I bet you’ve never contemplated that profound culinary truth. Nor had I until I read “Breakfast, Reconsidered,” an article in last week’s New York Times Dining section.
The philosopher, so to speak, was Pichet Ong, chef-owner of P*ong, a trend-setting restaurant in Manhattan’s West Village.
"It makes sense to use the same ingredient pantry for breakfast and dessert,” said Mr. Ong, who tops chocolate-oatmeal cupcakes with browned butter butter cream frosting with bacon fat and maple syrup.
Of course, eating 7 AM food at 7 PM isn’t a totally new concept. The NYT article, by Julia Moskin, recounted how Thomas Keller of French Laundry fame was gobbling doughnuts out of a paper bag and drinking a cup of coffee in 1991 when he mused “What could I possibly make that’s better that this doughnut and coffee?”
The answer was “Nothing.” And the result was the warm cinnamon doughnuts served with cappuccino semifreddo that helped put the trend-setting French Laundry on the map.
Diners who dig into pastry chef Ryan Witcher’s Vanilla Dusted Donuts for Two at the new Seattle Four Seasons' ART restaurant are likely to say the same thing. There’s nothing better than these yeasty poufs of dough, pictured above (photo by Amos Morgan), that are served with fromage blanc sorbet and a pomegranate compote (sometimes Oregon rhubarb is used instead). I found the combo irresistible as I dipped the hot, delicate donuts into, first, the sweet-tangy sorbet and then into the tart, richly textured compote.
The elegant morsels were an exciting exclamation point on a dinner that included a sensational Truffled Beef Tartare (the minced mound was patted with a wispy thin crust of ground truffles and truffle oil, served with crackly truffled toasts and accompanied by a cool celery salad that balanced the richness); and a brilliant roast lamb loin that was similarly enrobed, this time in a fine fresh herb crust, and paired with garlic, olives, rosemary and creamy Greek yogurt. Take a look at chef Kerry Sear’s menu at the Four Seasons Seattle Web site.
Two nights later, while dining at Seattle’s Tavolata, I found precious little donuts doing dessert duty again.
Dubbed Zeppole, these were light and puffy Italians balls of fried dough. This Roman-Neapolitan specialty often have ricotta cheese incorporated into the dough and are dusted with powdered sugar.
At Tavolata, the baubles are lemon-scented and luscious.
Tavolata is a hip, happening spot in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood. I love its urban, “industrial” décor, it’s 30-foot communal table, its “join-the-party” buzz, and, most of all, its out-of-this-world Beet Salad (with walnuts, vinaigrette and Cana de Cabra Spanish goat cheese) and its Butternut Squash Agnolotti with sage and brown butter.
But, back to darling donuts and other yummy things that both open and close a day with style.
NYT reporter Moskin regaled readers with several other examples of pastry chefs around the country “strip-mining the entire breakfast menu, transforming greasy-spoon staples into minutely detailed desserts.”
Panna cotta that tastes like the milk in the bottom of the cereal bowl.
Ice cream flecked with tiny cubes of caramelized French toast.
Orange-oatmeal crème brulee served in an eggshell.
Clearly, the best part of waking up --- and going to sleep --- is breakfast.