Café Paris

Rathausstr. 4 – 20095 HamburgGermany • +49 40 32527777 • cafeparis.net
 
 If it weren’t for the weather, Hamburg would easily be the Paris (or Venice) of Germany. It’s absolutely stunning with its lakes and canals and bridges everywhere. The architecture and the steeples strewn across its skyline. And clinching the deal are charming little haunts such as this, stolen virtually right off the streets of Paris and plopped squarely in the heart of town.

 

The ceiling alone will make you smile (pictured) and the vibe lives up to the name quite faithfully. As do the baguette and croissants. The cappuccino and oj are solid too. But should you veer too far from the French fare, the wheels quickly start coming off.

 

The English Breakfast is made with relatively bland eggs, bacon and beans and is just okay. Worse still is the American, which is a chewy pancake served with syrup and peanut butter. It’s inedible. But it stands to reason, since Parisians probably think this is what most Americans actually eat. Well shame on you Pierre, because it just cost you a knife. And not because I’m exacting revenge as a petty American. It’s because I’m exacting revenge for punitive damages on my mouth.

 

Also shame on me, I suppose, because when in Paris, one should order like a Parisian. Do so and you’ll do magnifique!

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The Granola Bar

275 Post Rd EWestport, CT 06880 • (203) 349-5202
 

This place is too small for its own good, especially in light of the passing of Fliesher’s Kitchen and Neat (RIP). Now there’s no really great go-to breakfast option in the ‘Port. But if you’re willing to settle for good, look no further than yours truly, okay and Terrain, but mostly for the setting, let’s be honest.

Luckily granola bar is way more than granola. Especially since I think their granola is just eh. You can get far better at Le Pain Quotidien and even at the supermarket with Baked’s House Blend.

Where GB shines, however is in other places like the breakfast burrito, the bi bim bap, the burger and my personal fav, the blackened salmon wrap.

Regrettably, the very berry smoothie was also a bit of a letdown. But with the draught of b-fast options upon us, I’m willing to overlook the long wait, strip mall locale and the fact that they were out of the spicy Mexican hot chocolate. Tisk, tisk.

Dominique Ansel Bakery

189 Spring St. New York, NY 10012 • (212) 219-2773 • dominiqueansel.com

Made famous by the invention of the cronut and thus by default perpetrator of the Cabbage Patch frenzy that ensued thereafter, DAB is the stuff of legends. And not the kind you’ve been cautioned about, ya know, the ones who never live up to expectation?

Well fret not, because Dom delivers. And I mean that both literally and figuratively. Just go to Trycaviar.com and get yourself some baked-to-order-cookie-nirvana delivered right to your door, still warm and gooey and cracktastic!

The white chocolate macadamia alone is Ultimate-worthy and the chocolate brownie cookie ain’t too shabby neither. Okay, the chocolate chip cookie is pretty kickass as well. In fact, the only cookie that wasn’t just flat-out orgasmic was the gingersnap, but still very good, mind you, it just suffered from three, consecutive, tough acts to follow.

Oh, and the presentation? Like it was coming from Tiffany’s, if Tiffany’s sold baked goods instead of jewelry.

You can also get the cronut, pastries and croissants delivered, but if you want the cronut you need to order in advance, because they are still a hot item all these years later and will sell out before you even hit your snooze button.

 

Buttermilk Bakery

1198 Orange AveWinter Park, FL 32789 • (321) 422-4015 • buttermilk-bakery.com
 

The Battle of the Brunch is over! No more must you endure the challenges of getting a table at The Briar Patch (albeit very worthy). There is finally another game in town with a pretty killer breakfast. But like Solla Sollew, it’s not entirely without its problems, so don’t get your hopes too, too high.

First of all, you’re gonna have to drive ( a few minutes) because it’s not on Park Avenue. Second, the menu for prepared food is VERY small. And worse still, they are militant about when they start to serve it, promptly at 11am. So, if you get there prior, grab a table and wait. Or you can feel free to gorge yourself on the plentiful baked goods that are readily available from the moment they open their doors.

Once the clock strikes eleven, this charming little place fills up like a clown car (hence why you want to get there beforehand to earmark a table), and for good reason, the food, for the most part, is quite good. The best of which are the cloud-like, fluffy apple pancakes. Best thing we had. Also decent is the veggie frittata, although it was a little over-salted if you ask me.

And as I mentioned, from the baked goods, we had the cinnamon donut holes, which were just okay, but to be fair I don’t think are truly representative of the other things in the case.

La Casa di Nonna

41 rue Hoche 06400 CannesFrance • +33 4 97 06 33 51 • lacasadinonna.fr

Welcome to Grandma’s House, my newest Cannes crush. Yes, I suppose I have a thing for older women. Shhh! Don’t tell my wife. Actually, she has crush on Nonna too, because this place is just so damn charming. You just want to squeeze the bejesus out of its cheeks. From the servers to what they are serving, brace yourself for a healthy dose of amoré.

Whether it’s just a quick, afternoon snack over a frothy cappuccino and a wonderfully fresh-squeezed juice or a fully-fledged three-course dinner you are in for a treat, because they don’t miss. Particularly if you incorporate their chocolate ganache cake into whatever meal occasion it is. That alone is like a panacea for all of life’s troubles. Ultimate alert!

The other thing they nail eight ways ‘til Sunday is parma. I don’t know where they get it from, but oh lordy is it pigilicious! We had the melon and prosciutto starter and I think it might just be the best I’ve ever had. The melon was perfectly ripe and sweet. And that ham! I’m not even sure how to describe it, and I’ve even had the acorn-fed, quattro-legged stuff before and this is better.

The other dish the shined on the shoulders of this porky perfection was the carbonara, an Ultimate and only bested by the one at Blanca in Brooklyn, NY, mainly because of it’s superior pepperiness. But Nonna knows her shit, keeping the eggy coating just light enough to allow the pig and basil pop from the dish. And while I know basil is no-no to you purists out there, I say Nonna beats a no-no and you should try it before you deny it.

On the mortal side, I found the artichoke salad, the gnocci with tomato sauce and the spaghetti to all be, well, mortal. But nothing is bad and with THREE Ultimates, I’d put this tops on your list for your next visit to the Cote ‘d Azur. Plus, as I said before, if you end with that ganache cake, you’ll be crooning like old Dino… “When you walk down the street and you have this to eat, that’s amore!”

Kerby Lane Cafe

2606 Guadalupe StAustin, TX 78705 • (512) 477-5717 • kerbeylanecafe.com

Just steps away from the University of Texas campus, Kerby gets a ton of business from students who are either nursing a hangover or feeding the munchies. And as a result, the reviews on Yelp are insanely skewed if you ask moi.

The queso is not the second coming. It’s just okay and nowhere near as good as the hype makes it out to be. It’s way too watery and compared to Torchy’s, let’s just say it gets torched.

The pancakes are crap. Dry and flavorless. Don’t let that picture fool you. The Cinnamon Roll being only marginally better than the Lemon Poppy, but that’s not saying much. In fact, I think Kerby owes my stomach a formal apology for these discs of disappointment.

Also unworthy of my jaw muscles was the Cuban benedict, which sounds great on laminated paper, but is so overcooked you’d think they were try to kill the chicken who laid the eggs.

The only thing I can say was even mildly decent was the green chili mac & cheese with fried chicken. It’s good. But even that needed extra chili to give it enough kick. I did like how the fried chicken remained crispy even though it sat in a bowl of creamy mac though. What I did not like is that the mac and cheese is school cafeteria grade. And what I actually hate is when a typical diner gets inflated into a legend.

Simit Sarayi

435 5th AveNew York, NY 10016 • (929) 374-3237 • simitsarayi.com

For all intensive purpose the name basically translates to Bagel Palace. And a palace it is not. In Turkey it is essentially a Panera, a local chain of decent baked goods and other dishes. And if I was in Turkey I’d probably only give this place 3 knives, but that’s in Turkey. To have this in New York City on my walk to work, it is a godsend!

About once a month I go butt-wild and buy a double Noah’s Ark- four of everything. The spinach rose borek might just be my favorite thing of all. Warm it up with a dollop of plain yogurt and sliced tomatoes on the side and you’ve got yourself one of the easiest, bestest meals you could wish for.

I also loves me some su boregi, which is sort of like a savory kugel or sauceless, meatless lasagna. It sounds awful the way I’m describing it, but I promise it’s delish. Granted it’s even better at Gulluoglu on the East Side, but since Gulluoglu isn’t on my walk to work, this one is plenty good enough.

Their dill and feta buns are terrific too, which are pseudo pogaça-like. For those of you who don’t find the poaça analogy helpful, it’s a small, savory pastry filled with herbs and cheese.

Ironically the top billing, the simit, can be a bit of a wild card. Sometimes it’s true to the motherland, thin and dense and seeded galore. Other times it tries to masquerade as a wannabe sesame bagel. I prefer the former.

On the sweet side, they also kick some serious ay çöreği, a crescent-shaped, semi-sweet dessert filled with ground hazelnuts that are so dense they almost taste like chocolate. Then, they top it off with sliced almonds.

All of the little cookies are money too. Perfect for çay sati (tea time). They have chocolate chip, Nutella filled, hazelnut and fig. You really can’t go wrong. And that’s what I love about this place. You could throw a dart anywhere in the joint and still be happy with what you got to eat, unless you hit the cashier, of course.

Patisserie Florentine

10 S Dean StEnglewood, NJ 07631 • (201) 408-4890 • patisserieflorentine.com

Engle-fucking-wood Cliffs?! Are you kidding me?! How is this place in Englewood Cliffs? Scratch that- WHY is this place in Englewood Cliffs? Their Banana, Nutella, almond croissant is such a baller it needs to be playing on a much bigger court, like Manhattan.

This Ultimate of a pastry is messier than a Sean Spicer press conference, but far more enjoyable. Oozing in all directions with a miraculously well balanced treat that doesn’t overdo it, despite the potential to do so looming large.

Other players in the baked game are the regular almond croissants, which are great, and less messy than their banana-Nutella siblings, but they are also less novel. Of the muffins, the granola is the one to get, followed by the orange. But I say skip the blueberry. It was surprisingly the weakest of the lot.

Even the egg dishes are nothing to overlook as the eggs benny proves to be a savory powerhouse in its own right. But be sure to ask them to make the eggs runny, because they have a tendency to overcook them a touch. Tisk, tisk.

Where Florentine fails miserably, however, is with their service. It is god awful. So bad in fact that I feel a moral imperative to dock them a knife. It’s as if the entire wait staff is simultaneously starting their first day on the job. Every table in the joint is yelling at them. Complaining. “No silverware” over here. “No one has taken my order yet” over there. They are slow, forgetful and worst of all, inept. So much so that the last time I visited I asked for three of the Banana Nutella Almond croissants to go and they gave me three plain old almond.

So if you are the owner or the manager and you are reading this, please start over with the staff, because eventually people will grow tired of their shit, regardless of how great the food is. I know I am.

Sono Baking Company

44 Church LnWestport, CT 06880 • (203) 557-8626 • sonobaking.com

I can’t say I looooove Sono Bakery, but they definitely have far better croissants than Isabella et Vincent which everyone seems to tout. Guess I’m just spoiled by the ones I used to get at La Tulipe in Mt. Kisco, NY where I used to live. Although, to be fair, that was pretty stiff competition, because those croissants were world-class. Then again, to be fair in the other direction, Patisserie Florentine in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, and even the friggin’ Croissant Gourmet (terrible name) in Winter Park, FL both have much superior croissants, so I’m not sure what the problem is here in Westport, a town that has no shortage of amazing restaurants.

But before I get off on a rant (TM Dennis Miller), Sono has lots of merits. The first being that it’s more than just a bakery, offering a full menu of made-to-order breakfast and brunch options. Plus, the seating area and vibe inside is pretty cool, granted the parking situation outside is not. No parking lot and most of the street parking is off limits for one reason or another, making it feel more reminiscent of Manhattan than Westport. So personally, I recommend walking or biking if you’re close enough, it’ll help burn off what you’re about to eat.

And now for the BIGGEST reason to come here, two words; Monkey Bread. Yes, the Monkey Bread, or more like “money bread” steals the show. Dense and dripping with frosting. It’s worth a parking ticket, it’s so damn sintastic. I also dig their cranberry zucchini muffin for a less sweet option that’s nice and moist and can help balance things out if you go splitsies with someone on one of the sweeter options. #bestofbothworlds

Terrain Garden Cafe

561 Post Rd E. Westport, CT 06880 • (203) 226-2732 • shopterrain.com

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As a store this place is lovely. Easily 5 knives. I mean just look at that picture! The setting will charm the pants off of you, so be sure to wear clean underwear. And if you’re decorating your house, your deck or your garden this is essentially Nirvana for Druids.  It’s also Anthropologie’s finest achievement to date, although & Co is opening soon, so TBD on that one. But I don’t do stores, so who gives a squat, right? I review restaurants and as far as this one goes, it could stand for some improvement, to put it mildly. Perhaps the people running the shop should take over the kitchen?

From the café, I thought the chai latte was good enough, but the croissants are crapsants. Chewy and doughy. And dinner doesn’t fare much better, the short ribs were overcooked and the burger and fries were just okay even though it had all the right stuff, from caramelized onions and sticky mushrooms to Swiss and the prerequisite brioche bun. Yet with all that, it somehow still didn’t hit the wow bar. Little Barn down the street has much better burgers if you ask moi.

The burger wasn’t alone though, because even the pear cobbler a la mode was equally lacking in flavor. Fortunately the wine was good and the service friendly, but if you ask me, your money is better spent on rustic pots, topiaries and terrariums.

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