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.

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.

Alice’s Tea Cup

102 W 73rd St. New York, NY 10023 • (212) 799-3006 • alicesteacup.com

5829961091_97aa3ae147

New York can be so annoying with its Stalin-esque reservation rules, which seem so out of character for a place like this. Charming, whimsical, themed like something pulled straight out of Alice in Wonderland, hence the name. But unless your tea party is six people or greater, prepare to wait, because the Queen of Hearts is apparently running things.

That said, should you have a party of six or simply wait long enough to get a table, you are in for a treat that will have you grinning wider than the Cheshire Cat. It starts with their “wonderful” assortment of interesting and unique teas such as apple-cinnamon and chocolate chai, each served in its very own color-coded pot the size of your head. Which you then pour into a mixed English tea setting comprised of hand-painted floral china. None of the teas were amazing, however. It was actually the food that stole the show.

Stolen with a surprisingly limited brunch menu, but if everything’s good, then who really cares, right? The scones are excellent (pictured), some of the best I’ve ever had. Thick, not too dense, moist and yummy. The French toast is also very good, served in cubes, casserole style, with an amazing drizzle of chocolate, syrup and berries around the perimeter of the plate.

The salmon benedict isn’t too shabby either, although the eggs were a touch overcooked, which is benny blasphemy and borderline worth docking a knife, but because they served it over one of their amazing scones I’m gonna let it slide.

The tower of breakfast is pretty great too, if you’re looking to try a bit of everything, adorned with a poached egg, scone and a nice homemade granola served with fresh berries and vanilla yogurt.

But Alice is also a bakery, making it an ideal place to celebrate birthdays, particularly if you have young birthday girl with you, deep in the princess phase. Mine is a bit of a chocoholic, so we obviously went with the chocolate cake, which I thought was just okay by comparison to the rest of the meal, but that didn’t seem to stop my daughter from wolfing it down like a champ.

All in, a highly successful outing worth the wait and the special trip, because that’s exactly what Alice’s Tea Cup offers… A special experience.

4 teeth

The Egg & I

1601 Q St. Ste A Lincoln, NE 68508 • (402) 476-3444 • theeggandirestaurants.com

bacon-cheddar-waffle

I’m guessing this place does well with the college kids, because it’s like a Denny’s, but without the chain stigma or the racism. Granted I didn’t actually witness them serving any African Americans, so perhaps this is an unfair assumption. That said, my waitress was so incredibly friendly I can’t imagine her harboring such demons. But then again, she was suspiciously nice, which leads me to believe she is hiding something.

Located in a strip mall down the street from Nebraska U, the Egg & I reads like your typical small-town diner and it tastes like it too. And even though I appreciated inventive attempts like their apple cinnamon granola pancake, the execution fell just short of the mark, the granola coming out soggy, more like oatmeal, as opposed to crunchy, which would’ve made for a nice textural contrast. On the flip side, they probably should’ve skinned the apples, because that was a textural element that wasn’t so ideal. The flavor of it was good though, so no complaints there.

And no complaints on the side of bacon and eggs either, both cooked just the way I like them- Okay so there’s one tiny complaint, the eggs were in dire need of salt, so make sure the shaker at your table is full, because the chef is definitely in the do-it-yourself camp.

My biggest gripe, however, was with the orange juice. Being a Florida boy in my formative years, OJ was practically a religion down there, so anything less than fresh squeezed is blasphemy. Even Odwalla. Sorry, but what are we, animals?

I can’t say I’d recommend The Egg & I to anyone passing through, but if you’re a student on a budget, still hung over from fraternal hazing rituals, than I say, what’ve you got to lose? But if you’re aiming higher, aim elsewhere.

2 teeth

Boulettes Larder

Embarcadero Plaza 1 Ferry Bldg. San Francisco, CA 94111 • (415) 399-1155bouletteslarder.com

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I absolutely love the location of this place, tucked away in a corner of the stunning Ferry Building.. And the décor is awesome with the communal table right there in the kitchen. Plus, the tables outside with a majestic view of the bridge is pretty sweet too.

But the food, like so many other places in San Fran, aiming for clean and simple, nets out as basic and bland. It’s like some SF chefs think that just because the ingredients are local, organic and fresh, that that’s enough. But news flash, you have to actually do something with them!!! They have local, organic and fresh ingredients in Napa too, but they also actually bother to put some herbs, spice, sauce, or spin into the dish!

As a case in point I ordered the lobster and eggs, not realizing that it would be just that, pieces of lobster mixed into scrambled eggs. No herbs on top. No spice or marinade or butter on the lobster. In fact, I doubt they even used butter on the pan to cook the eggs. Or salt. I mean c’mon! Eggs without salt, why even bother? You might as well serve granola without yogurt or milk. Oh the humanity!

2 teeth

Restaurant Michael Schwartz & Coffee Bar

1775 Collins Ave. Miami Beach, FL 33139 • (305) 534-6300 raleighhotel.com

RMS Octopus 2

The Raleigh Hotel is such a find in the heart of the deco district. Not as pricey as its neighbors and more low key, but sporting one of the best pools on Collins Avenue.

And while the restaurant may not be a destination unto itself like the headliners at so many other hotels, including its SBE Hotel siblings the SLS (The Bazaar) and The Redbury (Cleo), it still manages to serve up some pleasers.

Going by day part, they do quite well for breakfast. Either at the sit down tables outside by the pool or even at the grab and go Coffee Bar near the front. So if you’re aiming for a quick bite I definitely recommend the honey bran muffin and a glass of the freshly blended Rejuvenator. It’s carrot, ginger and apple and orange I believe. It’s also quite rejuvenating. After three of them I’m now in my twenties.

And as for the muffin, it has that perfect balance of sweetness and earthiness, a little on the sticky side, but moist as can be, speckled with juicy, plump raisins. On the downside, do not take the bait on the apple muffin. It is the Danny DeVito to the honey bran’s Arnold Schwarzenegger. That’s a Twins reference, in case my pop culture illustration is going completely lost on you.

As for sit down options, the Greek yogurt and honey with granola is surprisingly good. Having recently been in Greece I can attest with some modicum of experience that this yogurt is the closest thing I’ve had in the states to the way it is in mother Greece.

The other breakfast pleaser was the brioche French toast with caramelized bananas. It’s a very tough dish to screw up in all fairness, but if there was one surefire way to do it, it’s not soaking the bread through and through. Well, I’m happy to report that there is no infraction here. Dish nailed.

As for lunch, I found the food to be a little weaker. The grilled fish tacos are simple and fresh, which is enough to make them worthy of ordering, but there was nothing inventive or memorable about them. I would say the same about the tuna sandwich, although it did need a little Dijon as a kick in the ass. The only out and out miss was the swordfish sandwich. A bit too dry and a lotta bit too blah. But all in all, solid pool food if you happen to be staying in the hotel, which is nice, not having to make a special trip just for lunch.

Never had dinner there, but considering how friggin’ awesome that octopus looks, maybe that’ll be an amendment to this post the next time I visit Miami.

3 teeth

The Ultimate Granola (packaged)

Pumpkin-Spiced-Nutty-Granola

I don’t know about you, but I friggin’ love cereal in the morning. Granted I love all breakfast food- Okay so I love all food. Whatever. The point is this. Cereal is the only thing I can eat more than twice a week. So, considering I’ve lived roughly four and a half decades, you can do the math and assume that I’ve basically downed an assload of cereal in that time. And within those hordes of bowls, you can image I’ve tried my share of granolas, cereal at its best. So, here are my top 5 in descending order of greatness:

5. “House Blend” by Baked.

This granola is nuts. No seriously. It’s basically a bag of all sorts of nuts from hazel to almond with a sprig of granola and dried fruit thrown in. So, you’d think that I’d ding it for this, but somehow they pull it off. Granted I don’t know if I could hork down an entire bowl of this alone, but when mixed with other cereals (Kashi Blueberry Clusters & Trader Joe’s Frosted Maple Squares) it sings.

4. “Apple Crumble” by Love Crunch

Not sure I need to say much more than the name. I mean, who doesn’t love an apple crumble? Assholes. That’s who. So, assuming you are not an asshole and loves you some crumble, it’s a safe bet that you’re gonna love it just as much in a bowl with milk.

3. “Maple Pancake” by Paleonola

Okay, don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not the kind of guy who loves flavored cereals. For example, Cinnamon Toast Crunch is probably the most vile thing I’ve ever had in a bowl, and yes, that’s including dog food, but, this really is quite a treat. Like two breakfasts in one. Granted I’m not sure I could down an entire bowl of this stuff all by itself, but it definitely makes whatever else is in the bowl that much more delicious.

2 “Chocolate Cherry” by Food Emporium Trading Company

All right, I know it’s crazy. I know there are a TON of other chocolate granolas out there. I even know that they probably use better ingredients. But what they all lack is balance. They all take the chocolate thing too far and it starts to taste more like dessert than cereal. Granted I’m okay with that for the Apple Crumble for a very good reason. I’m human. So I’m allowed to contradict myself as much as the next schmuck. So where was I? Oh yes. The balance it perfect. The cherries aren’t sweetened, so they bring a touch of bitterness. The almonds add nuttiness. And the chocolate is just enough to let you know its there, but not enough to make you feel guilty.

2. “Fruit, Nut & Fiber Museli” by Dorset Cereals

Here is the zag. The copout. Not only could I not stick to 5 granolas by playing the “tied for second” card, but to make matters worse, it’s a museli! Sorry. But as far as I’m concerned they’re the same friggin’ thing. One’s a less crunchy version of the other, because it’s not mixed with some sort of congealing agent like honey or molasses. But it’s time the two came together as one and we broke down the Berlin wall of breakfast. But enough defensiveness. I stand by my nomination. This cereal has it all. Loaded with all sorts of ingredients that all seem to pop off your spoon. I can only assume it’s due to the quality of ingredients. Unfortunately, however, they make you pay handsomely for those mixings. And ever since they shrank the box by nearly 40% and kept the price the same, it’s a bit ridiculous. But I do still love it.

1. “Granola” by Le Pain Quotidien

While it’s not exactly the first place that comes to mind when you think granola, it should be. Sure they have great salads and pastries and tartines and coffee, but none of that is important. What is important is that this granola, like the museli above, has everything you could ever want. And all of it booms with flavor. For example the coconut shavings alone make this puppy sing. But I think the true secret behind its greatness lies in the honey. I’m guessing they use something pretty special to bond those beautiful clusters together. Whatever it is, I’m buying. Regardless of the absurd price.