Trailside Café and Coffeehouse
How to do beautiful eggs Benedict – and prime Indian summer patios.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
I can’t tell you the precise moment I fell in love with the epitome of breakfast dishes, eggs Benedict, but my senses will never forget: knife breaking into delicate poached egg; runny yolk meandering in a golden stream over crisp-edged Canadian bacon; fork piercing equal portions of egg, meat and muffin; and mouth savoring every bite rich with gooey and chewy, sweet and salty.
There is no better way to start my morning than to dig into a plate of eggs Benedict at the kitchen table – except, of course, to breakfast on said dish al fresco. And I found breakfast bliss one balmy morning at Trailside Café and Coffeehouse.
Aside from a choice of four different Benedicts (the classic comprises Canadian bacon; the Santa Barbara, turkey and avocado; my favorite, smoked salmon Benedict with steamed spinach; and by special request, tomato and basil Benedict), the view from Trailside’s dappled patio overhung with vines and morning glories is stunning. Surrounded by sun-drenched ochre walls and fragrant buds of lavender, I dine to a soundtrack that comes courtesy of a dozen gleeful sea lions. Closing my eyes, I imagine the azure waters of the Mediterranean. Opening them, I see Monterey Bay, not a bad stand-in.
One morning, I visit for a behind-the-scenes peek. Owner Sean Allen and cook Jose Lopez rise with the joggers and cyclists, arriving at the restaurant at 7am.
While Allen bustles about setting up tables and readying the till, Lopez makes Trailside’s famous beignets with flour, eggs, buttermilk and a secret ingredient – think fizzy, fermented drink.
Only then does Lopez make the hollandaise sauce, the crown of the Benedict. Deconstructed, this breakfast dish is simple enough: poached egg, bacon or ham, muffin, and hollandaise.
Perhaps one is intimidated by hollandaise, an emulsion of eggs and butter, which many deem tricky to make. I’m no exception. I’ve made hollandaise with varying success using a double boiler and not a lot of luck. But Lopez shows me a no-fail blender method.
First, he puts egg yolks in a food processor, drizzles in a little cold water and starts the machine whirling. He pulls off the cover and pours melted butter in a steady stream into the machine until it forms a thick, creamy sauce.
He then pours the sauce into a large mixing bowl and whisks in Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, and white pepper, churning the mixture until smooth. The final touch is fresh lemon juice, plus a little more water to thin out the sauce.
I always have two egg/meat/muffin towers per serving. This recipe makes enough sauce for six servings (or 12 towers). You can also dip asparagus spears into the sauce (a favorite of Marie Antoinette’s) or serve it with fish or meat.1 cup butter (2 sticks)
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
In a glass measuring cup, melt butter in the microwave, do not burn. You should have about 1 cup of clarified butter.
Place egg yolks in food processor or blender jar. With the cover off, whirl at high speed, adding 2 to 3 tablespoons of cold water. Pour hot butter in a thin, steady stream, leaving any milky solids and watery liquid behind. After 30 to 40 seconds, it will thicken into a yellow sauce.
Pour sauce into a mixing bowl. Add Tabasco, Worcestershire, garlic powder, and white pepper to taste, followed by lemon juice. If necessary, add a little water to thin the sauce.
To assemble Benedict, layer toasted muffin, cooked Canadian bacon and poached egg on warm plates. Top with dollops of hollandaise and serve immediately.
Lopez makes the hollandaise ahead, but the eggs are poached to order. For a perfect poach, Allen gives this tip: add vinegar to the poaching water in the pot. Combined with another trick – stirring the water in a wide circle – you can’t go wrong. The acidulated water sets the egg quickly and the “whirlpool” keeps the egg compact.
By now it’s almost time to open the café. At 8am on the dot, customers start streaming in – some for coffee and beignets, many for Trailside’s Benedicts.
Take your cue from them. Even if you aren’t a Benedict fan, you can still soak in a glorious Monterey Indian summer morning on the patio.
TRAILSIDE CAFÉ AND COFFEEHOUSE 550 Wave St., Monterey. • 8am-3pm Mon-Fri, 8am-4pm Sat-Sun. • 649-8600, www.trailsidecafe.com
OTHER AL FRESCO BREAKFAST SPOTS NEAR CANNERY ROW:
Cannery Row Deli | 101 Drake Ave, Monterey | 645-9549
Order at the counter and be prepared to dig into breakfast burritos as big as your thigh at a secluded trailside table.
First Awakenings | 125 Ocean View, Pacific Grove | 372-1125
Two words – blueberry pancakes; come early to avoid the crowds if you’d like to snag a table outdoors.
Loulou’s Griddle in the Middle | Municipal Wharf No. 2, Monterey | 372-0568
Your coffee cup will never be empty here as you breakfast on fresh-off-the boat specialties like calamari (and eggs) facing the bay.