Curious Appetite


The Diner in Florence- a pseudo American fix

I have never been so aware of being American in my life. I am defined as “The American.” In Italy, of course. Which is funny, because at home, I don’t actually think about my cultural identity as an American. If anything, I feel more rebellious and self righteous towards America’s culture and want to cling to my Sicilian/Persian heritage for dear life. But when I am in Italy, I sing America’s praises. I am completely insatiable. Always looking at life through an anthro-analytical glass, trying to identify the inconsistencies and paradoxes.

So the point is that I went to The Diner in Florence craving a weekend brunch fix of eggs benedict with some fellow anglo pals who decided to be guest Americans for the day for the sake of bagels and pancakes. The irony of it all is that in America, I turn my nose up at most “diner-y” places and anything that isn’t local, gourmet, foodie and has marketing which pleases my west-coast profile as a liberal “foodie” Seattlelite who read “The Omnivore’s Dilemna” in college. Or! If it isn’t a cutesy “bistro”, it has gotta be a complete dive run by scary (or cute) men with tattoos and piercing who are probably more hungover than me.

But I went to The Diner with hopes to have an American fix- not just greasy spoon brunch but to order in English and for someone to not glare at me as if I just slapped their mother every time I order a café americano. And what did I get instead? Awkward service, burnt eggs and some stupid side salad that didn’t come with the advertised ranch dressing. I got two words: Faux. Paux. I have a question: HOW DO YOU SCREW UP EGGS? College kids straight off their mamma’s milk and undocumented nanny’s 3 square meals could have made a better scramble than this.

1st offense: “Can we order coffee?” Oh, we only bring drinks with food. <— how can you call yourself an American Diner??? Not only is that a huge no-no in the American code of service, but that’s just not what a diner is like!

2nd offense: “May I have the eggs benedict?” (mind you, there are 4 different kinds which made up at least 20 percent of the breakfast menù) Um, we don’t have any bread. 

??? You ran out of BREAD on a Saturday brunch? Are you guys idiots?

3rd offense: “Okay, I’ll have the western omelette.”

DO YOU NOTICE BREAD, HERE? Yes. They MEANT to say that they did not have English muffins. AND even so- PROBLEM SOLVE IT! Use your people skills and ask me if I mind TOAST as a sub for English Muffins since your kitchen manager is too much of a knob to keep english muffins in stock on a Saturday which make up the essential base of at least 5 menù items!

The omelette was terrible. All the filling slid to the ends and was completely tasteless. I felt like it was like smashing a piñata and having to dig through all the crap candy to find the one piece of (tasteless) cheddar cheese. Almost inedible. But I ate it. Why? Well, I obviously moved to Italy because I wanted to torture myself so what’s a little burnt egg going to do to any remaining dignity I have left? And what the hell was up with this salad and side of hamburger lettuce??? What am I supposed to do with that?

They were busy with other pseudo Americans desiring similar pseudo experiences, I get that. It is not easy to run a business in Italy. But c’mon- you guys really really need to step it up when you’re in a city practically colonized by Americans. It took a lot of akward glances and hand waves to ask for the bill and even longer to get it. I was tempted to leave a penny as a tip for this whole s**** show. So ridiculous. I will probably never return.

Yours in irony, honesty and sassy sarcasm,

Curious Appetite

p.s. I’m going home for a visit. I may or may not be posting for a while:) Too busy with oysters, bubbly and REAL brunches to bother glueing myself to a computer. Kissesxoxoxo

35th St. Bistro in Fremont

Come here for Brunch.

By night, 35th St. Bistro can be a bit off putting for the everyday city dweller, it might feel like you are only welcome if you are on a date, that NPR listening middle-aged francophile with wire framed glasses looking for that shoo-shoo chic wood-colored bistro, nicely endowed with a nice wad of cash and a preexisting familiarity with French pronunciations. I am none of those things.

At Brunch, however, all bets are off. Especially if you are smart and swoon in the bar nook. I suggest coming at around 1, either with a friend you can happily dwell with at length or a book that will last you at least a couple hours. Because at 2pm, happy hour begins and it’s the perfect time for a Tom Collins or a fresh fruit muddled martini (strawberry if you are lucky) before buzzing over to the last bit of the Fremont Market.

One should confidently enjoy a French Pizza for breakfast. Adorned with carmelized onions, bits of smokey sweet bacon, hints of gruyere, salty brunch potatoes and a farm-style egg on top, how is pizza not more common at brunchtime?

If you are looking for a stealth power packed plate to keep you full and able to resist the beignets with salted caramel and chocolate dip at Happy Hour, the Bistro Omelet is your ticket to fine herbed and gruyere fluffy eggie savourment. Be sure to order the homemade sausage over the bacon, its flavorfully saged and explosively hearty. And, who can argue with homemade?

Ladies and gentlemen, I may never be able to go back again. This little wrinkle in Sunday’s afternoon should only be relived by you and your favored ones. My time with mine has left the building. In order to keep finding gems like these. 🙂

Brunch at St. Cloud’s in Madrona – not heavenly

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. There are very few days in the week that go by in which I don’t break my fast in a very calculated manner. I am not a cereal girl. Neither an oatmeal. Unless its steel-cut with apples simmered in cinnamon & butter. And I’m hoping that if you are reading a food blog, you share my fondness for the most important meal of the day. I probably love a brunch outing as much as I enjoy making coconut flour chocolate chip Belgian waffles touched with PB and bananas at home. But before I do, I carefully comb through a variety of Weekly, Stranger and Yelp reviews before making the faithful descent from PJ’s to skirt&leggings. I found St. Clouds because there was a rather hilarious review that I just had to see for myself, even despite several tens of glowing recommendations. Here’s a little teaser by the one (and opinionated) Aaron S.:

“…I moved past the pork tenderloin {which was previously compared to eating bland sawdust that belonged in a kitty litter box…} to the penne pasta soaking in a sauce covered in spinach, bacon, capers & tomato, topped with spinach aioli…sounds delicious, right?  Oh my god…all i can say is vomit in my mouth.  The sauce was some balsamic vinegar, broth a$$ that did not deserve another bite.” 

I wanted to see this for myself. I heart, Madrona. If it is home to Bottlehouse, how could she allow anything less than amazing?

I have to say Aaron S., you are on to something. Don’t let the other 125 medium-positive reviews make you second guess yourself. Even Galileo faced opposition from the Catholic Church when he challenged the Ptolemaic notion of an Earth-centered universe.

When I walked in, the decor was cozy and casual. Like. When sat down, I was surprised by good coffee. Which, should be a given. But! An empty cream pitcher? When they brought back the cream, turned out it was off and formed curds as it swirled through the coffee mug. Talk about a buzz-kill.

Then there were the specials. One was a seasonal-veggie-omeletewithsquashmarinatedinbalsamicvinagersundriedtomatoesmushrooms ricottasalataandatomatobalsamiccoulisontopofomelette and Biscuits and Gravy. At the end of the special announcment, I was like what the hell was in that seasonal omelette and my breakfast pal was like “what kind of gravy? is that all? whats so special about those biscuits and gravy?” Do you get my drift?

When I decided on the “special”, the waitress initially said they came with hash browns, and coffee cake or lime cake. I asked for a salad sub for taters, which is common right? She then responded that she’d have to charge me for a dinner size salad. Whoa whoa, lady. Hold your horses. This is brunch. Usually places charge $2 max sub charge, whats your beef? I just don’t want the hash browns, ever heard of the obesity epidemic? Greasy eggs, fried potatoes AND cake? I celebrate decadence but c’mon. She counter haggled “well…how about fruit?” substitute. Okay, sure i’ll take what I can get to avoid food coma. So it was brought out, fruit and all.

Literally, fruit and all. Do you see anything potentially gross here? Well I don’t particularly enjoy  pineapple and orange wedges oiled by a  savory tomato balsamic coulis, do you? Gross. The coulis was all I could taste, super strong vinegar notes and little reminiscent of tomato, other that the super tart overly sweet “sun-dried tomatoes” tuckered into the omelette. The slivers of dried tomato tasted like someone took dried tomatoes out of a plastic bag, reconstituted it with boiling water for 5 minutes then threw it in the egg veggie blanket. Ideally, you want to eat sundried tomatoes “sott’olio” style; meaning the sun-dried tomatoes “cured” under olive oil & salt, maybe capers and a smidge of vinegar to offset the sweetness that drying a tomato can dangerously ruin a dish for. I lived on a farm in Puglia for a short while, where I weeded, olive picked, repaired holes in olive catching nets the size of a football field with a net sewing needle by hand. And my reward at the end of the work day was the most amazing pomodore sott’olio con friselle. Which were basically sundried tomatoes, grown and dried on-site, submersed under peppery fresh olive oil (also produced onsite) infused with dried herbs and capers, which were enjoyed by the jar on top of friselle, which are ring shaped dried  bread resembling english muffin halves that must be slightly wetted 1st with spring water to soften up the ice crunch texture. So I did not feel like the tomato themed seasonal omelette truly did tomato justice. It was too sweet, too chewy and too slimy with the balsamic squash (whatever that means) and crimini mushrooms. Another chewy downfall was the overcooked, dried-out bland overly pine-sole-rosemary cover-up chicken sausage.

I think this charred image speaks for itself. And lent a poor 1st impression to my fellow diner who was curious about apple smoked chicken sausage. I felt compelled to convey that this should never be considered a frame of reference for anything “chicken sausage”.

The only saving umami grace was the ricotta salata that tried to hamper the chewy dried tomato and coulis sweetness.

That and the coffee cake saving face, which should have also been served on a separate plate in order to avoid the tomato coulis oil slick contamination.

This coffee cake was moist, buttery, melt in your mouth flowery caramelized nut crumbly goodness. It was full of spice and worth every carby calorie.

I think this St. Cloud’s should stick to whats good and consistent: like their signature coffee cake. And instead of trying to negotiate a dinner priced salad, at BRUNCH, for a simple common sub, they should be trying to negotiate better food. Get your head out of the clouds, Madrona. Earth called and they said St. Clouds should strictly be a buns and cake place round’ breakfast time.

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