"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.