We're back to look at breakfast and specifically what happens when the idea of making it yourself seems ludicrous. We've all been there: whether it's weekend laziness, workday timing or a brain-splitting hangover on any given morning, we've all been in a situation where making breakfast at home is simply a no-go. Luckily, pretty much any decently-sized city has somewhere you can go for breakfast/brunch. Some of us are lucky to live in cities large enough to have all kinds of great breakfast options.
While Ottawa's best known (downtown) breakfast nooks might be the Elgin Street Diner or Zak's Diner, neither of these will be featured in this post, mainly because they're not all that impressive to me. For standard breakfast/brunch fare, I've always found the Lieutenant's Pump or the Manx on Elgin Street are far better value for the money. And if you want to greasy spoon it up for real, there's Mellos on Dalhousie. All of these and many others are adequate, even remarkable, places to indulge your need for bacon n' eggs, but in this post I'm going to tell you about some of Ottawa's truly exceptional breakfast experiences, as well as plugging something awesome should you decide you *can* make it at home.
1 - Chicken and Waffles
A couple of years ago, the concept of Chicken and Waffles was completely ensconced in the realm of "crazy-ass things that Americans put into their bodies". There's been references to this incredulous dish in film and TV (I think Pulp Fiction mentioned Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles at some point), but surely no one would try to export the idea outside of the U.S., would they? Well one man did, Chef LeRoy, formerly of Jean Albert's Soul Food restaurant, which has, unfortunately, closed its doors. But Chef LeRoy was the first to bring Chicken and Waffles to Canada (and still makes them via catering). Since then, many restaurants all around have come out with their own version of this soul food classic.
And, I hate to say it, I find Mill Street has done it better (sorry LeRoy). Probably because they threw authenticity out the window and went for "over-the-top tasty". Mill Street's Chicken and Waffles is boneless chicken tenders coated in a thick, peppery, crispy buttermilk batter served over a giant waffle made with Belgian Wit beer and topped with rich chicken gravy, with maple syrup on the side. There is truly no better hangover food that I can think of, and you'll be full for the rest of the day! Seriously, only get this if you have a giant appetite, it's a stuffer! It's also 14 bucks, so not a cheap breakfast by any stretch. But treat yourself to it at least once in your life, you'll thank me!
|Leading potential cause of my obesity, except the beer|
2 - Gourmet-ing Classic Breakfast Fare
Let's face it, one can get the standard 2 eggs with bacon/sausage/ham, homefries and toast plate just about anywhere and it's not very different from one place to the next. I honestly don't know WHY breakfast in Canada and the U.S. has become limited to only a dozen or so "classic"dishes, but it has. I guess that's fine if you use really good ingredients and make it original. So with that in mind, I present the Murray Street Brunch.
Murray Street, as I've mentioned before, is one of those high end restaurants that makes what one could call "gourmet comfort food". This certainly applies to their brunch offerings. Last time we went for breakfast/brunch, the menu just sang out all kinds of fun little renditions of classics and a lot of creative twists. But for me it came down to three simple words: Garlic. Maple. Syrup. FRAK YES!!! It helps that said syrup was the topping to a kind of reinvented "McGriddle" dish called the Pauly-D. It consisted of an in-house-made sage-ginger-maple sausage patty, a fried egg, cheese and pancakes. And it was goddamn delicious!!!! I was even lucky enough to have a server who told me how to make Garlic Maple Syrup (which will be featured in a future post).
|the Breakfast Sammich as God intended|
I would be remiss if I didn't mention Kari's epic breakfast as well. Her Corned Beef dish was a madcap fusion of Eggs Benedict and some kind of Denny's skillet monstrosity featuring cheese, potatoes, corned beef, egg all under a bone marrow Hollandaise. BONE MARROW HOLLANDAISE!!!! Who comes up with this stuff? Oh right, this guy does.
Needless to say, it was about as rich as rich gets. I have to admit, I'm not a huge Hollandaise fan. It's something I can only eat when I get a craving for it, which happens once or twice a year, kind of like poutine. But when I get that craving, WATCH OUT! That being said, today was not that day. All I know is that Kari loved it, so it must have been awesome.
|I'm getting full just looking at it...|
3 - On Your Way To The Office (aka Screw Timmies!)
I'll admit I'm plugging food purveyors that I've already blogged about in the past, but what can I say? I'm loyal to really top-notch restaurants and bakeries!
So, moving on. It's 6:55 and you're due in the office at 7. Not really time for a big hearty breakfast is it? Now you could go to Tim Horton's or Starbucks for their overprocessed (albeit sometimes tasty) breakfast fare and some okayish coffee. OR you could truck out to Bread and Sons (and if you work for the feds in Ottawa like I do, it's not much of a truck - or is it trek?) and partake of some of the city's best coffee (as I've already mentioned). On top of that, you can treat yourself to either a Boreka or a Black Bean Roll.
A Boreka is a puff pastry stuffed with feta and two other unidentified cheeses (it used to be just feta) dusted with sesame seeds and is pretty much the best morning salt rush a person can ask for. As for the Black Bean Roll, it's a black bean and cheese filling surrounded by a rich buttery pastry shell. It's basically an entire meal in 3 inches. Way better than a doughnut or McMuffin.
|Want to eat them alllllll!!|
And finally, as a last little breakfast plug, I want to give a "shoutout" to Michael McKenzie and his charcuterie business, Seed to Sausage for making some of the best bacon I've ever had that wasn't mine (hey, no food is better than that you make yourself, including charcuterie/deli). Specifically his Garlic-Juniper Bacon. Yes, it's a bit more expensive than the commercial stuff from the supermarket, but it is TOTALLY worth it. It's another one of those "once in a lifetime" flavours everyone needs to try. Luckily, they sell it at Saslove's Meat Market in the Market and on Wellington Street, and many other shops as well.
|Bacon Heaven - photo from the Saslove's Web site|
So, now you know where to get the goods. Get out there and snarf some scran, man!