The Little Next Door

8142 West 3rd Street

As a creature of comfort, I rarely delineate from my trusted stand-bys–one of which is having breakfast at Joan's On Third. In my humble opinion, Joan's consistently makes the best eggs in town. There, they've mastered three basic egg-cooking techniques to perfection: Their soft-boiled eggs always have a warm, yolky center; their scrambled eggs are always scrambled into creamy-soft, fluffy folds; and their omelettes would make Chef André Soltner proud. Despite the number of breakfasts I've cooked over the years, I still feel iffy about how my eggs turn out. I don't know how their kitchen manages to churn out perfection day after day.

This past Sunday, when my boyfriend and I arrived at Joan's for breakfast, we saw that it was closed for the Easter holiday. Quel dommage! Our attention then turned to a small, ivy-covered patio with café tables and rattan bistro chairs next door, which is literally called The Little Next Door. (I've passed this French restaurant numerous times on the way to Joan's and paid no attention to it previously. In fact, I believe it was my friend Bill who once told me this place was nothing to write home about. When it comes to restaurants, I always ask Bill for his two cents.)

We started off with a warm pain au chocolat as we decided what to order. (If you don't already know this, it must be said that you should always judge a café/restaurant/bakery by its pain au chocolat or croissant–especially if it's "French".) Thankfully, theirs was a promising sign. 

My boyfriend ordered his usual omelette; I went with "Two Eggs Your Style, served with bacon and potatoes". Whence dining at an unfamiliar establishment, I tend to order my eggs over-easy because, in my opinion, it's a foolproof method of cooking eggs. (Sunny-side up can be tricky if the whites aren't cooked through on top.) Given the interesting variety of eggs Benedict on offer, it might sound like I ordered the most boring thing on the menu, but the aforementioned "potatoes" weren't your run-of-the-mill hash browns... Imagine my delight when I was surprised with a serving of pommes dauphinoise, the Queen of Side Dishes: thinly sliced potatoes cooked in milk, butter and cream underneath a bubbling blanket of grated Gruyère!

My eggs were good–because, like I said, it's pretty hard to screw up eggs cooked over-easy–but the pommes dauphinoise is truly what took this breakfast to the brink of divine. 

Sir Kensington's Chipotle Mayonnaise

As you can imagine, it doesn't take much to fill up a mini-fridge. If your mini-fridge is an add-on to a real full-sized fridge, well, you can afford to be a little more indulgent. My mom, for example, kept one in her bedroom stocked with Moscato wine; a former boss of mine had one designated exclusively for chocolate. I, however, have to be strategic about what I'm stocking it with because that little ice-box is my only option for food storage. I'm more or less limited to the necessities–breakfast items, beverages, snacks and condiments–with some space leftover for a container of this or that from the prepared foods market. 

Mine currently contains:

  • 2 bottles of Smartwater
  • A bottle of Perrier
  • A can of Diet Coke
  • A few containers of Fage 0% Greek yogurt
  • A container with 4 hard-boiled eggs
  • A grilled turkey burger patty
  • Crackers (Jilz Gluten Free or Lesley Stowe's Raincoast Crisps)
  • A cheese end
  • A jar of Castelvetrano olives
  • A jar of raw honey (for tea)
  • A jar of champagne mustard
  • A bottle of Louisiana Hot Sauce (purchased because of its slenderness)
  • A jar of anchovy-wrapped capers

Mustard and hot sauce can only do so much when it comes to jazzing things up. In that regard, my condiment department was sorely lacking. Ideally, I'd like to keep fresh aïoli on-hand because it's so versatile–Cape Seafood and Provisions sells fresh batches of theirs–but it has such a short shelf-life. Mayonnaise, on the other hand, is too blah. Then, along came Sir Kensington's Chipotle Mayonnaise! 

First of all, I love Sir Kensington's packaging. The squarish glass jar with a black lid gives it a luxurious look while the whimsically illustrated label adds a delightful touch. It adds that joyful "pop" in the mini-fridge, if you know what I mean. Secondly, the brand uses only the finest eggs, oils and seasonings in their products which comes through in the flavor. Their Chipotle Mayonnaise is simply bomb-dot-com, for lack of a better word. Smoky and garlicky with a bright lemony zest... Sometimes that's just what you need to dress a grilled turkey burger patty.


On Omelettes

Not quite perfect.

I make a decently good omelette, but it's a skill that I've only recently acquired. With the bounty of eggs from our chickens, I've gone through the whole gamut of egg preparations: scrambled, fried, coddled, soft-boiled, hard-boiled, poached... I shied away from omelettes because it's the litmus test for chefs. Real chefs. I'm just a lowly home cook. Believe me, despite seeming simple, it's very easy to screw up an omelette.

According to André Soltner, the chef behind the famed but now-closed restaurant Lutèce, an omelette should take no more than two minutes to prepare and has to be shaped like a cigar. The final result should be smooth–no browned spots–and baveuse on the inside, meaning "soft but not runny." It's all about technique and heart, which is why it's the mark of a great chef. 

My omelettes, on the other hand, are shaped like a tortilla that's been folded over and I'm pretty sure that it takes me longer than two minutes to make. I should practice his technique and also learn how to expertly tap the omelette out of the pan and onto a plate as he does. That'll give the whole show some more flair. I learned how to make mine from watching a Jamie Oliver video on YouTube. Unlike Monsieur Soltner, Jamie has a casual, loosey-goosey approach and says that a tiny bit of color is O.K. (I personally don't mind it being a touch browned here and there.)

In one of my favorite films Frances Ha, there's a scene where Frances is in the kitchen and she says to her roomie something like: "I made an omelette, but it turned out to be more of a scramble." Thankfully, those days are behind me–and for Frances too. Later in the film, she masters a late-night omelette for a group of hungry friends.

For Old Times' Sake

I wasn't hungry the same time everyone else was hungry last night. (I also wasn't in the mood for spaghetti marinara.) At 10 p.m., after our guests ambled off to their rooms, I went downstairs and found myself in the kitchen alone. Alone! Oh, how I've missed feeling alone. So what did I do? I reverted back to my old habits: I made myself a bowl of instant ramen noodles with a poached egg, munched on a cold cucumber, and flipped through a magazine–all while standing up at the kitchen counter. Pure satisfaction.