Carpe Pancakes

Dawn breaks over-easy for the solitary breakfast diner


I’m awake before the alarm and before the dawn.

This is a situation I would have avoided at all costs when I lived a younger man’s life. In the winter dark I make minimal efforts at attire. Why do I scrape my eyes and then the windshield? Why grumble, shiver and drive through the dimness minus any caffeine?

About once a week I head out to clean, well-lighted place where I can stumble into consciousness in a dignified and affordable fashion. Sometimes when you work at home every day you have to leave the house to return and punch the clock for the day.

There is something remarkable about being a semi-regular at a breakfast place. I am looked after by people who know my name, or at least how I like my eggs. When I say “people” what I really mean are women. The majority of breakfast servers are hardworking waitresses. I leave it to the psych majors to analyze the reason, but it makes me happy.

On the mornings when I am at the door when the diner first opens, the other scattered tables are usually occupied by solo men. I do not know whether they are single, married or widowed. In manly fashion, we acknowledge each other with a nod and maybe a comment about the weather. There is interaction, but there are no demands to interact. Those who want to chat sit at the counter or a community table.

If I invite you to share an early breakfast with me then you know you are pretty special (and probably a blood relative).

The wonderful monotony of hash browns

Weekday breakfast has nothing to do with a social brunch. I eat these breakfasts in solitary fashion hunkered down at the same table. I put on my glasses, arrange the reading materials and sit in a holding pattern until the coffee arrives. It’s good drip coffee, not the skinny, flat, white neo-latte with blood orange syrup you might savor on Sunday. Shortly thereafter, more coffee is required and, because there is goodness in the world, essential refills arrive just as they are needed. I get an extra-large pitcherette of skim milk rather than subject any server to repeated deliveries.

I seldom cook the same dish the same way twice, and I’m prone to order the most interesting dish on a bistro dinner menu. Yet, in the a.m. hours, I crave monotony. I am not the customer who needs to hear about the Scramble Skillet of the Day. What makes breakfast special is that it’s not special, but a personal ritual of butter on pancakes, over-easies in between, and syrup streams atop.

I’m not interested in nuances

I was a professional dining critic for eight years. I hated reviewing breakfast places because it ruined the meal for me. I had to pay attention. Even writing this Nibbles column this morning at the Super Mini Walnut Café in Lafayette has interrupted my usual meditation.

When it all works — the sun rising, the caffeine percolating through my brain, the newspaper reading, the carbs and the protein, the murmuring conversational backdrop, the kitchen clatter and the kindness — I am ready.

Long ago I was a short order cook in Boulder making those omelets and buttermilk biscuits. I wasn’t cut out for the gig. Breakfast is a meal you cook and serve expecting virtually no feedback unless there is something wrong. So, as a customer, when I press “Launch” and push back my chair, I leave the eatery with a tip of my hat, a large gratuity and tremendous appreciation for what it takes to make breakfast happen.

On a good morning when the sun glimmers off the Divide in the distance, I drive to the office, which only an hour earlier was my bedroom. Possibility is as much a part of a nutritious breakfast as whole grains, cage-free eggs and apple butter.

By the Numbers: Organics and GMO-free

In a national Pew Poll, 55 percent of American adults said that organic produce was healthier than conventionally grown produce, and approximately 40 percent of those surveyed said genetically modified foods were less healthy than other foods. A recent Washington State University consumer study showed that 75 percent of diners say they would pay as much as 13 percent more for dishes free of genetically modified ingredients.

Local Food News

Bavarian Bakery owner Michael Vyskocil is opening Old World Pizzeria this weekend in the bakery building at 613 Frontage Road in Longmont. … Denver’s Il Porcellino Salumi picked up two awards for its fine Coppa and Smoked Head Cheese in the Charcuterie category at the Good Food Awards 2017, the Oscars of the artisan food world. Other Colorado winners: Avalanche Cheese (Basalt) for their Coppa; RedCamper (Denver) for Cherry Fig Moustarda; Syntax Spirits (Greeley) for Perky Pepper Green Chili Flavored Vodka, plus Cultura Craft Chocolate (Denver) and Big B’s Cider (Hotchkiss). … Coming soon: Gunbarrel Brewing Co., 7088 Winchester Circle, Boulder; U-Turn BBQ and Brewery, 599 Crossing Drive, Lafayette.

John Lehndorff

Taste of the Week

I visited the new location for Mama Mead’s Pizzeria at 900 Coffman St. in Longmont only to discover that it is ideally situated between two independent food attractions: Your Butcher Frank and Blue Reef Seafood Market. There are not many locations in Boulder County where you can pick up a flatiron steak, a pound of sea scallops and an all-white (garlic, ricotta and mozzarella) Long Island-style, thin crust pizza or a great eggplant parmesan grinder. More importantly, Mama Mead’s is also one of the rare places that serves the iconic Italian-American treat: zeppolis. These are hot bite-size pieces of pizza dough deep-fried and dusted with powdered sugar. What’s not to like?

Words to Chew On

“Breakfast was about the best part of the day. There was an almost mysterious feeling about passing through the night and awakening to a new day. Everyone greeted each other in the morning with gladness.” — From The Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis.

John Lehndorff was formerly a breakfast cook at the Good Taste Crepe Shop and the Heartland Café in Boulder. He hosts Radio Nibbles at 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU, 88.5 FM. Podcasts: