Monday, 26 January 2015

Mug of the Month: Stumptown Coffee Roasters, NYC

I couldn't go to New York City without hunting out a decent coffee shop, and an early frosty morning walk downtown to Greenwich Village later I had arrived at Stumptown Coffee Roasters. 

An independent coffee chain which started in Portland, Stumptown now has shops in New York, Seattle and Los Angeles, and I thought it would be appropriate to share it with you for January's Mug of the Month. 

I'd heard about this quality roasters on social media, and when I arrived the queue was out of the door - surely a good sign considering the number of coffee shops in the city? And I'm glad I waited, as it only took ten minutes during which I examined the coffee beans for sale and the branded Stumptown enamel mugs.

I went for my usual choice of a latte, and while I'm not a coffee connoisseur in the slightest, I can say that it was damn good coffee. Creamy, with not too much froth and a substantial - but not overpowering - coffee taste.

Wander by for a winter pick me up and warm your hands on a cup of joe while you walk through nearby Washington Square Park.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Brunch versus breakfast : NYC versus London

Us Brits do breakfast, but Americans really know how to do a weekend brunch.

When I think about breakfast and brunch, I generally think of when I'm eating my morning meal: for me breakfast is food I eat first thing until the 9/10am mark, while brunch is eaten in that time between breakfast and lunch - usually at the weekend, when most of us are in desperate need of a lie in.

According to Wikipedia brunch is a tradition which started in the UK and has been adopted by Americans who now just plain show us up in the weekend feast:

"Brunch is a combination of breakfast and lunch eaten usually during the late morning but it can extend to as late as 3 pm on Sundays. The word is a portmanteau of breakfast and lunch. Brunch originated in England in the late 1800s, served in a buffet style manner, and became popular in the United States in the 1930s."

And in the States weekend brunch is a very serious affair lasting until 4pm, a trend which I'm seeing kick off in the UK in the likes of the Caravan Kings Cross where it's near impossible to get a table without waiting for sometimes over an hour - not being able to book a table is a huge frustration of mine in these trend setting places!

Brunch to me, is a lazy meal with several courses, accompanied by an alcoholic beverage or two, think Bloody Mary or Bellini. Fruit salad and a bread basket to start and then the main event in the form of eggs and possibly sweet pancakes or waffles to end. If you ate all of that mid-week, firstly you'd roll up to work tipsy which isn't socially acceptable, and you'd need a nap before being able to concentrate in the slightest.

But brunch is a state of mind. At the weekends I like to go to one of my favourite cafés, somewhere like Brew in Wimbledon Village, where you can spread out the papers and supplements and take your time, ordering several dishes and sharing with your friends. -And morning meals in the form of breakfast and brunch are making a comeback. Hence the reason I started this blog.

I hope you agree with me, whether it's breakfast or brunch it's still the most important meal of the day.

Over the next few weeks I'm going to be bringing you my New York experience included my foodie visit to Balthazar, Dominique Ansel's Bakery (home of the Cronut) and some lesser known cafés. But until then, here's a selection of instagrams of your resident Breakfast Brit playing tourist in the Big Apple.

A photo posted by Caroline Baldwin (@breakfastatcarolines) on

A photo posted by Caroline Baldwin (@breakfastatcarolines) on

A photo posted by Caroline Baldwin (@breakfastatcarolines) on

A photo posted by Caroline Baldwin (@breakfastatcarolines) on

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Breakfast at Jackson + Rye, London

I went for breakfast at Jackson + Rye one drizzly weekday morning when the surroundings of Soho were looking even more little neglected and sorry for itself thanusual. Nestled between empty bars and a stones throw away from Piccadilly Circus, the outside of this American diner was pretty nondescript.

I thought it was going to be yet another US novelty with brightly coloured menus and waffles as large as your head. But this was more Delaunay than Breakfast Club. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t as posh as the classic Viennese Café - no silver teapots or tuxedo-clad waiters, but Jackson + Rye was definitely a cut above the rest when it comes to American Diners in London.

In fact it is probably the closest I’ve come to an American restaurant in the UK, with its dark panelling, leather booths, ceilings fans and soft lighting. 

You still had the white diner-style mugs, but instead of a greasy table top and paper napkin holders, there was crisp white linens.

The menu was also sophisticated with the traditional buttermilk pancakes as well as eggs of all shapes and sizes, including avocado royale, prison eggs (scramble eggs with japaleno), anglers eggs (with smoked salmon).

We started off with juices, coffees and a side of peanut popcorn crunch (1.50), which came in a little pan on a dainty paper doiley. A tasty snack, with a slightly burnt caramel flavour, we tucked in while choosing our breakfasts.

After deliberation I decided on the salt beef hash (8.25), while my colleagues chose the avocado benedict (7.95) and the avocado royale (8.50). 

When my hash arrived, I was a little disappointed as I expected to taste more of the shredded salt beef, but it got lost under the creamy hollandaise sauce and poached eggs which were sat ontop of the country style potatoes with a side of kale. At least the kale made me think that the dish was ever so slightly healthy. 

By comparison, my colleagues' dishes arrived, and I had a little food envy. A whole avocado each was filled with smoked salmon or ham topped with two poached eggs and golden hollandaise, served with a side of crunchy grilled toast. From the looks on their faces while they ate, I will definitely be trying this avocado specialty the next time I visit. 

Conclusion - A rare piece of American sophistication in the heart of Soho. 

56 Wardour Street
0207 437 8338
(Branches also in Richmond and West London)

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Breakfast at the Duck & Waffle, London

The Duck & Waffle has been at the top of my breakfast to-do list for a long time, and just before Christmas I had the chance to whiz 40 floors above London to experience this much talked about restaurant.

Sadly, the weather wasn't on our side, as the usually magnificent views were no where to be seen as London was engulfed in fog - it was like we were sat inside a Tupperware box.

But the food on the other hand definitely didn't disappoint.

My friend and I couldn't decide on a breakfast each from the tantalising menu, so we decided to share two. First up was the iconic duck and waffle itself, sat on the most striking plate I have ever seen in a restaurant.

The Duck & Waffle is open 24 hours, and is known for bankers rocking on up at all hours to order this indulgent treat. 

And I couldn't go to the Duck & Waffle without trying its signature dish. The firm waffle soaked up the mustard maple syrup, while balancing on top was the crispy, moist duck leg confit (who has duck for breakfast? I do apparently!), set off by the most golden, shimmering duck egg. It is a truly special meal, which I thought couldn't be beaten - that was until the next dish arrived. 

Next up was the duck egg en cocotte...

Baked eggs has long been my favourite breakfast dish to whip up at home, but I haven't ever tried to incorporate wild mushrooms, gruyère and shaved truffles. My God! What a treat. The gooey, creamy eggs arrived nestled in their very own skillet which was sat on a wooden board accompanied by toast soldiers standing boldly at attention. 

We greedily dipped the soldiers into the duck eggs, breaking the golden yolks which seeped into the cream, both of us making 'Mmmm-ing' noises as we slurped and tried to eat the mushrooms while keeping our dignity - not easy when it tastes this good and is rather messy.

And not to name drop, but executive chef Dan Doherty popped out to say hello to my friend, and when I'm complimented him on the duck egg en cocotte, he described this masterpiece in a much simpler way than I could: "Eggs and cream, what more do you need?" he said to me - well apparently truffles, I thought. 

I couldn't quite get my head around the decor in the Duck & Waffle. It's elegant, and modern, while brash and in your face with splashes of blood red on the ceiling of the open kitchen and the staff shirts. As you pass the bar area, there is even one wall which is covered graffiti - it's definitely trying to make a statement, I'm just not sure what that is.

I absolutely can't wait to go again and try more on the brunch menu. I hear the spicy ox cheek doughnut with apricot jam and smoked paprika sugar is to die for, but unfortunately wasn't being served on a weekday morning.

Duck & Waffle
110 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AY
+44 203 640 7310