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Thursday, October 22,2009

Classic breakfast, without the rush

A peaceful early-morning getaway is just a short ride away

By Clay Fong
College buddy Jeff recently paid a visit, and I figured a dose of semi-rural Colorado hospitality would be a welcome respite from his usual routine as a Vegas casino executive. To meet my friend’s need, my venue of choice was Hygiene’s Crane Hollow Café.

Having encountered this eatery on a bachelor party bicycle ride (yes, I run with a dangerous crowd), I was favorably impressed by its emphasis on fresh baked goods, home-style breakfasts and welcoming hospitality.

Jeff, an East Coast native, immediately sensed a comforting familiarity about the café as we stepped inside, noting it possessed the homey ambience of a Vermont or New Hampshire roadside eatery. Indeed, the sunny yellow walls, farmhouse furniture, and brightly colored original artwork seemed a universe away from his neon-illuminated world of $12.99 breakfast buffets, high-stakes poker and Motown lounge acts. Menu highlights here include the priciest item, steak and eggs, at a reasonable $9.95, as well as breakfast burritos, French toast and omelets.

The coffee was decent, although I would have preferred a bit more attention to refills from our otherwise conscientious and informative server. Entering at a reasonably early hour, the temperature was a bit cool, although it did warm up as more patrons filed in. However, these minor criticisms did little to detract from our enjoyment of the meal.

Rather than get the special of Harvest Hash with its array of fresh red and yellow peppers, traditionalist Jeff ordered up the $6.45 corned beef hash. It’s a good test of the kitchen, he explained. This dish satisfied Jeff ’s criteria, as he praised the beef ’s leanness and happily described his choice as “clearly homemade.” Sided with potatoes, toast, and two over-easy eggs, this heaping platter also provided more than ample sustenance for the day.

Casting dietary caution to the wind, I eagerly selected a $6.50 full order of the biscuits and gravy special. I can enjoy even a mediocre version of this dish, although Crane Hollow’s interpretation is among the best I’ve ever had. The sausage was remarkably grease-free and possessed a clean, meaty taste. The homemade biscuits were both fluffy and crumbly, while the gravy had a clean savory flavor without unappetizing floury overtones or a pasty consistency.

As baked goods are a specialty, we couldn’t pass up ending the meal with some sweet offerings. These included a gluten-free chocolate cake and key lime pie, but much to our dismay, we had arrived too early to enjoy the fresh apple pie baking in the oven. However, Jeff’s $4.25 tartlet offered consolation with its fresh berries, creamy custard, and wonderfully dense shortbread-style crust. It was the sort of dessert you’d expect at a fine dining establishment. More modest, but definitely enjoyable, was a humble $2.25 blueberry morning cake. Dense and buttery, this not-too-sweet confection was set off by the fresh berries, which added the right amount of moisture and tang.

With a gentle soundtrack of James Taylor and the Indigo Girls discreetly playing in the background, the Crane Hollow Café offers up a relaxing breakfast experience. The pace here is leisurely, although not inefficient, and a visit here can be just the ticket for those seeking temporary refuge from a sometimes hectic world. As friend Jeff can attest, it’s well worth the trip out to Hygiene, whether by car or bike.


Clay’s Obscurity Corner: Hygienic origins

In the 1800s, Colorado was a popular destination for tuberculosis patients who mistakenly believed that the dry air would provide a cure. For example, at the end of his checkered career, Wild West legend Doc Holliday checked into a Glenwood Springs sanitarium, where he eventually died. Closer to home, Boulder’s Mount Sanitas was home to the Colorado Sanitarium, run by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Approximately a decade earlier, the Church of the Brethren started a similar operation in the county. Soon after, a new town near this sanitarium took its name from one of this institution’s virtues — Hygiene.

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