Tag Archives: omelette

A Haumelette and a Pint of Sprite.

Reading the title essay of Elizabeth David’s An Omelette and a Glass of Wine has given me space to reconsider my own version of Madame Poulard’s renowned dish. The best omelette I’ve ever eaten — that at the Broadview Restaurant in Galesburg, Illinois — might not even classify as an omelette, by Davis’ definition, but it classifies in my unstringent American book.

It also stands up to the OED’s definition, which designates an omelette as “a dish mainly consisting of eggs whipped up, seasoned, and fried; often varied by the addition of other ingredients, as cheese, apples, parsley, chopped ham, fish, mushrooms, etc.” The first recorded usage of the word was in 1611: a Haumelette was a “Pancake of egges.” The word “omelette” is thought to have derived from a transmutation of the Latin “lamella,” or sword blade — a reference to the dish’s flat shape. So far, so good. The Broadview’s omelette is anything but flat — rather, it is a big ol’ heap of food — but it is a dish consisting of eggs and sundry other ingredients. My musings, then, can proceed as begun.

I was a latecomer to the Joy of the Omelette. For much of my life, I avoided eggs entirely (minus those baked into desserts: those were unavoidable). I remember being grounded, as a four-year-old, when I refused to eat the scrambled eggs I’d been served for breakfast. They were perfect eggs, too, light and pale yellow and scooped into a small, fluffy pile on my red plastic plate. But, to my young self, the texture of eggs was incomprehensibly nasty, just worse than jello and just better than mucous. It took me years to introduce eggs to my diet; even then, I’d only eat them hard-boiled, still warm, and lightly salted.

Then college happened. My food tastes diversified multifold. Suddenly, I was eating things I’d never have deigned to try: polenta, feta, raw baby spinach — even eggs! Eggs were still a tricky subject; in addition to eating them hard-boiled, I now ate them in the form of a Breakfast Bagel. (Note: The Breakfast Bagel was a sandwich served at the Gizmo, my college’s student union restaurant. The BB consisted of a white bagel, toasted, that sandwiched a fried egg topped with American cheese. Two slices of bacon or a sausage patty (or both) could be added to the BB for an additional charge.)

Breakfast Bagels were critical in my slow acceptance of eggs as a Good and Necessary Food. I enjoyed my bagels with pepper and dipped in ketchup — gross, I know, but this was Western Illinois. I now counted two preparations of eggs as edible; I no longer feared the errant runny yolk.

I wish I could tell you that my transition to omelets was swift and sexy, that the Breakfast Bagel was a gateway drug that worked its wonders stat(!), but that wasn’t the case. Not until the midpoint of my senior year did I sample my first omelette.

(From top: Stef at the Broadview, 2006; Me, Queeney, Rebecca, and Stef, 2005; winter in Western Illinois.)

I wish too that I could recall with perfect clarity the events preceding and following Initial Omelet Consumption, but my memory, like the food itself, is muddled. What I do know: it was infinitely late at night (the Broadview, for those not in the know, was a popular post-party destination). I was with friends, one of whom convinced me to try a Denver omelet. Thus, it began. Bleary-eyed and wobbly, smashed in a vinyl booth with five of my pals, I gave eggs another chance.

Clearly, I’m glad I did. Omelets have become one of my all-time favorite foods — and for good reason. They’re highly customizable (bacon, cheddar, and broccoli? YES PLEASE), high in protein, and good for any meal of the day. As I learned several years after my first taste, they’re also pretty easy to make at home. In college, though, and for most of grad school, omelets were strictly diner food, best enjoyed in the company of the hungover in a joint with jukeboxes on each table.

Even in this city, I have yet to find an omelet that stacks up to the Broadview’s. This declaration is fueled, in part, by nostalgia: that much is true. But it’s also rooted in reality — I can’t name my favorite SF omelet joint because I don’t have one. Squat and Gobble’s product is hopelessly average; Bar Tartine’s (the one time I had it) was offensively underdone. What’s a girl to do but dream of the good old days, the days when the only toast options were white or wheat, when the jam wasn’t local/organic/handmade, but rather came in miniature plastic packets stacked on each table? Until I find my SF Broadview, dreaming will sustain me.

Restaurant Review: Bar Tartine

On Sunday, I hoped to have a brunch fantasy fulfilled. H. had made reservations at Bar Tartine, lauded for its simple, well-crafted, and seasonally-focused dishes (and for its fabulous bread, sourced from Tartine Bakery). Was I pumped? Hell yeah! In honor of this occasion, I spent extra time styling my hair — a rarity for a weekend mornings, when I usually just twist my hair up into a high hipster bun and call it a day — and made sure we left the Haight with enough time to allow for a pleasant, unhurried bus trip.

I’d checked Bar Tartine’s online menu and had plotted out my brunchtime course of action: Pt. Reyes blue-cheese stuffed dates as an appetizer, savory bread pudding with red onions, Spring Hill cheddar, nettles and green salad as an entrée, and a beverage to be determined. Since reading this New York Times piece about savory bread pudding, I’ve been craving some hardcore. Bar Tartine was going to sate this weeks-old hankering, I was sure.

Hook, waiting for the dates to arrive.

Bar Tartine has a lot going for it, atmospherically speaking. The dark, rough-hewn floor feels like a transplant from some provincial attic; ditto the chandelier crafted from intertangled antlers. The shelves near the front entrance and the bathroom counter are decorated with skulls; in the instance of the latter, the skull had fresh blossoms placed in its eye sockets — a detail charming and macabre. On the topic of flowers, the bathrooms at Bar Tartine and at plain-old Tartine had vases of fresh flowers on display, which detail I appreciated from visual and olfactory standpoints alike. Yes, Bar Tartine’s setting is romantically rustic, catering to those who dream about rambling country houses with chipped, 19th-century crockery, heavy-handled knives, and jugs of wildflowers picked from the adjacent meadow. Not that I belong to that demographic subset or anything; this is all purely conjectural. Like so many of his colleagues in this city, our waiter was coolly detached/borderline unhelpful. He asked us what we’d like to drink; when we ordered coffee, he brought our coffee. He took our orders and brought our food to the table. But he never asked how we liked our food — rather, if we liked it — and Hook practically had to grab the waiter’s arm to get him to bring us a pepper mill. As one who eats out a good deal, I understand the value of understated service. I don’t want a waiter or waitress all up in my business, asking every five minutes how everything is and constantly topping off my glass of water. On the other hand, I’d like to have pepper brought to the table without having to resort to acrobatics to catch the waiter’s attention.

Dates stuffed with Point Reyes blue cheese and drizzled with honey.

On to the meal. The stuffed dates (four to an order) were average, failing to live up to the glory I’d predicted. One of my dates tasted overpoweringly of blue cheese (with not enough sweetness to offset the pungency of the cheese), while Hook said that all he tasted was the date. My second sample was more balanced than the first, but the cheese still overwhelmed the flavor of the fruit.

My omelette with a side of mixed greens.

To my disappointment, savory bread pudding was not featured on Sunday’s menu. No matter: both the walnut-bread french toast (with a side of seasonal fruit) and the omelette appealed to me. I ordered the latter. Served with a simple green salad and adorned with fresh herbs, creme fraiche, and sweet 100s tomatoes, the omelette would have been a delight had it been cooked thoroughly. As it happened, there were large, underdone patches on the omelette’s face. I ate around those patches and picked off the tomatoes/ scooped off the creme fraiche, but the runny eggs were enough to put off my appetite. I finished less than half of the omelette.

One of Bar Tartine's most successful elements was its decor -- including this sign.

Hook fared a little better. He built his own breakfast from three a la carte items: scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast. His eggs were also underdone (not as egregiously as mine), his bacon was extremely salty (I had a piece and corroborated his opinion), and his toast was buttered so heavily that it was greasy. Not moist, not just buttery: greasy. It wasn’t the worst brunch ever, Hook conceded, but was a major let down for the price point.

More than anything, I was disappointed by this meal. Had the service been off-point but the food delicious, or vice versa, I might have given a more sympathetic review. Sadly, the most enjoyable part of my brunch was the taxidermically-themed decor. Far from inspiring brunch monogamy, Bar Tartine may not even get a second date.