill the hole in our hearts that 202 left. The challenge: not only does the French toast have to be delicious, but there needs to be a savory dish that we equally love–for splitting, and the space has to be baby-friendly. Any suggestions?

We had been to Northern Spy, a not-to-be-missed, seasonal restaurant in Alphabet City, for lunch and dinner, but never for brunch. Their French toast was delicious and decadent (with sugar-coated pecans for topping, no less), but it was less custardy than 202’s and won’t become our new #1. Still, I imagine few would be disappointed with this one. They were super-accomodating with Hudson (giving us the corner booth usually reserved for larger parties at such a busy hour), but I wouldn’t say it’s ideal for babies (very tight/too tight to bring in even a folded stroller). However, what was outstanding was the little afterthought we grabbed to go: an apple fritter. We only live a few blocks from the restaurant, so we cheated by heating it once we were home, but it may now be our #1 apple fritter.

P.S. Hudson is four months old! You of course know what he looks like, but see his monthly photo and hear about some milestones, here.

Have a great weekend!

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