Saturday, April 07, 2007

Brownie's and Brownberry

Brownie's Restaurant
2510 Kenzie Ter
St. Anthony, MN 55418

We ate at Brownie's this morning. It was a typical diner. The waitress was exceedingly nice. Apparently, she hadn't heard the This American Life thing about how mean waitresses get bigger tips. Lucky for us. Also, lucky for her, Jimmy's tips are big no matter how nice you are. The food was diner-y. Judy hated it, and I wouldn't recommend that you make a special trip to discover Brownie's, and if you already live in the neighborhood, I'm sure you have your own opinion, so I won't waste your time.

Instead, this post has to be about something far more disturbing to Twin Cities Breakfast Club members. Did you know that we are living in the midst of a bread crisis? Seriously. All of my life, bread came in a hard loaf wrapped in clear plastic with red and black writing on it. This was Catherine Clark's Brownberry bread. It was the only whole wheat bread we ate after Jimmy and Judy stopped making their own. It was the only kind we liked. I hate to sound whiny, but we've been eating this bread for thirty years, and now, poof, it's gone. There is no more Catherine Clark's.

I'm a single person who can't make it through a loaf of bread by myself, so I haven't bought bread in months, which is why I only found out about this crisis today at breakfast club. Actually, the first whispers of it were before breakfast, when I saw one of the old ladies at my parents' house carrying a piece of bread to the toaster. "How's the bread, Ann?" asked my mom in the kind of voice you use when you ask how someone is holding up at a funeral. "Not so good," said Ann in a defeated voice, "but I'm going to try it toasted." Odd, I thought.

I got the whole shocking news at breakfast, when Rachael informed us that she and Beau had even written to the company to complain about the new bread, and all they got was a letter thanking them for their feedback and some coupons for the new, bad bread. "What?!" I said, "There's no more bread? But there used to be so much of it..." Yes, friends, you can eat the same product faithfully for three decades but when corporate America decides not to make it any more, it's just too bad for you. No more bread.

I lived in Portland for two and a half years. I couldn't find real bread there either. It made me not want to eat BLT's. It made me lose interest in French toast. It was a sad time. I tried other breads. Many other breads. None of them were as good as good old Catherine Clark's. They lacked the density and the ever-so-slight sweetness of the real thing.

Remember when we were kids and for some reason we had to put bread bags over our socks before we could put on our boots? The bread bags I used were clear plastic with red and black writing on them. Whatever will my children (should I ever have them) use? The bread bag of some inferior wheat bread? This is so wrong. Why, oh why, didn't I fill my freezer with bread before this whole crisis began? Maybe if I'd bought more bread this never would have happened.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Big as your Head

Ike's Food and Cocktails
50 S. 6th Street
Minneapolis, MN
612.746.4537

Judy and I were first to arrive at Ike's this weekend. We told them six people were coming, and they ushered us to a secluded booth underneath posters of Rat Pack members (Frank Sinatra and one of those other guys). Almost before we had positioned ourselves in the booth, and before we had even explored the menus, our charming, Southern waitress delivered a caramel roll as big as our head to the table. It was stuck with 6 forks, just waiting for us and our tardy friends to dig in. We didn't order the pastry. It just comes with brunch.

You should know something about Breakfast Club. We love food. We're food snobs, and we like to eat. But we've also lost a combined weight of over 150 pounds in the past three years (and not in an unhealthy way, mind you. We've continued to eat. We're just more sensible than we used to be.) I must say that the caramel roll as big as your head would have been more in Ike's favor about four years ago. Nowadays, it just looks like fat to us. It doesn't help that it comes with a giant pat of butter on top.

Still. Still. I like to think that if an unrequested, but fabulous pastry arrived, even if it were as big as your head, and even if we were all a little more health conscious than we were four years ago, we'd be nothing but grateful. The thing is, it wasn't fabulous. It was just big, sweet, over-brown, and covered in good butter.

It made me think of landing in Chicago, after spending two weeks in Japan. In Japan, when you're between trains at a train station, you can buy a perfect little triangle of rice and fish wrapped in seaweed. There's an ingenious unwrapping of plastic that goes with this triangle of rice. Not until you unwrap it does the seaweed touch the rice. This prevents it from getting all soggy and nasty. So we landed in Chicago, a little bit hungry from our long flight, and the smell of Cinnabon in the airport just about knocked us over. It didn't smell good, because Cinnabon is crap, but even so, it sort of made me want to eat something fat and buttery. I looked around the airport and all I could see were fat people, and then I realized that before the smell, what I really wanted was a triangle of rice. Unfortunately, in this country, it's a lot easier to make bad choices about what we're going to eat than good ones.

One of those bad choices is eating the not-so-very-good cinnamon roll that they deliver to your table at Ike's before you've even had coffee or a chance to think about what you really want to eat. I'm not going to tell you to skip it, because I know you won't, and it's not a bad cinnamon roll. I'm just saying I wish I had skipped it.

Meanwhile, our pleasant, Southern waitress explained how Ike's works. You order your eggs (the usual ways or as eggs Benedict or in a breakfast quesadilla or you can choose to stand up and visit the omelet bar. Yeah. Right.), and then they deliver a family sized tray of meat and potatoes and pancakes to go with them. They will refill the meat and potatoes and pancake until you can take no more. See what I'm saying about bad choices? The whole thing, with the giant roll, is $14.99. It's also the only thing you can have at brunch time, so forget about opting for the burger instead.

I wasn't impressed with my Benedict (but I made that bad choice on my own). The crowd generally liked the potatoes while at the same time noticing that they weren't crispy enough. They were fried with onions and tasted fresh. The bacon and sausage were tasty. They struck me as a bit mass-produced, but this may have been just because I saw the dude frying mass quantities of meat as we walked in the door. I also worried about how many pounds of meat they throw away each day because of the all-you-can-eat thing, but I guess sometimes I have to shut off my brain so I can have a good time.

OK, so I guess what I'm saying is that Ike's is fine if you can take that sort of thing. There are lots of better choices in Minneapolis though, so I don't think I'll go there again, despite totally loving the booth and our waitress who kept the cream and sugar coming for our coffee.