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Friday, 13 May 2016

Breakfast at A la Folie Café Français, Miami Beach

I must admit, one of the last things I was expecting to find on a street called Española Way, was a French café. But nestled far down this pretty little street off South Beach, draped in trees heavy with yellow blossom and bars serving the best tequila in Miami, is a petite and chic café, called A la Follie.


A photo posted by Caroline Baldwin (@breakfastatcarolines) on



Española Way feels distinctly Spanish with its colourful awnings hanging off the Spanish-style buildings, but everything about A la Folie Café is most definitely French. While it was heart wrenching to walk by cafés serving huevos rancheros, I followed my trusty guide book to find A la Folie, which was easy to miss due to the overgrown palm trees right in front of the entrance, providing shade for its early-morning breakfast goers, sat at spindly little tables lining the pavement – sorry sidewalk!


A French friend of mine tells me "a la folie" means "like crazy" and is sung at the end of the 'he loves me, he loves me not' game, which is of French origin.

Inside is full of French memorabilia as well as rows and rows of magazines (even a few in the French language), while Church-style pews line the walls, decorated with navy scatter cushions which complement the black-tiled floor. A framed map of Paris neighbours the French prints on the wall, while a gramophone is cleverly suspended towards the back of the café. This is the kind of place you could happily spend a few of hours with a couple of bowls of coffee, escaping the sun while reading a magazine or two. 





My friend and I order coffee and my café au lait arrives in a big bowl with no handle – how very French – and we peruse the menu, which features a number of traditional dishes including French onion soup and escargot, it was breakfast, so it was time to eat our weight in those carbs the French do so well. 


A la Folie Café Français specialises in paper-thin crêpes made from buckwheat, which is what my friend chose, which enveloped a generous helping of blue cheese and spinach, topped with a good handful of toasted almonds. Meanwhile, I decided to go for the breakfast bread basket: a baguette, pain au chocolat, croissant and jam, accompanied by a fruit salad, just in case you wanted to attempt your five a day.

I must say I regretted my choice of baked goods when my friend’s crêpe arrived, which she gladly let me “try” (I mean, share). If I was to return, I’d order the bread basket between two in addition to a breakfast dish. That said, the pastries were buttery and flaky, while the baguette held its crunch even doused with enough jam to cause a severe spike in anyone’s blood-sugar levels. 




If you’re in Miami Beach and fancy a quiet brunch spot to watch the world go by, try out this little French gem on Española Way.

A la Folie Café Français
516 Española Way,
Miami Beach, FL 33139


Monday, 25 April 2016

Mug of the Month: Peacock Power

A couple of months ago I attended an event at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel in London. where I enjoyed my morning cuppa out of the most delicately designed peacock mug. The mug in question was part of the St Pancras Chambers Collection and costs £15. 

It really was beautiful.


And there must be a trend for peacocks this season, because if, like me, you think £15 per mug is a little steep, I found a colourful variation in Debenhams this month, for almost half the price, at £8 each.



If you want a touch of elegance with your morning brew, go grab them now while you still can.

Mug of the Month: I’m a firm believer that if you drink a cup of tea out of a beautiful mug it will taste better. Every month I will be featuring a lovely mug which will be perfect for your morning cuppa. Spotted a special mug I should know about? Get in touch: breakfastatcarolines@outlook.com or tweet me @cl_baldwin

Monday, 18 April 2016

Breakfast at Yardbird, Miami Beach

A short walk from the hustle and bustle of Collins Avenue on Miami Beach, where the party goers drive their flashy cars, pretty girls screeching and waving their arms out of the window to a toot of a fellow horn, sits Yardbird, a much more casual affair.


Achingly cool, Yardbird is the type of restaurant where your Bloody Mary is served in a mason jar, along with two sticks of crispy fried bacon - even the bill (sorry cheque) comes in a mason jar.

I feel if Yardbird was set in London, it would instantly be labelled "hipster", I'm not sure if it's the size (Yardbird is much bigger than the tiny pop-up restaurants which litter Old Street in East London), or the softly placed wild flowers and tea-towel placemats adorning the tables, which brings this place right back down to its Southern roots. If you combine wooden floorboards, an iron-top bar with a gigantic wine rack, that's the right amount of cross between sophistication and traditional, if you ask me.


 

After trying and failing to book a table one Sunday morning in March (apparently the staff don't check their voicemails on a Saturday afternoon), my friend and I managed to find a space between the many Miami brunch revellers and the cocktail paraphernalia at the bar - in fact I felt like I'd committed a cardinal sin asking the bartender for a coffee instead of a mimosa, but she skilfully poured the strong American coffee across the bar, avoiding all iPhones, with a lovely smile on her face, before going back to shaking her colourful liquid concoctions. 


Whitewashing the exposed brickwork also softens the surroundings, while floor to ceiling windows on this corner street building allows the Miami morning light to flood into the room. Around us are people from all walks of life - gaggles of girls gossiping over cocktails, hungover-looking young couples attempting a brunch date, parents with young children sat in leather booths munching on pancakes and a huge family gathering on one table which was stacked with every dish from the menu, with the grandparents tucking into various dishes and happily toasting their younger counterparts over a breakfast cocktail.

I always get overwhelmed choosing breakfast dishes from a new menu. While I want to try something new, or taste something I wouldn't normally choose, I also want to order a classic to see how different venues put their spin on that famous eggs benny - FYI, Yardbird's comes with a biscuit crumble and lardons. 


At least this time I was traveling with a friend who is a first-class foodie and sharer, so we decided to start with the Maple-Glazed Bacon Doughnut ($9). I expected one doughnut we could cut in half to whet our appetite, not a tower of four, shiny with syrup and encrusted with bacon bits. We gleefully tucked in to the miniature skillet and the sweet doughy pillows went down a dream with our American black coffee. I did think they could have been more savoury, I tasted more maple than bacon, but they were still delightful.



While I had my eye on the Chicken, Watermelon and Waffles ($36 and the house speciality), a day of eating like an American the day previously had already broken us, and I felt it would have been a waste. So we opted for two of Mama's Biscuits ($14), one with Virginia ham and cheese, the other with crispy chicken and pepper jelly. Biscuits are such an American breakfast, and in my experience are often dry, but these scones were airy and sweet, topped with smoked ham almost like bacon and the other with some of the best friend chicken I had ever tasted - salty, but not at all greasy. To be honest, for a Southern menu, none of it was greasy or oily and I love how Yardbird has a perfect balance traditional southern diner comfort food with a classy cocktail service


Virginia Ham and cheddar cheese

Crispy fried chicken

Afterwards suitably stuffed, we leaned back on the bar and watched the Mac 'n' Cheese and the '77 Elvis Chocolate Chip Pancakes float by, which was pure torture. We wanted to taste everything, but our British stomachs couldn't handle another morsel and as I write this post, how I wish we had sucked it up and ordered dessert - it was Sunday brunch after all.


1600 Lenox Avenue
Miami Beach, Florida 33139
305.538.5220

Friday, 25 March 2016

Baked avocado egg for brunch


If you've been reading this breakfast blog long enough, you'll know by now I'm a big fan of baked eggs. I've tried baking creamy eggs with smoked salmon (Royale) and spinach (Florentine), as well as ham, chorizo and chilli. It's a really comforting weekend brunch, which is simple and has the added bonus of looking great on the plate.

But until very recently I had not baked an egg inside an avocado. Yes, you heard me right, inside an avocado.

Recipe for one blissful weekend brunch

While I bang on about avocado smash ALL the time on my Instagram feed, I haven't even applied heat to this green fruit before, never mind use it as a capsule for baking eggs. But when you remove the stone from a perfectly ripe avocado, you find yourself with this beautifully smooth hole, which really is just asking to be filled to the brim.

I made this one quiet weekend morning for myself, but it just so happens an avocado has two halves, so this recipe can easily be doubled to make breakfast for two - if you want to share, that is.


Firstly, take half an avocado and discard the stone. Now, dig out a little more of the avocado's flesh to make room for the egg and then find a container which will keep your avocado upright while it is baking in the oven. Next crack an egg into a ramekin (this gives you better control) and carefully slip the yolk into the hole, along with some of the egg white (remember the whole egg probably won't fit). Once full to the brim, use a piece of kitchen towel to mop up any white which is sitting on the flesh, this means the bright green won't be hidden beneath any cooked egg white.

That's the hard bit out of the way. Now give the avocado egg a good grind of salt and pepper and pop into a hot oven for 20 minutes until the white has just set and the yolk is still runny.

While cooking, whip up your favourite side to accompany - I went for strong chorizo and mellow wilted  spinach, because the avocado egg, while pretty, is quite bland. I'd also add chilli flakes for an extra punch.



Enjoy x


Thursday, 17 March 2016

Mug of the Month: Lakeland's cake in a mug

I love baking. The comforting combination of wet and dry ingredients which magically transform into a spectacular carrot cake, raspberry cheesecake or chocolate torte in the oven. But sometimes, my sweet tooth isn't very patient. That's where these mugs come in.

Lakeland's 'cake in a mug' (£7.99) and 'muffin in a mug' (also £7.99) provides you with instructions on how to make a sweet treat in three minutes flat. It clearly won't taste as good as a Sunday afternoon labour of love, but it will surely fix that afternoon cake craving we all get now and again.

Check out the range, here.

Image: Lakeland

Image: Lakeland
Mug of the Month: I’m a firm believer that if you drink a cup of tea out of a beautiful mug it will taste better. Every month I will be featuring a lovely mug which will be perfect for your morning cuppa. Spotted a special mug I should know about? Get in touch: breakfastatcarolines@outlook.com or tweet me @cl_baldwin

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Breakfast at the Dutch Pancake House, North Wales


A recent visit home to Wales resulted in my friend and I getting lost in the foothills of Snowdonia trying to find our way to the Dutch Pancake House in Conwy. If you try and make this journey yourself, rest assured, it's really easy, just don't take the back-roads like my friend did if you're starving and also suffering after too many cups of tea. But the plus side of this oh-so bumpy journey was trying to make friends with a cute little mountain pony and spotting lambs gambolling over the green fields, which was enough to distract me from the pain in my bladder for a good 30-seconds or so.


We finally arrived, and after hurrying back from the (very nice and clean) bathrooms, we settled down with our menus and took a look at our surroundings. This cafe has been around for many years, serving its famous pancakes, and I couldn't believe how I hadn't been taken here as a child. The family-friendly restaurant is decked out in Dutch paraphernalia, with Delft Blue plates, Vincent Van Gogh prints and cloggs adorning the walls - as well as a strangely-placed fish tank in the centre of the room.




After warming up with a cappuccino, we chose our pancakes - one cheese, bacon, leek, mushroom and egg, and one special pancake, folded over with a creamy leek filling. Well, we were in Wales.





A Dutch pancake - not to be confused with a Dutch baby pancake - look like a crepe, but are ever-so-slightly thicker making them more structurally sound when housing their generous fillings and also more satisfying than a paper-thin crepe pancake. Both pancakes were divine, the first was like a pancake pizza, with crispy bacon, while my fold-over was more like a comforting deconstructed cannelloni, perfect for warming you up on a dull Welsh Sunday.

After our first course, we then glanced at each other across the large pine table and both, quickly and shamefully, ordered our dessert pancakes - one lemon and sugar and one cherry special with cream and ice cream, both dusted with icing sugar.



The Dutch Pancake House is situated in the grounds of Conwy Water Gardens. So after a pancake (or in our case two), I heartedly advise to take a stroll and be at one with the Welsh countryside. Not only will you fall in love with the nature reserve, it will help you work off that double-helping of pancakes. Just be warned - the Aquatic Centre sells bird feed, so be prepared for the chickens and ducks to chase you around expecting treats. We made quite a few friends that day, come to think of it.

Uh oh, no feed. We'd better make some friends

Why, hello there Mister Cockerel

Bottoms up
After those pancakes, you and me both!
So calm and peaceful until Mr Cockerel starts up again 

#waleswalks

Dutch Pancake House - Conwy Water Gardens
Glyn Isa
Rowen
Conwy
North Wales LL32 8TP
01492 651063

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Turkish eggs for brunch


I first tried Turkish eggs at Brew in Wimbledon Village and fell instantly in love with this luscious brunch dish. Kopapa's Turkish eggs, which I tried a few months later, were even better, doused in a generous oily chilli butter. I just love the colours, crisp white, fiery red and sunshine yellow, with a scattering of green. One mouthful provides you a spicy explosion of chilli and egg yolk, while the yoghurt and egg white comfortingly cools your tongue. Make sure you really char your bread to balance the smoothness of the creamy eggs with crisp, slightly burnt pitta.

I served this to my boyfriend, who is used to substantial weekend brunches of fiery chorizo and (lots of) eggs. Unfortunately, this one didn't go down to well with a man who eats four eggs a day. "Why are we eating cream?" he looked at the bowl in confusion and went to make scrambled eggs. Initially disgruntled by his reaction, I soon realised it fine with me, as I got to scoff his portion as well!

Recipe - for two

Take 300g of full-fat Greek yoghurt and stir through the zest of half a lemon, a squeeze of lemon juice and a generous grind of salt and pepper. Divide into two bowls. Start to poach two large eggs and in another pan melt 50g of butter and stir through 1tsp of chilli powder.


Once poached, lay the eggs on the yoghurt mixture and drizzle over the chilli butter - I also added another healthy splash of chilli oil.

Scatter over extra chilli flakes and shredded fresh mint leaves and serve with charred pitta or sourdough to generously dunk. 



When seated with the mixture of hot and cold Turkish eggs in front of you, use the bread as giant boiled-egg-soldiers to dip into the yoghurt and break open the beautiful golden yolks - you almost don't need cutlery, but if you do, use a spoon.


Enjoy x