When we travel, one of the things I look for in a hotel is an elegant breakfast. Yup. Big beds, good wifi, a downtown location and an elegant breakfast. Finding the perfect combination of understated luxury and practical services isn’t always easy, but if you do find it, you can probably assume that there will be a lovely, well-stocked breakfast area with terrific coffee and a selection of appealing early morning repast choices somewhere near the lobby. Alas, this service isn’t available at our house unless we provide if for ourselves.
But if you live in our house, an elegant breakfast is difficult to achieve. Jamie is monosyllabic and confused for the first couple of hours of his day, so my presence in our open kitchen while he’s squinting at his laptop and mainlining coffee isn’t always welcome. But a gal can dream, and when this gal dreams, she dreams up the breakfasts we’ve enjoyed at our favorite boutique hotels in the US and Europe.
So what constitutes an elegant breakfast? First and foremost, your surroundings. Set up your breakfast area the night before, so that you’re faced with something beautiful first thing in the morning. The area should be free of magazines and other daily life detritus. The table should be set, but simply, and only with exactly what’s needed—nothing gussy or overdressed will do. Flowers in a small vase, or a beautiful succulent in a tiny pot are nice touches. And if you’re the sort of person who watches tv or listens to the radio in the morning, skip it for this occasion. They don’t belong here.
Secondly, hot beverages should be at hand, either in a coffee press or a teapot, and milk should be warmed slightly and in a cream pitcher. If you enjoy juice, it should be in glasses, ready to drink. Casual cloth napkins are best. Small plates should be placed at each setting, along with bowls or cups for coffee. Egg spoons, teaspoons, butter knives and, if required, small forks should be gathered and placed on the table. And, of course, egg cups, a butter dish and pots of homemade jam.
Whatever you serve, it should be simple, delicious and fortifying. Mornings are all about being kind to your newly-rested body and soul, and your poor brain shouldn’t have to struggle with any complicated preparations. Fresh fruit should be available, and crusty bread or delicate pastry to go with. Soft-boiled eggs always feel luxurious to me. Oatmeal or porridge are always elegant—no matter what you call them—especially when served in a rustic bowl with maple syrup and fresh fruit, and eaten with a big spoon.
Take your time and savor the quiet and the company, even if it’s your own. Sprinkle salt onto your newly-opened egg. Smell the milky coffee, and enjoy how your warm oatmeal tastes with the cool banana slices or the smooth, firm blueberries you layered on top. Imagine yourself in a place where you have nothing else to think about but how good your breakfast is, how lovely the light coming through the window looks in the morning, and how good it is to ease yourself into another day.
I suppose someone in this world has an elegant breakfast every day. But for the rest of us, the fact that such things are rare and special, and a break from our normal, chaotic mornings means that they’re a treat. Like a boutique hotel, in a big city, with comfortable beds and really good wifi.
As usual, thanks to the talented Sarah J. Abraham, whose gorgeous photos make this post look fantastic.