Category Archives: Breakfast

Village Baking Co: Aromas that rekindle childhood

Some of my earliest, fondest memories are of passing over U.S. Highway 75 on Mockingbird Lane in Dallas. The reason wasn’t the not-yet-existent Mockingbird Station or the La Madeleine that’s still there. It’s something much simpler.

The smell of baking bread is something that goes through your nose and fills your body with comfort – and it’s something you don’t want to let go.

Village Baking Co. is on University Boulevard in between Central Expressway and Greenville Avenue, releasing the sweet smells of baking daily. (Credit: Facebook)

Village Baking Co. is on University Boulevard in between Central Expressway and Greenville Avenue, releasing the sweet smells of baking daily. (Credit: Facebook)

Of course, the Mrs. Baird’s bakery that was once on that southwest corner is long gone. But what still gives me that warm feeling on an afternoon drive is a local bakery that opened up on my route home not too long ago.

Village Baking Co. is, unfortunately, no real local secret. It isn’t terribly packed, but it surely is getting attention with the growing number of farmers markets its products are getting into. Step in the University Boulevard shop on a Saturday morning and you’re greeted with a smile from someone behind an island topped with baked goods, but you’ll be waiting a bit to order your sweet breakfast.

Village Baking Co. scones

The size, taste and soft density of the scones at Village Baking Co. make for a hearty breakfast (or afternoon snack). Photo by Taylor Adams

For that meal, the scone is a safe bet. Any flavor available that day is lively enough to keep you full for the morning. The cranberry scone has a subtle flavor that comes out in every bite of the bread that has a crunchy exterior and soft, dense inside. It’s delightful, warm, and sweetly satisfying.

Another expected option on this wooden table of baked assortments are croissants: plain, au chocolat, and ham and cheese. In my visits there, the ham and gruyere croissant was the most popular order by most people around me. I always go for the pain au chocolate. This one is fine, but doesn’t strike me as terribly fresh, even as it takes me to a sidewalk cafe in France or to any other scenario that evokes French delicacies.

Village Baking Co. croissants

The array of croissants will give you plenty of options. The chocolate is fine, but the plain will give you a bit more satisfaction. Photo by Taylor Adams

There’s a crisp exterior; the inside is soft and delicate, but it’s a bit dry, as is the tiny bar of chocolate that runs throughout it. I’ll go for a ham and cheese next time, but the plain croissant does come out in a manner that seems fresh – just as you would expect from the aroma that fills this space. It’s smooth on the inside, subtly sweet, and one just won’t be enough.

But it’s not all sweetness in this tiny bakery. Its breads are worth the carbohydrates, too. The white sandwich rolls couldn’t be softer: they’re simple, but the freshest you’re going to get around here.

I’ll surely try a baguette on my next visit. Sitting in a wicker basket nestled in the east-facing window, they look like perfection, and they sound like they must be fresh. On a recent visit, a customer asked for one of the tall baguettes – the woman behind the large island reached up for one – “Oh! Still hot!”

Really? I need to get myself one of those.

Village Baking Co.Village Baking Co.
Location: 5531 E. University Blvd. in Dallas, 75206
Contact: 214-265-1170, villagebakingco.comFacebook, Twitter and Instagram
Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily
Service: friendly and fast
Ambiance: naturally-lit and spacious inside, picnic tables full of breakfast-eaters outside
Payment information: major credit cards accepted

Want to catch them at a farmers market? It shouldn’t be too hard. This Saturday, you can find them at those for Coppell, McKinney, White Rock, Collin County, Saint Michaels, Rockwall, Frisco, Little Elm and Keller.

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A granola that makes a sizable impact

Plenty of people would get excited for pie. Probably more would be excited for cupcakes. But what about cereal? Better yet, what about granola?

Impact Foods has granola that can get you excited for cereal again. (Photos by TAYLOR ADAMS)

Impact Foods has granola that can get you excited for cereal again. (Photos by TAYLOR ADAMS)

There’s more than one reason I can get behind any flavor of Impact Foods’ granola. For one, the Dallas-based business is headed up by two SMU grads. Second, they’re the Tom’s Shoes of cereal: buy one $5.83 bag, and they’ll supply a meal to a starving child.

As someone who has seen hungry children on the streets of Haiti, this idea hits home for me. To read more about how Uptown residents Ben Hurt and Blaine Iler are making a difference, check out this story on them from neighborsgo.

Now, $5.83 is worth supplying food for a child, but it’s more than warranted when you get something you can’t stop eating in return.

For a while, I’ve heard that these small bags of granola were amazing — either in a bowl with milk or scooped straight out of the bag with your bare hand. When I say, “amazing,” this is a word that came from others’ testimonies. That’s an extreme statement. So when a coworker plopped a couple of bags in the food-to-share area of our office, I thought I wasn’t missing much by skipping the cereal for an afternoon snack.

Finally, about a month later, I couldn’t resist the urge to open up my own bag when Lindsey Miller, who handles public relations for Impact Foods, handed me to flavors to try.

The blueberry-honey granola is packed with clusters and a fitting breakfast food.

The blueberry-honey granola is packed with clusters and a fitting breakfast food.

I started with the blueberry-honey granola, which offers suited tastes for a morning meal. The bits of blueberry make you think of summer, and the honey isn’t just a slight sweetness, you can really taste it. This one is mostly clusters, while the other bag had lots of oats.

This other bag also had a flavor listed on the bag that I was less than excited about: pumpkin spice. The two words may get you excited — you want pumpkin everything once a chill finally comes to the Dallas air. And, I’m not totally excluded; I’ll have one pumpkin spice latte once Starbucks starts promoting them. I’m also a fan of the occasional cinnamon-pumpkin pancake. But this flavor of autumn has penetrated almost anything it can, with poor executions all over the place.

So, pumpkin spice and granola? I wasn’t setting the bar high. I also intended to share it, until I tried some.

The pumpkin spice granola has oats and pumpkin seeds--all of which you'll want to consume.

The pumpkin spice granola has oats and pumpkin seeds–all of which you’ll want to consume.

I almost had no control. The flavor is delectable, but subtle. There isn’t an overwhelming, almost- heat of a spice, but a sweet warmth that has plenty of sugar and cinnamon. While the honey-blueberry granola is an ideal breakfast, this would be a good choice for dessert.

Impact Foods has the pumpkin spice for the season. Its other, year-long flavors include maple oat and vanilla almond, which I already have confidence in.

If the taste isn't enough, the fact that Impact Foods gives back for every bag purchased will interest you.

If the taste isn’t enough, the fact that Impact Foods gives back for every bag purchased will interest you.

Impact Foods
Impact Foods granola is vailable at stores such as EatZi’s and Whole Foods; you can also visit the Impact Foods website to order online and see what other local stores carry the product.

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Eggs Florentine offers a savory return to Crossroads

Crossroads Diner is worth revisiting numerous times, even after you’ve managed to write a short review on it.

The pancakes are the perfect flat of puffiness. The Belgian waffles are a delightful excuse for a sweet in the morning. The service is always sincere. But there’s one particular meal that has me wanting to return to the Lake Highlands spot: eggs Florentine.

The perfectly salty eggs florentine at Crossroads is served with crisped hash browns and two sweet pancakes. (Photo by TAYLOR ADAMS)

Under “Other Stuff” toward the bottom of the menu, this unsuspecting meal offers two poached eggs topped with a spinach sauce, all supported by a bed of a sliced English muffin and smoked-pit ham. While it’s not the most photogenic meal, it’s one that has you inhaling its spinach-ham aroma as the plate lands in front of you.
The egg, perfectly poached to the point of being an art form, is the way a morning protein should always be presented. The toasted bread and salted ham beneath it are fine, and highly necessary to have evenly with every bite on the fork. The best part is what truly makes this a Florentine–the spinach sauce. It’s savory enough to be called gravy, but delicate enough to be respectable to eat before 11 a.m.
Sure, sweet breakfast rolls are always safe–just thinking of the frosted cinnamon roll at Mecca or the cinnamon sticky bun at Crossroads can make a person’s mouth water. Who doesn’t love crisp slices of bacon? But this ultra-savory approach to breakfast will have my vote every time.
Crossroads Diner
Location: 8121 Walnut Hill Lane, Suite 1100 in Dallas, 75231, 214-346-3491
Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday – Sunday
Price: $
Ambiance:  Clean, calm and casual
Attire: Casual
Payment Information: Major credit cards accepted
Alcohol: Beer, wine, specialty cocktails

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Brunch menu at the Grape offers more than Texas’ best burger

Brunch may be an excuse for many to drink alcohol in the morning, but it can also serve as an opportunity to indulge just a little bit more in the meal than a typical breakfast. At least, that’s what I liked to think as I sat on the misted patio of The Grape Restaurant recently.

Everyone knows the amazement that the cheeseburger here introduces, so it was time to look at some other options. This brunch menu gives plenty of items that venture off from the typical brunch meals, making for descriptions of actually fine cuisine. So when I ended up choosing the Belgian waffle that sounded quite typical, I wasn’t sure what I was thinking. My regret soon left me after it arrived.

The Grape’s Belgian waffle, topped with whipped cream, strawberries and pecans and served with a side of bacon. (Photo by TAYLOR ADAMS)

For the longest time, Crossroads Diner had my taste buds for the best waffle in Dallas. Soon after my fork dug in between strawberries, and pecans through whipped cream and finally into the griddled batter, my choice would have to change. The strawberries and pecans were fine, perfectly sliced and generously tossed onto the meal—already out showing many waffle presentations. Paired with the whipped cream alone, they could have made a meal. Normally, whipped cream won’t be missed if it’s brushed off the top of the waffle, but this fresh fluffiness would go to such waste on the side of the plate.

The waffle batter was more complex than others, with a true sweetness that probably could have gone without syrup. This is by no means an adventurous menu item; but it’s definitely a standard one with a fine execution. One fault, however, is that the waffle was cold. It wasn’t chilled, but it had no sign of having been warm in even the 10 minutes prior to being placed on the table.

There are plenty of places that serve adequate bacon; many of these are slices of apple-wood bacon. So it was an odd surprise when the bacon on the side of this waffle surpassed so many others. The taste was fairly typical, but the slices were incredibly thin and crunched to perfection.

The breakfast on a bun at The Grape Restaurant. (Photo by MICHAEL DANSER)

On the other side of the menu is the breakfast on a bun. Two eggs are cooked over medium and paired with sausage and American cheese on pain au lait bun. A cup of fruit and a side of hot sauce are served with the glorified egg sandwich. Perhaps sandwich isn’t the best label as a fork and knife is necessary to consume this. The sausage is good, nothing thrilling, and the bread is impressively hearty and slightly sweet—almost too much so for the meal inside of it. If ordering again, I’ll be switching out the cheese. The American, while a fine choice for a burger, takes this meal down a notch, holding it back from being something of an interesting taste and bringing it closer to an Egg McMuffin (on superb bread, of course).

If the brunch party’s large enough, the cinnamon pull-aparts look like a good choice to start (or end) the meal. The fried polenta cheese fritters serve as another acceptable start or companion, especially if you plan on indulging on the waffle. Topped with sour cream, cotija cheese and sriracha, these golden rectangles seem more adventurous, but not exciting after finishing the first one.

The Grape’s fried polenta cheese fritters, topped with sour cream and sriracha. (Photo by TAYLOR ADAMS)

The Grape is great beyond brunch, of course. If church keeps you away from the one day this restaurant offers the brunch menu, go on any night. The cozy, intimate interior of the restaurant provides the perfect space for a fine bistro meal of mussels and pommes frites.

The Grape Restaurant
Location: 2808 Greenville Ave. in Dallas; 214-828-1981
Hours: Happy hour: 4:30 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Dinner: 5:30 p.m. nightly. Brunch: 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.
Price: $$
Ambiance: Intimate dining on the inside easily transcends to the patio of small tables
Attire: Dressy
Payment Information: Major credit cards accepted
Alcohol: Beer and wine served

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Crossroads griddles a waffle to perfection, has weak attempt with chicken-fried steak

When a restaurant has “diner” in its name, you might think of a small, grungy joint that serves up the best sausage gravy in town. You might not picture a diner taking up two floors of what used to be a Cantina Laredo on the side of Walnut Hill Lane in Lake Highlands.

Even if the name might not seem the most fitting for Crossroads Diner, it doesn’t mean the locally owned restaurant can’t deliver a satisfying breakfast to fill you up (with both sustenance and possibly guilt) for the rest of the day.

Blueberry pancakes with applewood-smoked bacon at Crossroads Diner. Photo by Taylor Adams

The space of the main dining area (the entire bottom floor) is open, with the ceiling going the full two stories for most of it. With its fresh paint job, the room seems airy, making the wait that’s sure to be there on a Saturday seem less crowded.

On the right side of the menu are items for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The list of sandwiches appears adequate (though it could use a club sandwich).

“Diner Classics” listed on the bottom include a macaroni and cheese, meatloaf and chicken picatta (which is a lemon-caper standard, of course, just not for a diner).

Also under this header is the chicken-fried steak and eggs. This flavorless strip of cheap meat cannot be saved by the attempt of the crispy batter around it. The plate also came out with a small, shriveled piece of the meat on it disguised in extra cooked batter—enough for breakfast, but the wait staff wouldn’t let it pass.

The chicken-fried steak and eggs with hash browns at Crossroads Diner. Photo by Michael Danser

Even after saying, “We’re in a hurry, we don’t want another slab of flavorless and fattening chicken-fried steak,” we got a second plate of gravy-covered chicken fried steak. The persistence wasn’t necessary, but the box to go would be.

The service is adequate in its attentiveness. Tom Fleming runs the kitchen while his wife, Karen, can be found rushing around the floor with a smile on her face most of the time. She once comped our meals only because she had to have us move tables.

The left side of the menu is filled with the expected breakfast items and a list of frittatas.

Every so often, a group at a table is brave enough to order the cinnamon sticky bun, which causes some embarrassment when it comes to the table. The embarrassment gets worse, however, when the fork can’t stop pulling the gooey bread apart fast enough.

Biscuits and gravy with eggs and hash browns at Crossroads Diner. Photo by Michael Danser

For too many establishments, biscuits and gravy is a failed attempt before it even reaches the plate. But Crossroads holds its own, with a dense, white biscuit proving sturdy enough to hold the well-seasoned gravy. Only odd thing here is that they come with a lot. Two eggs, toast and pancakes or grits are added on to the biscuits and gravy.

What proves to be a perfectly sized and surprisingly satisfactory breakfast is any waffle in this spot. The high, light and delicate Belgian waffle — whether it’s filled and topped with blueberry, pecans or it’s plan—is soft and airy throughout. And the whipped cream, which has a bit of tartness, spread on top doesn’t hurt either.

The blueberry waffle with a side of sausage at Crossroads Diner. Photo by Taylor Adams

The pancakes are fine, having a density that goes just beyond the perfect consistency that seems to be so easily achieved in other establishments.  But when they’re packed with blueberries, it may be less noticeable.

Sides are all worth ordering. The sausage could use some spice but has a homemade quality to it, making it the perfect addition to a biscuit and gravy. The hash browns are consistently crispy on the outside, encasing steaming, soft shreds of potato. The classic choice is a thick slice of applewood-smoked bacon.

Even with the less-than-adequate chicken-fried steak, this “diner” is worth visiting for a couple of times just to explore the various breakfast opportunities.

Crossroads Diner
Location: 8121 Walnut Hill Lane, Suite 1100 in Dallas, 75231
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., 214-346-3491
Price: $
Ambiance:  Clean, calm and casual
Attire: Casual
Payment Information: Major credit cards accepted
Alcohol: Beer, wine, specialty cocktails

 

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Autumn, pumpkin pancakes return to Café Brazil

As it’s finally October, we’re all hoping that the temperature outside is done reaching triple digits for 2011. Football is the topic of conversation in the office (as are our Rangers!) and I’m hearing more people ordering pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks. But I’m really excited about what one restaurant has on its fall menu, and it starts today.

Cinnamon-pumpkin pancakes with cinnamon butter at Café Brazil (El Gordo crepes in the background). Photo by Taylor Adams

I’m not one to boast about chain restaurants, but at least this one’s a local. Starting in Lakewood in 1991 before branching out in North Texas, Café Brazil is a frequent destination of mine, mostly for breakfast–especially in the fall, when the kitchen starts beating a pumpkin pancake batter.

These pancakes don’t pack the pumpkin-spice kick that a pie will, but I’m not craving that kind of punch first thing in the morning. What these do accomplish, however, is a rich, moist flapjack, with a hint of pumpkin blended with a smooth cinnamon finish. What pushes this breakfast from one to crave to one to order is the butter Café Brazil dollops on top of it: cinnamon butter. It sounds simple, but when smoothed over these pancakes, it brings a sweetness like icing to pumpkin bread.

Oct. 4 also brings the return of the pumpkin cheesecake, an item gracing many dessert menus around town, but one that’s up to par with many of them. Oct. 11 adds even more to the menu with a s’mores latte and something that may replace my pancakes: bananas foster French toast. (I’m refraining from stealing their photos, to see these items and what else will be offered go to Cafe Brazil’s blog.)

Not Just Another eggs Benedict at Café Brazil, topped with a spicy cream sauce instead of the traditional Hollandaise sauce. Photo by Taylor Adams

If your palate isn’t craving autumn spices, you can’t go wrong with the normal menu (breakfast or otherwise), the crepes and French toast won’t disappoint your tastebuds, and there’s no beating that undisclosed recipe of their spicy cream sauce, topping the eggs Benedict or El Gordo Crepes.

Café Brazil
Location:
6420 N. Central Expressway in Dallas, 214-691-7791 (check here for other locations)
Hours: 
Central Expressway location is open 24 hours/seven days a week
Price:
$
Ambiance: Indoor and patio seating. A feeling of a local, grungy and delicious diner.
Attire: Casual
Payment Information: Major credit cards accepted
Alcohol: None–but there is a good coffee bar

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Filed under Breakfast, Dessert, Latin American

Sometimes, it’s ok to have dessert for breakfast

Like a mercedes emblem can do to a vehicle, some Ricotta can make any meal evolve to a more desirable purchase—on pizza, blended into a filling for a cannoli, and especially inside pancakes. A meal that isn’t on enough breakfast menus in Dallas, ricotta pancakes can make the light and fluffy cakes into a rich indulgence. Thankfully, there’s at least one Uptown spot that offers them, and an entire list of other delectable meals to start the day.

Dream Café has a stack of what they call cloud cakes, though I would call these ricotta pancakes to be denser than a white fluff in the sky, especially since they’re topped with a sloppy dollop of crème fraiche and sliced strawberries. Despite the inappropriate name, these are a meal worth ordering (with a side of bacon). I would probably order the stack every time if they knocked off the strawberries and put blueberries inside with an essence of lemon mixed in with that ricotta.

The Sunny Side breakfast at Dream Café.

On the other side of the menu are some combos, one of which, called the Sunny Side, features a classic breakfast of eggs, sausage and bacon with French toast; but this isn’t your average griddled, day-old bread. Of course, the bacon and eggs were prepared to act as suitable co-stars to the sweet breakfast plate. Known for having some healthier options, the menu creators at Dream Café decided to crust this battered bread in granola–a style that is more pleasing than it sounds. For all of those restaurants out there throwing out limp, soggy French toast, all they need to do is throw some granola around it to create this crisp outside that encompasses a soft bread in the middle.
If you do go in for a healthier breakfast, try to the New Yorker, a plate of smoked salmon and a toasted bagel with herbed cream cheese, capers, onion and a side of scrambled egg. OK, so it’s still a plate-full of food, (it doesn’t even have the heart graphic on it that mean’s it’s a “smart choice”) but there has to be less guilt involved that the plate of ricotta pancakes. Some real healthier choices on the menu (that do get the hearts beside them) are the oatmeal and egg whites or the Glorified omelette with spinach, Swiss cheese and sautéed mushrooms.
The dinner menu changes seasonally, and looks good whenever I glance at it, but I haven’t yet had a chance to drop in any time before noon.
Dream Café
Location: 2800 Routh St., Dallas, 214-954-0486
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Price: $$
Service: Friendly.
Ambiance: Indoor and patio seating–indoor feels like a local diner (for the South, at least); the outside is in the middle of the Quadrangle, which puts you by a small, manmade waterfall and gives you a good opportunity for people-watching.
Attire: Casual
Payment Information: Major credit cards accepted
Alcohol: A small list of breakfast cocktails, sangria, margaritas

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