Great Ways to Wake Up
The lightest waffle you'll ever make and awesome honey. Plus notes from New York's newest restaurants.
One of my rules as a restaurant critic was that I didn’t do brunch. I hate the idea of getting drunk in the morning - and it seems that’s the secret purpose of that particular meal.
Breakfast on the other hand, is a swell idea. I was very happy in the mid-eighties when serious chefs began taking it on. (Somewhere I’ve got another old article on breakfast in other parts of the world. I’m very partial to the morning meals served in Asia, India South America and the Middle East. But that’s another story.)
Should you want a recipe for the aptly named Heavenly Hots, you can find it in Marion Cunningham’s The Breakfast Book. Don’t have that? You can find the recipe here.
There is nothing as luxurious as a really great waffle. I'm a longtime fan of Fannie Farmer's classic yeast waffle recipe, which I first encountered in Marion Cunningham's wonderful The Breakfast Book. But this is a new twist: I used rice flour instead of wheat. The result: waffles so light they seem to float off the griddle and hover in the air. Waffles so light they dissolve the instant they hit your tongue.
Many thanks to Anson Mills, whose 13 colonies rice waffle flour is unlike anything I've used before. Like Sean Brock (with whom they've partnered), Anson Mills has embarked on a quest to bring back the heirloom crops of the antebellum Carolina rice kitchen. They've searched through seed libraries, looking for southern crops that disappeared with the industrialization of American farms, and brought them back. Take a look through their site; this is is agricultural history at its most intriguing.
This rice flour is specifically intended for waffles, which were extremely popular in the old south, and often served at dinner with fried chicken. Personally, I prefer them at breakfast: the perfect way to start the day.
Note: Anson Mills cuts this rice flour with pastry flour. If you’re using ordinary rice flour, use half rice and half wheat flour.
(adapted from Fannie Farmer and Anson Mills)
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon plus one tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cups Anson Mills 13 colony rice flour OR 3/4 cup rice flour plus 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast and 1/2 teaspoon sugar in 1/2 cup warm water (be sure the water is not too hot or it will kill the yeast). Set aside.
Whisk the flour, salt, and remaining tablespoon of sugar in a large bowl.
Slowly melt half a stick of butter, allowing it to turn a slight, nut-like brown. Remove from the heat and stir in the milk. When it's cool enough to stick your finger in, add the yeast mixture.
Stir the liquids into the flour, mixing well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave on the counter to rise overnight or about 8 hours.
The next morning, stir in an egg and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. If the batter feels a bit thick, add up to 2 tablespoons more milk.
Pour batter into a hot waffle iron: how much batter you use will depend on the size of your iron, but in my old fashioned cast iron waffle iron this recipe makes about 7 waffles.
Serve with maple syrup, apple syrup or, in true southern fashion, sorghum. Or simply eat the waffles piping hot, unadorned, with your fingers.
I hate honey. Or at least I did until this one came along from State Honey Curators.
The honeys are sourced from the wilds of Mexico, and they have a fascinating complexity that intrigues me. Terrific on waffles, on toast - or scooped onto ice cream.
The demise of the American restaurant - which many predicted during the first wave of the pandemic - has not happened. Instead, patrons are so eager to dine out that restaurant reservations are increasingly hard to snag. The wild success of these three new New York restaurants is proof positive.
Consider Laser Wolf, Michael Solomonov’s Philadelphia restaurant which recently opened a Brooklyn outpost on the roof of the Hoxton Hotel. (It is named for the butcher in Fiddler on the Roof.) It has the most amazing view….
and a brilliant Israeli restaurant concept:
you pay for your protein (or vegetable).. and everything else is thrown in. That includes fantastic hummus, warm pita, pickles, giant beans, mushrooms….
(I can’t help thinking that this genius business plan is a twenty-first century iteration of Benihana, but that’s another discussion.) By the way, if you do manage to get a reservation, you will want to order the crispest french fries on the planet. They’re an extra $13, but you won’t want to miss them.
Danny Meyer’s newest restaurant, Ci Siamo, is an entirely different animal. This is a grown up restaurant (you can actually have a conversation here), with extremely bold Italian food. The chef is Hillary Sterling, who takes every dish and amps the flavor up a few notches.
Snap peas have never been happier than they are her version, where they are tangled into asparagus, cabbage and pistachios. It’s the most exciting salad I’ve encountered in quite a while.
The tagliatelle with tomato sauce looks like every other version you’ve ever seen - and then you taste it. Pow! The flavor hits you with a punch; the butter folded into the sauce is made with buffalo milk which gives the sauce a gamy tang.
The pastas here are excellent. I particularly liked the agnolotti filled with ricotta, rapini and lots of lemon.
And then there are the desserts. Made by the great Claudia Fleming (who has a wonderful new cookbook, Delectable, coming out in the fall), they are impressive. But I would never, ever, fail to order the hazelnut gelato. The fantastic texture - dense and creamy - puts ordinary versions to shame.
While we’re talking about hot new restaurants in New York, I have to say how delighted I am that Barbuto has reopened in a swell new space a few blocks from the old one. For those of us who have always loved the restaurant, it feels like going home. And Jonathan Waxman’s food is better than ever…
You will, of course, want the famous kale salad.
And the chicken….
but you won’t want to miss the giant meatball, which is bound to become equally iconic.
The fried potatoes are absolutely irresistible.
And there’s this delightfully sprightly lemon-pistachio cake for dessert.