[Another updated repost, this time with demographic changes, from my Sun blog.]
I spend approximately 70 nights a year away from home. Part of my travel koan is to eat a good breakfast, because lunch often reduces to Altoids mints and a Starbucks coffee. I have become a self-proclaimed connoisseur of french toast, a veritable gourmand du pain frite, which is appropriate no matter how bad your Francophone accent.
So based on nothing more than my personal recollection of taste, texture and desire to eat several hectares worth of the stuff, here are my Global Toast ratings:
Cinnamon Bun French Toast, Ko’Sin restaurant, Sheraton Wild Horse Pass hotel, Phoenix, Arizona. It’s so good I woke up at 5:30 am to enjoy it even though I knew there was a free breakfast coming up the same day. It is precisely what it sounds like, topped with prickly pear butter. In terms of caloric content, cholesterol and other bad stuff, it’s the french toast equivalent of uranium. But worth it.
Vanilla Bean French Toast, (originally) Black Bear restaurant, Lake Placid, New York. The Black Bear closed its door and was bulldozed sometime in 2006, but the french toast moved down Main Street to Charlie’s, another of the Chair 6 group of eateries. Yes, it’s worth the four hour drive from New York City. Well, maybe not in the snow, but if you do venture up there before the annual melt (in April) buy a dozen or so servings to go in case you get stuck on the way home. Or not. It’s that good. Supposedly the vanilla bean and cinnamon bread used as the base comes from a local bakery that has some unique intellectual property in the bakery biz. You can enjoy your breakfast, walk across the street and see where Miracle took place.
Thick-sliced French Toast, Ritz Diner, Livingston, New Jersey. I’m slightly biased, because the Ritz has the home field advantage. They make an amazing challah bread, enhanced even more after being egged on and fried to give it that uniquely Jersey diner look & feel. Yes, it’s the blue/green diner where parts of the Sopranos fifth season were filmed. Start your day with high-density carbs and a “How you doin?”.
French Toast, House of Blues at the Mandalay Bay hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada. The best-kept secret for hangover-less breakfast in Sin City. And it hasn’t been touched by that guy who just handled $65 in nickels at the slot machine before getting in the buffet line.
Fifteen hours from now, I’ll be driving a car loaded with one smelly hockey bag, two well-worn sticks, two boxes of girl scout cookies, three suitcases, camera bag, case of trophies, box of NJ Devils Youth Hockey club pins, a cowbell, two parents (mine) and one son (also mine). 290 miles from here we’ll pass the Prague Motor Lodge as we enter the town of Lake Placid. Friday morning we start our annual end of season tournament.
I love Lake Placid, possibly because it reminds me of the timelessness one of my other favorite haunts, Princeton University. Standing there puts you in a river of tradition. It’s never the same, but it’s the same landmarks and waysigns and visual clues that you’re somewhere special.
It’s 1932 and 1980 and 2006 all rolled into one. It’s a Main Street so quiet that if you stand outside on a cold night, you swear you hear “U-S-A!” being chanted. It’s where our hockey season, like that of Mike Eruzione, comes to an end this year.
We face some tough teams in our division. We have four games in a 38-hour stretch over two days. I believe in the 17 young men who will be playing on that fabled rink, where, we are told by banners at every corner, “Miracles Happen Here.” I’ve waited 51 weeks to find out if it’s true — again.