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Breakfast: A Wake-Up Call

Chefs like Los Angeles’ Neal Fraser have started setting their alarms early so they can serve exquisite breakfasts—from ricotta pancakes and brioche French toast to braised pork shanks with poached eggs.

Star chefs aren’t exactly famous for being early risers, because late-night dinners keep them in the kitchen long after most working people have called it a day. Recently, though, chefs on both coasts have begun heading back to their restaurants at dawn—to add a new meal to their repertoire. In Manhattan, Daniel Boulud serves an elegantly simple French-style breakfast at his DB Bistro Moderne, and Jody Williams has expanded Morandi’s menu to include a luxe Italian-style breakfast. In Los Angeles, Hans Röckenwagner’s new 3 Square Café + Bakery offers an original German-inspired breakfast, as well as lunch and dinner (the other two squares).

Some of the most inventive morning dishes anywhere are being prepared by chef Neal Fraser at L.A.’s BLD (Breakfast Lunch Dinner) Restaurant. Breakfast is Fraser’s favorite meal, and it’s the only one he ever consistently cooks at home. He was determined to make it an integral part of BLD from the outset. "I think there’s lots of potential for creativity at breakfast that hasn’t been tapped," he says. And Fraser’s fans get a chance to see what a great chef can do with a meal that, at its core, is homey and welcoming. Every day at 8 a.m., BLD starts serving a full-on breakfast that ranges from fresh takes on the classics—tender, moist ricotta pancakes; crisp-edged, fluffy French toast smothered in a sweet-tart fresh berry compote—to innovative choices like kouign amann (a sweet, layered Breton bread) and braised pork shanks with poached eggs (for the customers, Fraser says, "who really get it"). He insists on using exceptional-quality ingredients, like Nueske’s satisfyingly meaty smoky bacon. BLD’s pastry chefs bake every muffin, scone, brioche and English muffin (the base for eggs Benedict, prepared with a luscious red wine–port hollandaise sauce) on the premises.

Fraser has been pleased to discover that a few items popular with his loyal breakfast clientele—local writers and actors, moms with strollers—are those inspired by dinner dishes at Grace Restaurant, his other establishment in L.A. "When a dish works, like the John Dory I serve with pea shoots and mixed wild mushrooms," he says, "I like to take some of the components and make them into a breakfast dish." At BLD, the pea shoots and shiitake mushrooms find their way into a light, fluffy omelet made with tangy goat cheese.

A third restaurant is down the road a bit for Fraser, though he’s sketchy about details as of now. But one thing is certain: It will definitely be open for breakfast.

Published January 2008
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