by Susan Hamilton & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & O & lt;/span & ne of the things I love about going out to breakfast is that it gets me out of the house earlier than usual, out into the clear morning air before I've had a chance to fully awaken. So I floated in a pleasing foggy dream space, the alpha waves still a happy echo, as I made my way to Browne's Addition last week to meet Marty, Luke and Doug for our editors' breakfast.
Need coffee to jumpstart the body and the brain, I thought as I crossed Cannon Street. And the eyes -- gotta get them to focus.
Luckily, the sunny tangerine-hued north wall inside Caf & eacute; Marron helped open up my eyes so I could take in the full breakfast menu. The caf & eacute; serves the kind of breakfast daily that you'd expect to find at an indulgent weekend brunch. Not everything is fancy, mind you -- breakfast classics like eggs, bacon, toast and even oatmeal have a place -- but they take care with the presentation to lift even the most prosaic breakfast standard above the ordinary. And there are surprises: how many places offer Caesar salad, a Reuben or a burger for breakfast?
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & W & lt;/span & e gathered at the large round oilcloth-covered table in the center of the room. Our server brought water and coffees as requested, giving us plenty of time to settle on our choices amid greetings and conversation. Once we got organized and placed our orders, we had only a short wait before our meals arrived.
Like the veteran newsman he is, Doug got straight to the facts of his breakfast, the French toast ($8), wrapping up with a brief but insightful analysis. "The [six] pieces are pinwheeled and dotted with granola and little pieces of apple," he says. "Maple syrup mixed with the apple-cinnamon sauce that was ladled over the toast, and it was topped with a dollop of whipped cream. It's an $8 dish, which is pretty pricey for French toast, but it was really good. Lovely presentation."
Marty, on the other hand, placed his experience within a cultural context not just of breakfasts, but of dining establishments in general. "My philosophy with restaurants is that I will pitch my expectations based on their apparent expectations for me as a customer," he says. "In a well-worn diner, I expect to keep my dining to a well-worn path. In an inviting and indulgent place like Marron, I'm invited to indulge myself. The staff and the menu were incredibly responsive to my hideously pretentious breakfast needs, which included granola and yogurt ($6), a side order of French toast ($5), coffee, bottled water at room temperature (they had Pellegrino) and a pomegranate mimosa ($5) -- a big treat to find, since I normally don't start my day that way. So not only did the restaurant accommodate my needs, but it also carried them further and surprised me."
Of the meal itself, Marty says, "The granola and yogurt was plain, with no fruit. The honey on the table wasn't quite as luxurious as the rest of the meal, but the pure maple syrup that came with my French toast was a perfect sweetener for the granola. On the French toast itself, the whipped topping melting on the apple- and egg-encrusted pieces of bread was all the accompaniment needed."
Now, I have my own share of breakfast pretensions, and one of them is that I like to have vegetables for breakfast. (It's the last vestige of my brief fling with the South Beach Diet.) At Caf & eacute; Marron, the breakfast entr & eacute;es come with a choice of potatoes (reds or fries), sliced tomatoes or mixed greens, so I dined with less guilt. My avocado sandwich ($9) was served open-faced on a bright blue plate, with two poached eggs shimmying atop slices of avocado, bacon and tomato, all on a slice of toast made with Bouzies bread. The side of sliced tomatoes added another color accent. The egg yolks were just past the point of being runny, but they were still soft enough to blend with the other layers. It was a beautiful, colorful structure. Once I cut into it, deconstruction happened quickly -- but the warmth of the egg contrasted nicely with the cool tomato and avocado, and the bacon added just the right note of salty earthiness.
Luke opted for the Coeur d'Alene Park scramble ($10), one of those old-fashioned breakfast classics -- and he was not without a philosophy, either. "While Marty went the demand-as-much-as-possible-from-your-restaurant route, I took the simplest thing on the menu," he says. "Scrambles are kinda hard to screw up. They're also tough to do really well. Sausage, peppers and mushrooms are a pretty standard way to start, and that's what Marron does with their Coeur d'Alene Park version. All they add is a smattering of sausage gravy. It's that restraint that elevated their scramble above the masses." It wasn't the best scramble he's had, he says, but it "gave the simple flavors room to breathe without drowning them in gravy or cheese."
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & C & lt;/span & af & eacute; Marron has been a restaurant in search of an identity, but since starting up the weekday breakfast run, it seems to have settled into a groove as a casual-yet-upscale neighborhood gathering place. A good cross-section of neighborhood folks wandered in while we were there. And I like a menu that defies the egg-meat-starch stranglehold on what constitutes breakfast. Other cultures enjoy lots of different foods for the first meal of the day -- why not us?
The guys took off for meetings and appointments, leaving me to sip the last of my coffee (4 Seasons) in peace while soaking up the atmosphere. As I left, the sun was shining brightly, the birds were singing in the bare trees overhead, and the cool morning air held out optimism for spring. What better way to ease into a workday?