All throughout college, I considered French toast the ideal order for brunch. It was more exciting than pancakes, more filling than waffles courtesy of the decadent egg batter, and, perhaps most importantly, it satisfied my lust for carbs and more carbs.
My obsession with French toast reached its peak height during my senior year when my friend Ashley and I discovered the version at Vive La Crepe in Evanston. Every Sunday after church, we’d go the quiet Americanized French cafe and each order the French toast with berries instead of the berry sauce, and a side of scrambled eggs that I was convinced tasted exactly like buttered popcorn. We loved the French toast so much we would regularly engage in an entire AOL Instant Messenger conversation that went something similar to this:
Ashley: FRENCH TOAST!
Me: FRENCH TOOOOOOAST!
Ashley: FRENCH TOOOOOOOOOAST!
This was, of course, in between our in depth discussions of the new spring lines at Banana Republic and J. Crew.
Since graduating and moving to Los Angeles, however, my lust for French toast has slowly eroded. While I’ve discovered amazing versions at the Griddle Cafe, Square One and Canelé, recently I’ve completely nixed the sugary offering from my brunch vocabulary. Today, it seems it’s all about the incredible edible egg for me.
So when my family and I made Sunday brunch plans at Cucina Alessa, a popular Italian restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach, it never even occurred to me that I might be tempted by the seductively sweet dish that is more akin to dessert than a complete breakfast. But my mom kept talking about it – raving about how the restaurant’s “Illegal” French toast ($9.99) was “the best ever.”
I was curious. As was my eldest brother who, like me, has a raging sweet tooth and penchant for carbohydrates.
When our waitress came by our table to take our order we decided to split a plate along with our egg dishes. It was the only sensible thing to do.
I imagined that I would take a couple bites of the thick slices of French bread dipped in vanilla and cinnamon egg batter, topped with bananas, strawberries, mascarpone cheese, and toasted almonds, and be done with it. I had an egg panino to attend to that was housing more than enough carbs to keep my blood sugar levels humming for the rest of the day.
Yet when the plate arrived, neither my brother nor I could keep our forks away from the fluffy slices of cinnamon-scented toast. While I was expecting the dish to be over-the-top rich, the indulgent coating of mascarpone cheese wasn’t overly aggressive on the palate. It worked harmoniously with the sweet bread and fruit, somewhat mitigating the sweetness that is normally associated with French toast – likely because there was no need for syrup. It was completely addicting, and it completely overshadowed my humble, yet tasty, incredible edible egg panino ($9.95).
Though the French toast was not the best I’ve ever had (Canelé and the Griddle Cafe still hold that claim to French toast fame), it was the shining star of our brunch at Cucina Alessa on Sunday morning. I might even shoot Ashley a Gmail chat message to inform her of its existence. I imagine the conversation will go something like this:
Me: FRENCH TOAST!!!!
Ashley: FRENCH TOAST?!?!
Me: FRENCH…. TOOOAST!!!!
And then I’ll send her a link to the new dress I like at Anthropologie.
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