Full Complement · Recipe

A Full Batch of Breakfast: Apple Strudel Muffins, Pumpkin Butter, Baked Berry Challah French Toast

TODAY was my day to host our budding writing group. The five of us collected in the late morning, projects and literary ambitions glittering in our imaginations.  Hosting the gathering was a blessing, as it gave me the much-needed impetus to take on a food project that’s been rolling around in my head for a few days.

After a week of painful miscommunications in the office, general anxiety over life and the Future (the horror!), a spate of late nights and later mornings (which also contributed to the office snafus), I realized that what I really wanted — evens perhaps more than writing itself — was to bake.  I wanted to create a brunch feast full of seasonal flavors and baked delicacies; I wanted to brew Southern Pecan coffee and delight my friends.

I wanted grandiosity.  Über fabulousness. Worlds and foods and flavors and scents.  I wanted the hallway outside my door to be a fragrant wonderland, and I wanted my home itself to be the Gingerbread House: alluring, enchanting, lovely, and utterly irresistible.

I started last night.  If this was going to be a Production, then it was going to take time, energy, and stamina.  I knew I wanted to experiment with the two last honey crisp apples I had in my kitchen, and muffins seemed the ideal medium for their use.  But I also wanted to work with challah bread as a base for french toast, but still with a heavy oven influence.  So I started with the challah french toast, as that requires an overnight marination period.  The pumpkin butter was a well-timed suggestion from foodista, and paired excellently with the apple muffins.  Because I wasn’t sure how big the writing group was going to be, I doubled the recipe for the muffins, and (naturally) ended up with waaay more than I needed.

Baking was the therapy I needed, my friends’ awed faces the emotional panacea I needed to heal the week’s strains.

And having leftover muffins and french toast is nothing to sneer at, either!

Apple Strudel Muffins

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temp or melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups apple (1/2 cup grated, 1 cup chopped) I used Honey Crisp apples, and they were amazing!

For the Streudel

  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375F.  Grease your muffin pan (I have a giant 6-muffin pan, which with the doubled recipe ended up making 14 muffins; this recipe should make 12 regular muffins or 6 giant ones).

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, butter and sugar until smooth.  Mix in vanilla.  Stir in apples, then gradually add in the flour mixture.  Fill muffin cups.

In a small bowl, mix the streudel topping.  Sprinkle over the tops of the muffins.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until your muffins pass the toothpick text.  Enjoy!  Slather with pumpkin butter for added flavor.

Pumpkin Butter

  • 1 can pumpkin
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spices

Simmer all ingredients together in a pot until the liquid has evaporated and the pumpkin butter has thickened.

Pairs very well with apple muffins!  Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Baked Berry Challah French Toast

For this, I pretty much followed the exact recipe.

  • 1/2 loaf of challah bread, cut or torn into chunks
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups milk
  • 3 cups fresh strawberries, chopped into bite-size pieces

For the Topping

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup quick oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened

Grease a 9×13 baking dish and lay out the challah bread chunks inside; they should fill about 3/4 full.

In a medium-sized bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla.  Add the milk, then pour over the challah.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In a medium bowl, cut together the crumb topping ingredients until a coarse crumb mixture forms.  Place in an airtight container (ziploc bag or tupperware) and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, stir up the bread mixture again.  Layer strawberries on top, then cover with the crumb topping.

Bake at 375 degrees for 50-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Enjoy your own morning inspirations!  The combination of these three are pretty much guaranteed to make your guests gasp, swoon, and then pass out in food-comas in your living room.


Brunch · Drink · Full Complement

Max Brenner, Philadelphia: “That’s my new favorite camel”

THERE’S decadence, and then there is decadence. There are curtains with valences; and there are curtains with velvet valences.  There’s hot chocolate, Swiss Miss style; there’s Ghirardelli hot chocolate, invigorated with one or two shots of espresso and covered with a froth of chantilly cream.  (In fact, pretty much anything with chantilly cream is, by definition, decadent.)  There are sparse, simple movies like Revolutionary Road; but there are also glossy, well-defined, lush productions such as  The Brothers Bloom.

Max Brenner (Chocolate by the Bald Man) makes decadence its trade.  Truffles, Mexican hot cocoa, oozing chocolate cakes, chocolate-dusted crepes, pure chocolate licks…. Mmmm.  Eating here is a feast for the eyes, the nose, the taste buds–even your ears.  Fingers, too, can be dipped into the chocolate lick, luxuriating in the soft warm delight.  And, of course, there are the “hug mugs”–vessels designed to warm your cold hands in the winter even as they allow the nose to partake of the aroma of your hot chocolate or mocha cappucino (milk chocolate? dark chocolate? white chocolate? your choice).

The occasion of brunch at Max Brenner was twofold: we had a break in both the heat wave  and accompanying inexplicable rains that have been taking over the East coast, and my father flew into town just a few days ago.  This was his first Saturday on US soil in something vulgar like two years.  So naturally we had to go seek out the most luxurious brunch we could and let him seep into a culture of perks, delightful aromas, and understated presentation.

And Max Brenner delivered.  Good Lord, did it ever…!

We were ushered into the main body of the restaurant by our waif-like hostess and were presented with two menus.  One for brunch, one for the usual odds & ends offered by the chocolatier (cocoas, mochas, frappes, crepes, chocolate cakes, coffees, etc).  Our waiter came a moment later, and assured us that everything goes with chocolate.  We hemmed and hawed; but ultimately, upon his suggestion, I chose the decadent french toast; my mother ordered the “well-mannered omelet” and my father picked the grilled chicken panini.

Let me take a moment to address my parents’ choices.  There’s no need to go into my own; if the words “decadent” and “french toast” appear in the same sentence, you can bet your eyeteeth I’ll be having that.  My dad picked the panini mostly for the accompanying fries: “waffle fries dusted with chili and chocolate powder,” and they are heavenly.  My mom’s  really into goat cheese and is trying to eat more healthily, and the omelet with creamy spinach seemed ideal.  It was embellished with spiced homefries, a “diamond dusted sugar buttermilk biscuit,” and a “pure melted chocolate lick.”  G0t that?  Chocolate goes with everything.

The french toast, I am happy to report, was opulence defined.  Topped with cinnamon apple and white chocolate truffle bits, it was liberally covered with warm toffee sauce and brown sugared pecans.  I drizzled it with the accompanying white chocolate and milk chocolate.  Each bite was a novelty; every taste was a dream come true.  If you can handle that much sugar, this is the french toast to end them all.

One of the things I love about The Brothers Bloom (and I loved plenty about that film) was the detail to background, color, and sound.  In a similar way, Max Brenner has created a complex and layered experience.  The decor is done in muted colors, all collected around the central, signature chocolate brown hue.  A good portion of the restaurant is dedicated solely to selling chocolate: cases are full of small square treats, there are bags of delicacies to take home, and a staff is on hand to walk you through the offerings and samples.  The music, too, is designed to create an atmosphere of comfort and vaunted luxury.  Classic cover songs are mixed with the suave tones of Frank Sinatra; we enjoyed a line-up that included Roberta Flack, a Nina Simone knock-off, and “Is You or Is You Ain’t My Baby” covered by some husky-voiced ingenue.

All told, I’m impressed with the experience at Max Brenner.  If this was a DVD I could own, I totally would.  The next best thing, of course, is returning.  Again and again, because there’s simply so much there to sample.  Chocolate fondue, anyone?  Or how about the “Three Layer Chocolate Concoction with Toffee Bananas”?  Lord, the options are endless!  And I am just getting started…


Full Complement

Melt, NYC: “… but, by God, there’ll be dancing.”

MY GOODNESS, what a week! May has really flown by — I can’t believe that I’m hours away from watching the Swarthmore class of 2009 graduate! (Congrats all!)

In the whirlwind that has been the last week, I’ve scampered up to Brooklyn for some good eats, warm laughter, and the chance to introduce Win to fried oreos (a delicacy, I promise); fit in a butt-load of work; flown to San Francisco and caught up with D briefly before she a) runs a marathon today and b) flies back to Philly to start her nursing program; I’ve given two workshops in San Fran; and now I’m back on the firm ground of the east coast, waiting to go out and see off the graduates. Whoosh. Two coasts, three cities, one week. I’m a bit knackered.

Which roughly translates into an apology–last weekend in Brooklyn was amazing, and though documented pictorially ad nauseum, I somehow never wrote it up. Whoops!


NEW YORK CITY, for me, is a land of enchantment. I don’t think I could ever live there — it’s too noisy and messy, and the spell is broken if you see it in the harsh light of daily life. But as a destination, for museum-hopping and culinary tours and bookstore hours, it’s a magical realm of possibility. Win, of course, helps out tremendously by knowing all sorts of in and outs and creating a whimsically enthralling experience whatever she does. And so my trip to Brooklyn last week took on the glamour of a fairy tale and the pricelessness of a perfectly executed weekend away.

I got in Friday night, the Bolt Bus ably defending itself against Memorial Day weekend traffic, and met up with Win for a ginormous seafood dinner. Stuffed but sated, we wandered back to Brooklyn and somehow — somehow — managed not to be completely comatose the next day.

And for the next day, Win had planned a doozy! Ginormous muffins and iced coffee from the Blue Sky Bakery in Brooklyn (we ordered the pumpkin-cranberry-apple muffin and the zucchini-chocolate muffin, mmmmm), which we ate on a nearby stoop, started our morning. From there, we wandered around Brooklyn a bit, taking in a couple of sidewalk sales before hopping on the subway to Union Square. There, we dashed in and out of shoe stores, pausing only to consider the crafts and farmers’ market at the Square; I bought a pair of delicious silver earring, oxidized to look aged and discolored in funky, delicate stripes.

We had decided beforehand to take the day slow. We knew we wanted to end up at Barnes and Noble, curled up around iced coffees and books, but we didn’t really have a plan for the interim. So we ate Venezuelan arepas at Caracas; munched on fried oreos at a street fair; dined on South Indian fare; and ended up in Little Italy for cannolis and cappucinno. Meanwhile, we tried out various scents at Fresh and Sephora, and did make our way to a bookstore, where we rested our well-walked feet and people-watched.

It was a magical, enchanted New York day: the sun was bright, the air was filled with laughter and the delighted shrieks of children, and we ate lightly but satisfyingly, filling our souls even as we pleased our bellies. As we made our quiet way home, we were happy, tired, and so content with the world.

And Sunday! Ah, Sunday, you did not disappoint. Calling together the New York crowd, we met in Brooklyn for brunch at sun-drenched Melt and sat down to the task of decimating a table full of food.

The wonder of it is that we were able to eat all of it: french toast, baked eggs, tofu BLT, shrimp and grits, mushroom omelette, more eggs… It was just what the weekend needed as a wrap-up. All we were missing was a sing along. Nevertheless, we made do with reminiscing, telling tall tales, making plans (Nan, I am totally taking you up on the bread-baking offer), and settling into the company of long-missed good friends.

And this is why New York is so special to me: it’s a place to gather, to create memories, to evoke lost thoughts and whims, and to create the magical moments that can define seasons and years.


Full Complement

Marigold, Philadelphia: “Sometimes you have to just let art … flow … over you”

IN The Big Chill, a group of friends come together for the funeral of another friend.  While today’s brunch at Marigold did not have a somber air, it did have a  similar reunion-esque vibe.  Among our gang was Wee, who’s been MIA for ages due to med school hooplah; Nicole, ensconced in West Philly but who can be teased out with quizo and dim sum; Megan, who I’d heard lots about but had yet to sit down over coffee with; and Paige, passing through but stilling for long enough to eat and laugh and catch up.

We also bumped into three other college acquaintances over the course of the meal, which just goes to show that Philly is a city that holds its people.  Kind of like Paris, or Cairo.  Sit anywhere on the Champs Élysées or at Tahrir Square (preferably not in the square itself, but adjacent–say, at the Egyptian Museum) for long enough, and you’re sure to see a parade of faces from your past.  It’s comforting to know that Philly is growing into one of those cities.

Today was another one of the city’s beautiful days: we woke with the hint of snow on the ground and the promise of more to come; I woke to a reminder of a friend’s production of The Tempest.  The trolley came almost on time (a positive sign for Septa).  All good things, and they just contributed to the general air of satisfaction.

I met Wee and Nicole outside Marigold, and we proceeded into the cozy inner vestibule to warm ourselves and start the adventure with laughter and reminisces.  Megan and Paige showed up a few minutes later and Wee taught them how to make stars out of rubber bands; and then we were ushered inside the restaurant proper to our window-side table.  With my back to the street and surrounded by glass, I felt both part of the scenery and an on-looker onto the world outside.

Because Paige was catching a train, we had to order fast and eat quicker.  We made our selections contingent on each other’s selections — which sounds a bit balmy, but which meant that once the food came, it rotated.  Nicole’s brioche french toast made its way to each of us; Wee passed his salmon around; Paige and Megan split the mini pumpkin muffins; I passed around forkfuls of surry sausage and mushroom crepe; Paige handed off her sandwich to anyone who wanted a bite.  Family-style, and very easy.  Conversation, coffee, and food passed from person to person, punctuated by laughter, happy sighs, and “remember whens?”

At the end, as we sat contentedly in our star-shaped 5-person formation, the general consensus was clear.  “What’s for dessert?”  Wee was satisfied, but had enjoyed his meal so much he wanted more. 

Marigold provides perfectly proportioned dishes–not too much, but just enough that you know you’ll be back.  The walls are a delicate yellow, bearing bright paintings and, in the vestibule, copper-pipe light fixtures.  It feels like a house, but like no home you’d ever known.  Nicole and Megan mused for a moment on whether or not they could turn their West Philly address into a brunch kitchen; they certainly have enough chairs for it.  But the thought of coming “home” to dishes, or waking up knowing you have to put on your brightest face and bring out the fresh coffee…Well, it was all a bit much.  Maybe one day, when we’re a little more established, a little more settled.

As for me?  I bid my goodbyes and went to see The Tempest.  Talking about theater is not my forte, but this was a haunting performance that stripped the text down and rebuilt it around three faces, three sets of hands, and three voices — and what “rough magic” they could cull from their own artistry.  (Shout out to the lighting, sound design, and set, too–magic.  Magic!)  And from there, to home; and once at home, I settled in for a quiet evening, watching the new snow fall in the city and letting the scent of fresh blackberry muffins rise in the oven behind me.

At its heart, isn’t that what a Sunday is for?



Baked Blueberry French Toast

I DON’T know if you can call something a tradition after only 2 years, but I’m going to go out on a limb: it’s now a tradition for my friend Marissa to come into Philly on New Year’s Eve and ring in the new year with me.  We top it off by going to the Mummers Parade on January 1st, and it’s also tradition to have freezing toes and to retire before the string bands.

This year, we kicked off our celebration with dinner at Sahara Grill, both because of the meze option but also because we both hold the Lebanese in high regard.  (The cheekbones!  AUB!  Our high school chemistry lab assistant!)  I’m a big fan of the labneh, and you really can’t go wrong with the sampler platter.  And the sandwiches, too, are worth it (I recommend either the lamb or the shish taouk); I’m definitely adding Sahara Grill to the take-out listing in my mental rolodex.

Afterwards, we joined up with friends and headed out to Brie’s South Philly party, whichoffered champagne as we watched the countdown at Times Square, drinking games, and even e-fortunes.  (Sure, the fortunes were a little snarky, but that just encourages us to do better this year than last.  Right?)  As we staggered home, we congratulated each other on ringing in a new year in such a classy fashion.

So this morning, then, not wanting to lose the momentum of last night, I baked the french toast I had prepared yesterday afternoon.  We figured a good meal to start us on our way was exactly what we needed, because if we learned one thing from last year’s Mummers Parade, it’s that we need stamina.  Though the french toast was amazing, we still somehow failed on the stamina thing (could it have been the hangover?  the cold temperatures?  sheer sloth?).  Regardless, we took ourselves off the stands right before the string bands started their performances, giving up prime real estate to go curl up on my couch and watch the live coverage.

I maintain, though, that the french toast served to motivate us and get us out the door.  Armed with hand warmers and hats, we clapped and stamped our feet; Marissa snagged one of the free Turkey Hill Duetto samples, and we cheered for several floats and brigades.  Ultimately, though, we ended up on the couch, wrapped in blankets and snoozing through commercials.

And there you have it.  A new year, a new french toast recipe, and a new appreciation for Mummers.

Happy 2009!

Baked Blueberry French Toast

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 6 eggs
  • 10 slices bread, cut into 1″ cubes
  • 3 oz package cream cheese, diced (whipped cream cheese works just as well)
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Grease a casserole dish (a 13×9″ is recommended, but I used a large Corningware one).  In a large bowl, beat eggs, flour, milk, 2 tbsp sugar, and vanilla until smooth.  Stir in bread cubes until well coated, then pour into prepared dish.

Top evenly with the creame cheese cubes and blueberries.  In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and  tbsp sugar.  Toss to mix.  Sprinkle over the blueberries and cream cheese.  Cover the dish tightly and refrigerate up to 24 hours.

To bake: preheat oven to 400F.  Uncover the casserole and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.  Enjoy with a fruit salad or side of breakfast sausage!

Brunch · Drink · Full Complement

Lobo, NYC: “If you see somebody without a smile, give ’em yours!”

CELEBRATIONS come in all shapes and sizes. There was Susie’s 25th birthday-combination-send off party at The Frying Pan (complete with river-side view and a bustling breeze, carrying the scent of beer and merry laughter), which is kind of ironic since we were on a ship. There was also the phone call to Lisa and the plans made for next weekend, as she just returned from a summer of leisure in South America to a New England life that requires work. Then there was the series of back-and-forth phone messages with Emily (do we ever not play phone-tag?), celebrating the start of her med school career and the fact that she has a new apartment with a queen-sized bed! Seriously, the simplest pleasures in life are often the best.

And then, of course, there was a celebration of a more private nature that need not be documented in detail; but suffice it to say it’s the sort of thing that has other women hugging you and patting you in relief on the back and offering–no, insisting–to buy you “at least one shot” before the night’s up. So hat’s off to me. And to Win, for promising that drink and delivering it. En route, we got introduced to the St. Germain Mojito–which is about as scrumptious and refreshing a drink I’ve ever had–whilst wandering around Manhattan, deciding what to do with our night and already looking forward to brunch. (We also met a bartender at Centro Vinoteca who makes a mean Cucumber and Mint G&T, just with a better name, and was told by the American Idol judges that he sounds too “trained.”  And then he proceeded to harmonize with Win on Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab.”)

And so our evening went.  It’s just that way with Win and me. We’re reading buddies, but we’re food buddies, too. Sit us down at a table in any restaurant, and we’ll pick the menu clean. And then, replenished and slightly muddied in the head, we’ll wander to the nearest bookstore and let the afternoon pass by us as we read our way through book after book. In ways to spend a Sunday, there are few better.

Plus, we were productive. We chose new eyewear for Win, decided that Win does indeed need to see Knocked Up, and then read at Barnes & Noble (they have good seating & plenty of windows) until I decided to head back to Philly. And we bumped into Mel, completely by random, who still needs to get on facebook. This is why I love cities.

At Lobo, where we finally decided to brunch, we found ourselves in a corner table that nonetheless afforded us an unhindered view of the restaurant’s interesting decor. There’s the painted cut-out cowgirl with amazingly perky breasts (she rivals Dolly Parton in this, in the “Me jumpin’ up and down? I’d black both my eyes!” sense of things). The cowboy staring down at you from the wall, just daring you to spook. The buffalo skull positioned just above Win’s head, judging our meal choices. And the TV, which kept drawing Win’s attention, which was faithfully–if a bit fitfully–professing its love for both Star Trek and Seth Rogen.

Our food choices reflect our culinary spirit. Not content to be loyal to one thing only, we make sure to get a sampling, and then pick off each other’s plates. I ordered the french toast (of course), and Win the migas with chorizo and mushrooms, and we rounded it all off with a side order of home fries. To my delight, the home fries had a bite to them, which perfectly complemented the migas and balanced the french toast against the Tex-Mex fare. And, since I was still in celebration mode, I went for a blood-orange margarita. Yum!

The best part, for me, about celebrating is planning for the next one. By the end of any given shindig, I’m ready to find a new place and uproot everyone to there. Planning for another event is the next best thing and, as I function within a reward-based world (hey, it’s my philosophy and it’s worked for me so far), having a light at the end of the tunnel is not so much a mental crutch as a way of life.

So here it is, my offer to you: let us convene on September 6th in New York City, between W. Broadway and Grand. Let us, too, be wearing costumes ripped from the 80s–white sneakers, stonewashed jeans, T-shirts screaming in block letters. And let us, when the float bearing German beer maidens rides by, break into dance to the tune of “Twist and Shout.” And let us then, once our five minutes of fun are up, plan for Sunday brunch.


Brunch · Full Complement

The Dining Car, Philadelphia: “You always have the guys at the diner.”

SOMETHING magical happens at diners. From your first grip of the metal bar door handle to the moment you pry the syrup-stained laminated menu off the Formica tabletop, there’s a prickle at the back of your neck that has nothing to do with the population of septuagenarians nor the lack of haute cuisine descriptors for “omelet” or “hot cake.” No, this is a prickle of pure joy, of taking a step back and letting yourself sink into a world of jukeboxes and “good eats” and simple conversation.

There’s a sense of security and continuity to the diner; it’s an establishment that hasn’t changed much over the years. You can expect to hear “hit” music from a variety of eras, starting with the 50s and progressing forwards to the likes of Whitney Houston and N’Sync (if you’re lucky). The menus are laminated, with darkened font (for those older, bifocal-ed eyes); the waitresses have you-can’t-scare-me eyes and pursed lips, and write with an efficiency that would make a ranking military officer proud.

Lissie has been bemoaning the lack of diner fare in Egypt, and so the occasion of this particular venture was purely to satisfy her deep-seated need for diner coffee before she boarded her plane to the south. Because of her distance from the US, Lissie has to pack in a lot of people-seeing into her summer holiday; so far, she’s hit up the East Coast (including NJ, NY, and PA), the Midwest, and is currently in the Down South; and the girl has only been back in this country for about two weeks!

Not only did we get the diner coffee (served with half & half, of course) and diner orange juice (served with thick straws), but I also got to re-profess my love for laminated menus. Something about their sleek, shining lines makes my bones turn to jelly. Bonus: our waitress was named Angel, which is pretty much as perfect a diner name as you can find. “Babs” is the only name that could, potentially, top hers.

Anyhoo, we were delighted by the presence of the older folk. In our world–which may or may not be founded on worlds passed down to us by friends, family, and foe(s)–we figure that any diner that still caters to a crowd of white-haired, windbreaker-ed ladies must, naturally, be a “real” diner. As in, ‘this is the real deal.’ Here, the likes of Sinatra might have once eaten, before hitting it big. But he’d never forget a meal like the one he’d had at, say, The Dining Car (if ever he made it here). The point is, this is where memories for a lifetime are made.

There are some diner standards that you just don’t mess with. If they have specials, well, that’s a whole different party of fun. In this case, Malik went with the time-honored classic, Creamed Chipped Beef. He chose to have his on wheat toast, with a side of home fries and scrambled eggs. Lissie went for the banana french toast (soaked in banana sauce and even garnished with bananas), with 2 scrambled eggs. For me, the lure of the broccoli-ham-cheddar omelet with home fries and wheat toast was too much, and to that I applied my diligent fork.

This was also at the un-godly hour of 8AM on a weekend. We were famished, yes, but also more than a little groggy from weekend partying. DJ DeeJay at The Barbery played a set on Friday night that entirely consisted of Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Prince. The joy of hearing Like A Prayer at midnight while dancing with friends was a nostalgic two-step that nearly brought me to raptures. I controlled myself, and merely got elbow-friendly with the guy behind me. You know how these things go.

So we sat, and talked, and appreciated Angel’s thank you note on the back of our bill. We paid up front at the register, as you do at any “real” diner; but before that, we got our coffee mugs filled and refilled and talked about food and friends and movies and babies. There was time enough before running Lissie to the airport that we could both enjoy our food and then sit back, fully satisfied, and laud (again) the holistic diner experience. Oyez, this is where we all sat–this weekend–in anticipation of one day making it big.