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Kick start your day with a good breakfast

Reunion Breakfast

Forty years ago, on the first day of college, I met Paula. We were about 18, two sheltered Catholic girls who were looking forward to lives filled with excitement. Well, we got that, with a lot more to come.

Paula lives in Denver now. I hadn’t seen her for a few years. On a trip East this week, we fell right back into the old rhythms. Today, we wandered over to Roosevelt Island on a foggy, drizzly morning, a perfect backdrop to visiting the ruins of the Smallpox Hospital.

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We couldn’t eat our picnic breakfast on the actual Four Freedoms Park grounds, but there were tables set out by the East River, so we sat and reminisced and caught up and saw what’s new on the Long Island City side.

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It was like those groggy college mornings, after long nights of studying and laughing and arguing and sharing, where we fueled ourselves for another day of pushing forward into a future filled with promise.

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Home or Away?

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Yes, it’s Saturday, and a holiday weekend no less, but I have to spend a few hours at the office. In that neighborhood, we have a Crumbs Bake Shop, a Pret-a-Manger, a Chipotle, a Europa Cafe…which to choose for something delicious? Hmmm…burrito or Girl Scout Chocolate PB Creme cupcake?

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An egg-and-bacon breakfast baguette or blueberry yogurt parfait?

Each of these choices is over 400 calories (a fully loaded burrito is more like 900!) If I make a poached egg on a grilled tomato with whole wheat toast, it’s only 350.

Say it with me now: It’s always best to eat at home!

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For lots of delicious ideas for breakfasts under 400 calories, go to 3 Fat Chicks!

 

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Cook for Yourself

There’s a new restaurant in our neighborhood, The Trend Diner, which looks worth trying, though it’s certainly not inexpensive. I wish them the best; the odds of surviving the first year are not as bad as rumor has it, according to RestaurantOwner.com, but they’re pretty steep.

But what diner can top this?

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The best Atlantic salmon, cured to perfection, cooked in a fresh scrambled egg, served straight from the skillet on a toasted whole wheat bagel, seasoned to taste.

And I get to eat it while listening to the music of my choice, in my stocking feet, while I chat with Gracie, probably the most fun conversation I’ll have all day. DSC00018Of course, we’ll all be talking about what we did over Christmas vacation. I can say I saw “Inside Llewyn Davis,” but I can’t say I loved it. Llewyn, depressed for good reasons, is also mean and demanding. I think of Johnny Depp’s character in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” Depressed, hell yes, but also loving and thoughtful. Well, that’d never be a Coen brothers movie. I love “O Brother Where Are Thou?” which is so original and the music is gorgeous. This music is good, but not as rich. The supporting cast is, as usual with the Coens, just beyond perfect. Mike’s parents?! They added the kindness and compassion the younger characters hadn’t learned yet.

Llewyn did make a mean plate of scrambled eggs, though!

 

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Breakfast Meeting–Maialino

Jacqui Small, a book packager and publisher with the most exquisite taste in home design books and cookbooks, also has an eye for warm, hospitable, satisfying-in-every-way breakfast spots. I was lucky to be invited to meet with her this morning at Maialino.

Street level in the Gramercy Park Hotel, Lexington Avenue @ 21st Street, NYC

Street level in the Gramercy Park Hotel, Lexington Avenue @ 21st Street, NYC

I was grumpy earlier, not looking forward to starting the workday, but one hour with this delightful Englishwoman, a couple of cups of pressed Colombian coffee, and a serving of Maialino’s soft, juicy scrambled eggs changed my whole attitude. We commiserated on publishing’s sorry state of affairs while she walked me through her next few books.  They’re so pretty to look at, so contemporary, and so useful for creating a life of relaxed grace, energetic creativity, and fun.

This is one of her previous books, a multiple award winner–mmmmmm!

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Jacqui is an inspiration: if she thinks a book’s subject is valuable, she supports the author with all her experience, creative talents, and marketing savvy. Now that’s a lesson for life…talk about valuable!

 

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Breakfast in Princeton

PJ’s Pancake House in Princeton is not just for breakfast anymore. Had a delicious panini mid-afternoon in this classic diner.

154 Nassau Street

154 Nassau Street

Chuck, his lifelong friend Tom, and I walked all over the Princeton University campus and up to the graduate college which I’d never seen. For this woman who spent a formative year at Oxford University, it was neo-Gothic heaven. The two quads at the graduate college are as close to those at Oxford’s as I’ve seen here. Gorgeous even in almost-winter. We couldn’t get into Proctor Hall which is a shame, but that’ll be something to look forward to. Tom took us into the Dean’s garden, a formal space next to the graduate dean’s residence. At the center where two paths cross is a sundial; against the brick wall is a beautiful stone fountain…just magical! The trees were still brilliantly colored and it was stone-cold silent.

For Chuck, who grew up here, it was a surprise, a first! He’d biked all over that campus, played with his nephews on all its green spaces, breakfast many times at PJ’s with Grandma Hoffman, but he’d never seen that garden. And he’s grown up to have an amazing green thumb. Life is funny that way.

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TGIF Treat–Pumpkin Croissant

This is really the beginning of a tale of two bakeries. On West 72nd Street, I walk by Rigoletto, a pizza and bakery, which has just recently started offering breakfast. Their display of artisan breads in the front window is inviting. The dark room behind the window, always empty in the morning (though I suspect it is a madhouse after school), is not.

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141 West 72nd Street, NYC

A few doors down the street, Aroma Espresso Bar, a chain coffee house open between 7 a.m. and 11p.m., is brightly lit and always busy. It’s got a European feel that exudes energy.

161 West 72nd Street, NYC

161 West 72nd Street, NYC

This morning, I stopped in to Rigoletto for a pastry and came out with not only a large pumpkin croissant dotted generously with dried pumpkin seeds, but a spinach-ricotta empanada for lunch. The woman at the counter was friendly and the croissant was fresh and subtly flavored. I’ll report on the empanada this afternoon, but I’m already thinking of its charms. Total bill: $5.75.

How would I improve the breakfast business at Rigoletto? First, I’d offer free food for a limited time (up to a certain amount) to locals to get some bodies in there before 9 a.m. I’d turn up the lights before then, too. And I’d offer a special on a breakfast treat and empanada…two meals for one low price.

Next week…what pheromone does Aroma secrete that draws people to it?

 

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Eating Breakfast Out–Upper East Side

If you’re here on the Upper East Side of Manhattan around East 72nd Street to visit a friend at New York Hospital, to see an exhibition at the Whitney, or to watch the NYC marathon, there are breakfast options galore.

Our “local,” Finnegans Wake on First Avenue at 73rd Street makes a delicious Irish fry of eggs, bacon, white and black sausage, and scones. Here are Chuck and Grace at an outside table a few summers ago. If this pub weren’t here, I’d have to open it. It’s everything a pub should be: friendly, cozy, and damn-near cell-phone free!

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If you’re a coffee lover, you’ll want to pop into Java Girl on East 66th Street between First and Second Avenues. This has the vibe of a 1950s East Village “club,” tiny tables, a cushioned window seat, lots of rough ceramics for sale. I could spend hours in here–and have!

If you crave a classic NYC diner experience, The Green Kitchen on First Avenue at 77th Street will oblige (down to service with a snarl, according to some reviews on-line, though I’ve never had that happen). It’s been there since the 1940s, was renovated a couple of years ago, and I’ve used it as a treat after running around the Reservoir in Central Park. Nobody cares if you’re in sweaty running clothes.

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Finally, le hot hot hot boite for UES breakfast: Maison Kayser  on Third Avenue at 74th Street. Such a pretty looking French patisserie, but since the wait to get in has always seemed an eternity, I haven’t been able to try it. Tout le monde of the young parent set has to be seen here with beautifully dressed infants in tow.  If you can’t bear the wait but want an incomparable French nibble, you can walk down to Ladurée on Madison Avenue between 71st and 72nd Street for macarons.

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I’m so hungry now, I’m going to head to The Green Kitchen, Saturday Times in hand, for an order of Adam and Eve on a raft, burn the British.

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