Post # 352 The Breakfast Bar to End All Breakfast Bars

March 18, 2015 at 11:39 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 352 The Breakfast Bar to End All Breakfast Bars

I’ve travelled a lot, and most of the hotels I’ve stayed at had their own setup for the “breakfast bar.”  Here in America, when an affordable hotel says that breakfast is provided, I usually find a very small spread of mini muffins, bread for toast, small packets of cereal, sometimes oranges and/or bananas, and water/coffee/milk.  Definitely high on the carbs and sugars, low on the nutrition scale, unless you’re very careful.  Once in a while, I’d find hot offerings, such as instant oatmeal, or sausages, but very seldom unless I was at a place that offered room service and was willing to spend the bucks and the time for it.

In Mexico, the breakfast bar was usually chock full of the American carbs, but also heavy on local delicacies, as well.  Since this was food I’d grown up on, I was always happy to load my plate with juevos rancheros and tortillas and refried beans.  Good stuff.  When I was in Laos, it always seemed like the breakfast spread was anything leftover from the dinner menu the night before, plus fruit.

In Sri Lanka, the breakfast bar took up an entire dining room and while the choices were limited, there was tons of it.  There would be hundreds of sausages, pounds of bacon, dozens of hard cooked eggs, plus every kind of bread you could think of.  Enough fruit to fill an orchard.  I watched one man stand in front of the juice dispenser and fill his glass and drink it three times.  The trouble was, there were other people wanting to get to the machine and he wouldn’t move.  A waiter finally had to ask him to take a seat.

I found that the more international the hotel was, the better the breakfast bar was going to be, until you hit a point where breakfast wasn’t offered at all, except by room service.  Those were the places where you ordered your breakfast the night before and had it delivered at whatever time you chose.

There were three places that stand out in my memory as having the best breakfast buffets ever.  The first was in Frankfurt, Germany.  It was a smaller dining room, but the spread was lavish.  As soon as you sat down, the wait staff would be right at your elbow asking what you’d like to drink and if you had stayed more than a couple of days, already had your beverage of choice ready.  They had all kinds of meats, breads, eggs, cereals, fruit, anything you could think of.  This was where one of my colleagues earned the nickname “Egg Wrester.”  Every morning, he would get two hard boiled eggs, but could never peel the shells properly so by the time he was done, he was usually left with the yolk and a small amount of egg white.  Sometimes, I or another person would take the eggs from him and peel them so he would stop complaining about them.  We always managed to peel them perfectly.  We never did figure out what he was doing wrong.

China was another place where the breakfast buffet was above average, no matter which city or hotel I was staying in.  They had every food item and cooking style imaginable.  They had stations where you could have omelets made to order, or waffles, pancakes, or any other griddle food.  And it was always high quality stuff, too.  I always tried to stretch my culinary wings at places like this and tried local delicacies along with my standards.  China was on of the few places I could freshly cooked American style donuts for breakfast.  Another colleague told me how another colleague had wanted more bacon, but they were out, so he asked for a few more pieces to be brought to him.  They brought out the whole tray before they put it on the table and let him help himself.  I’m told he took about half, but I didn’t see it.

However, for my money, nothing beat the spread we were treated to in Helsinki, Finland.  It wasn’t hugely massive, although it was larger than I was used.  But the sheer variety of items was almost overwhelming.  They had fresh cooked meats, preserved meats, fresh fruits, dried fruits, breads of all kinds (fresh and rusked), spreads of every imaginable type and flavor.  To save money, one of my colleagues would grab a large bun, some cheese, some preserved meat and make a huge sandwich for lunch and take it to work with her.  I nearly always snagged an apple to keep with me in case I wanted it later.  It was in Helsinki that I was introduced to muesli.

Muesli is a breakfast or snack food that’s basically dried granola and fruit served like cereal.

Museli

Developed in the 1900s, like many foods, its exact ingredients are as individual as the person putting them together.  However, what I had in Finland was sweetened dried grains, dried fruit, fresh fruit over thick, creamy, tangy yogurt.  That’s how I’ve seen it most of the time.  I haven’t really thought about it in years except in passing when I’m in a store and I see small tubs of yogurt with granola cups attached to them.  Then I remember muesli and its rising popularity, and go on my way.

Until last night.  Partner/Spouse and I were watching a PBS cooking show called New Scandinavian Cooking.  There are two hosts, each with their own style and brand.  Last night, the guy was showing us how to cook “farm to table” for kids.  The first thing he cooked was muesli.  And he did it in a way I’ve never seen.  He made it from scratch.  Well, except the yogurt.

He had the kids go out to the garden and pull up their favorite vegetables.  They got three different kinds of carrots, and something called Parsley root, which also looked like a carrot.  Who knew there was more than just the orange carrot we see in America, huh?  Well, actually, I did, but I’ve never used them.  He chopped the carrots and root into bite sized chunks, then peeled an apple and did the same thing.  Then he roasted them in a hot oven for about a half hour until they started to turn brown at the edges.  Roasting any vegetable intensifies the flavor, but roasted carrots also turn sweeter than you’d ever imagine.  While the veggies were roasting, he took a cup of spelt, a common wheat varietal that tastes a little sweeter and nuttier than standard wheat, and toasted that with some sweet seasonings for about fifteen minutes.  Once everything was roasted and toasted, he allowed them to cool and crisp up.  Then he put plain greek-style yogurt in a bowl, and put a small amount of the roasted veggies on top.  Then he sprinkled the spelt over it and then drizzled raw honey over it, not a lot, but enough to add a counter flavor to the tang of the yogurt.

You never saw kids eat anything so fast!  They loved it.  The fact that they had picked and sliced and chopped the veggies (And I Helped!) made a lot of difference, I think.  I’m probably going to try this.  If you do, let me know how it turns out.

Enjoy

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