Monday, April 27, 2009

Huckleberry: (Runny) green eggs & ham, yes, ma'am!

I'm nervous as I stand in the short line of mostly women, who are waiting to place their orders at the counter of Zoe Nathan's Huckleberry Cafe in Santa Monica. I know what I want -- have actually known for days -- but am still anxious when the bright-eyed counter soldier turns to take down my order.

"I... uhh..." I stumble, attempting to stall for more time.

He cocks an eyebrow, I feel the heat of impatience from behind me, and I start again.

"I'll have the green eggs and ham, and I want the eggs cooked... err... medium?" I say finally, glancing back to my friend Ashley for approval.

She nods, her face stern, but encouraging.

I tag on a maple bacon biscuit and pot of loose leaf green tea, and proceed forward to the checkout.

"Diana?" Asks the fresh-faced woman manning the register. "Green eggs & ham - medium?" She continues for confirmation.

I hesitate. "Does medium mean runny?"

"Yes, the yolk will be runny. Do you want it cooked hard? I can tell the kitchen..."

My head swims as I envision a golden sea seeping over my plate. I don't know that I can do it.


I pay the $20 check, adding on a couple dollars tip for all my trouble-making, and then Ashley and I scout out a two-person table along the side wall of the seemingly perpetually chaotic cafe.

"I should have just gotten it medium." I say, ashamed of myself.

She nods, pouring herself a glass of water from the water jug on the table. "It's so much better -- and you can use the English muffin to sop up the extra liquid. It gives the whole thing so much more flavor."

I debate getting back up to ask for it medium, but am already too embarrassed. Plus, my maple bacon biscuit has arrived and my mouth is immediately occupied with a tender hunk of the lightly sweetened, bacon-speckled pastry.

"So good," I gush, as a flaky piece of the egg-washed biscuit makes a free fall from my lower lip. "You have to try this." I insist, pushing the plate across the table toward Ashley.

She agrees with my rave reaction, likening it to a scone, but turns down my subsequent offers to get her to eat more so I don't gorge on the entire thing before my improperly ordered entree arrives.

We continue to make small talk, and I drink as much water as possible to keep my hands away from the other half of the buttery pastry. I'm starving from our intense 5K workout that morning on the Venice boardwalk, but know that the physical exertion still doesn't justify complete gluttony.

A server approaches our table with plates. "Green eggs and ham, cooked medium?" He asks.

I look up in surprise. They forgot to change it!

I smile and eagerly accept the rustically plated dish, while my friend stakes her claim on the poached eggs over market vegetables and side English muffin with homemade blueberry compote and butter.

Despite the scattered presentation, I am amused by the clever nature of the dish -- two halves of a toasted English muffin have been topped with meaty strips of prosciutto, tender fried eggs, an oil-heavy basil pesto, and a generous heap of Arugula. I marvel at the attention that has been paid to creating my breakfast, but am momentarily paralyzed when I run my knife through the egg and the yolk bursts onto my plate.

I look up at Ashley in alarm.

"Is that normal?!" I gasp, horrified at the golden river oozing across my previously clean white plate.

"Yes, look at mine," she says, tearing her egg open to reveal the runny yolk inside.

I scrunch my lips up in skepticism "Are you sure? It looks like the egg white isn't completely cooked either..."

"It's fine." She insists and takes a big bite of her impossibly thick homemade English muffin.

"Okay..." I say and slowly raise my fork to my mouth.

The peppery Arugula, savory basil and salty proscuitto dance across my tongue like the perfect companions on Dancing with the Stars. As the flavors meld together with the molton fried egg, trumpets begin to sound in my head, fireworks appear in the distance and my eyes roll back in ecstasy.

I look up at Ashley in shock.

"See?" She says with a smirk. "Now use the English muffin to sop up the yolk." She commands.

I eagerly comply with her instruction, no longer concerned about Salmonella, food-borne illness and visits to the emergency room.

We proceed to mop our plates clean, and then Ashley attends to one of Huckleberry's signature sweets - a salted caramel ($2.50) that emerges from the bakery counter still cool from the refrigerator. It is an unexpectedly delightful temperature for the succulent block of caramel that has been gently kissed with sea salt and planted on a tender cookie crust. My one bite engenders a taste memory that will ultimately drive me back to the cafe the next day.

"I can't believe I ate a runny egg!" I sing, after both our stomachs have reached full capacity.

Ashley smiles a smile that needs no words. I know what she's thinking -- "I can't believe you haven't eaten one before today."

I pretend not to notice her amusement -- I'm already composing the Twitter I'm going to post about the experience when we get back to my apartment. Maybe, "Runny yolks are like liquid gold?" Or "I just consumed raw egg, and I'm not dead yet?"

As we push up from our seats, I overhear a server who is delivering another parade of plates to a table of two girls nearby.

"Green eggs and ham, scrambled?" He asks.

I pause and survey the well-done scrambled eggs in horror. "Hmmph!" I grunt in my head with a smugness that I didn't possess prior to arriving at the restaurant.

"Amateur foodie. She's ruined it!" I think disapprovingly and turn away toward the door with my nose held high in the air.


Lady Lisa said...

Congratulations, and welcome to the world of delicious runny eggs! :-)

Mindy said...

I have a hard time with runny eggs too, especially ordered from a restaurant. I like my yolks runny, but absolutely hate, hate, hate any runny whites. I don't know why I don't a trust a restaurant to get it right, but I rarely order non-scrambled eggs out. You're brave!

Ashley said...

This is a necessary correction - I would have been happy with strawberry jam, but it was blueberry compote (ish) that came with the english muffin and it was DIVINE. (I ate what was left over with my fork.)

Pearl said...

ha - SO cute!

The Blonde Duck said...

I can't do it. I can't. Nope, nope, nope.

You would be HORRIFIED by the way I eat my eggs.

Sara said...

Once I saw maple bacon biscuit, I was hooked. Must try. :)

Diana said...

Lisa - Thank you! I'm glad to be in the world of runny eggs. :)

Mindy - I don't think ordering runny eggs will be a regular occurence for me, but I'll definitely do it with this type of dish. As for other times... I'll stick to 'em scrambled!

Ashley - Noted and corrected. :)

Miranda - Do you douse them with ketchup?

Jenn said...

I like runny eggs. I scoop yolk up with some toast. Though, I want that biscuit. Bacon and maple?? Yum-o!! And that caramel bar! That'll be my sugar intake for the day.

The Duo Dishes said...

The runny part is the best. It's so fun to poke toast in it and eat it. Or maybe with part of the scone you had there. Yum!

And YES, that was TJ's on Ventura. :) Haven't checked out the new one in Hollywood. Seems like it would be a madhouse!

ruth said...

Yay! Welcome to the runny egg club! Next you'll be throwing poached eggs on pasta and pizzas and everything you can think of!

Hari said...

It was nice running with you and Ashley this weekend. Congratulations on your runny egg initiation!! And the food looks delicious too, much better than the fruit, muffin and luna bar :)

Alessandra said...

I like my eggs brown and almost rubbery! I'll never change!

Esi said...

My friend Raul just had food from Huckleberry last week and is begging me to try and recreate the maple bacon biscuit. Glad you made it through your first runny egg experience :) (and lived to talk about it)

Reeni♥ said...

How brave you were! I eat an egg like that almost every day for breakfast. My day doesn't feel right if I don't. The biscuit looks divine, but the salted caramel really caught me. I scrolled up to look at it not once, but three times. And I will have to have one more look before I leave. I have to recreate that!

Heather said...

mmmmm. that maple bacon biscuit sounds AMAZING!

Diana said...

Jenn - It was my sugar intake for the weekend!

Chrystal & Amir - I haven't been to the Hollywood one yet either -- I'm a little afraid!

Ruth - I don't know about pizza... I think I'll have to do pasta first and work from there.

Hari - It was nice running with you too! Glad you came out!

Ali - Aww, that's okay. I'll love you even if you eat burnt eggs for the rest of your life. ;)

Esi - If anyone can recreate it, I'm sure you can! Just tell him he's got to buy you breakfast there first. You know... for research.

Reeni - The salted caramel was unreal. I really did drive out of my way to go back and get one the next day.

Heather - It was probably like five billion calories but worth every one of them!

Melissa Good Taste said...

RUNNY EGGS make me smile!

Hayley said...

Runny yolks are the only way to go. Glad you enjoyed!