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Publication: Syracuse New Times
Author: Smorol, Lorraine
Date published: December 28, 2011

Upscale breakfast provides a welcome respite from holiday hustle

Wonderful as the holidays are, they come with a lot of stress: shopping, decorating the tree, hosting and attending parties, visiting family, attending holiday school performances, professional concerts or an evening of theater.

In between all the commotion, why not plan sharing a sumptuous breakfast in a lovely setting? And we're not talking diners. As great as they are, there is too much hubbub, defeating the purpose. Ditto Sunday brunches. Crowds shuffle through those groaning boards filling their plates over and over with a never-ending, bountiful array of everything from eggs to standing rib roasts, pastas and salads, capped with a dessert display that would gag a pig.

What is called for is a weekday sojourn with a friend or significant other, for a quiet get-together. It might be the beginning of a day of shopping, taking in the holiday sights or just catching your breath in between hectic days. And even though it's breakfast, you might even want to dress up for the occasion. Here are four upscale spots to partake of a morning repast.

The Limestone Grille at the Craftsman Inn, 7300 E. Genesee St., Fayetteville, fills the bill on all counts. Randy Malone, who has been the general manager here since its inception in 2008, oversees a first-class breakfast of traditional items taken to another dimension.

But first, take in the surroundings of this 130-seat dining room. It is like turning back the clock to the Arts and Crafts movement, where furniture, walls, lighting and carpeting were designed and executed with care. Handsome Stickley Metropolitan tables and chairs, along with a few booths, stand on handsome wool carpeting that was installed to absorb the sound. Soft light flows from pendant lighting, including Frank Lloyd Wright-type wall sconces. Limited seating in the bar area offers even more privacy if desired.

Limestone Grille's Sunrise Selections lists 12 breakfast choices, many of which are twists on familiar dishes, like corned beef hash Benedict. The tasty mélange takes corned beef hash crowned with two poached eggs, all topped with hollandaise sauce, plus a side of home-style breakfast potatoes for $8. Syracuse country-style French toast features thick toast slices coated with crushed corn flakes for texture contrast. The dish is not complete without fresh whipped cream, strawberries and real New York maple syrup; served with a choice of applewood bacon Italian breakfast sausage or Black Forest ham, for $9.

Try the Continental. Light but filling, it plates assorted breakfast pastries and bread, served with cream cheese, preserves, fresh fruit or juice; $8. Eggs, any style, omelets, pancakes, waffles, smoked salmon, banana bread French toast, are classics on the menu. If you want to fortify yourself for a busy day ahead, go for a five-ounce certified angus beef New York strip steak, served with two eggs any style, toast and breakfast potatoes for $13.

Freshly brewed Melitta Italian Roast coffee is a great waker-upper, or you may choose cappuccino, espresso or latte. Assorted juices can also accompany your meal. Service is prompt but unhurried, overseen by Janette Ripka, dining room manager, who has been on board as long as Malone.

Limestone Grille serves breakfast Mondays to Saturdays from 7 to 11 a.m., and Sunday brunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call 637-9999.

THE FRENCH CONNECTION

No matter the season, weekends make the village of Skaneateles a bustling hotspot of pedestrians, shoppers and tourists. At holiday time, that adds up to a hectic visit. Instead, opt for a trip to Skaneateles during the week, which not only avoids the crowds, but affords the opportunity to start the day with a leisurely breakfast before taking in the lakeside scenery and picking up a few gifts before heading back home.

Breakfast at Mirbeau Inn and Spa, 851 W. Genesee St., creates a beautiful beginning to your day. What could be more glorious than joining a friend at a table in the inn's bright and open dining room with its outside view of the picturesque replica of a Monet painting, complete with bridge and pond? The setting is breathtaking-like being transported to France. Also, no reservations are needed.

The inn has chosen understated holiday decorations of poinsettias and a small, twinkling Christmas tree in the reception area, so as not to conflict with the country French ambiance of the inn. There is so much to explore here, but breakfast is the main item on the agenda.

"Life. Classically balanced" is the banner at the center of the breakfast menu, which begins with its beverages of select juices and Seattle's Best brand coffee, Italian espresso, cappuccino or creamy latte. Organic and healing herb-infused teas are on hand for the serious tea drinker. Since this is a special occasion, you might be tempted to indulge in a spicy bloody Mary or champagne mimosa. Salud!

Ten a la cart breakfast plates run the gamut from free-range eggs any style, house-made toast, potatoes and a choice of breakfast meats for $7. Choose your ingredients for a classic omelet for $10. The Omelet Atlantiq takes on a French twist, topped with smoked salmon, crème fraiche, a fresh green salad, capers and red onion; $14. Any of the above may be prepared with egg whites.

Eggs Benedict are a favorite item for $12. Go South of the Border with the breakfast wrap of scrambled eggs, black bean salad and homemade picante salsa in a whole wheat wrap baked with pepper jack cheese, accompanied with a side of seasonal fruit; $8. Lemon ricotta pancakes are light and fluffy, served with sweet whipped cream and preserved berries and available for $10.

The twice-baked French toast , also $10, is a show-stopper. The pastry dough "bread pudding" cooked with eggs, cream and cinnamon is carved into a tall cube and served with a crunchy molasses cookie wedged on top just for fun. Granola is "lovingly made" with oats, nuts, honey and dried fruits, topped with seasonal berries for $6. For a healthy start, try a fruit plate for $9, and muesli cereal-European-style grain and fruit with yogurt and berries, finished with your choice of milk-for $7.

The best deal by far, however, is the European Continental. For $10, this displayed breakfast-similar to those served in Europe-features circular tiers with thinly shaved smoked salmon and sliced cucumbers, crescents of Bermuda onions and a scattering of capers. Next is a dish of cured and smoked meats that go well with the variety of local and imported cheeses, including brie bleu and cheddar, which is adjacent to a colorful potpourri of fresh fruits and berries

The upper tiers are reserved for breads and rolls, which may feature blueberry muffins, croissants and bagels. One fanciful, domed roll holds a surprise: a sugar cube inserted in the dough before baking. A super-sized croissant has also been embellished, but on the outside, instead of the inside. Honey has been drizzled over the crust and slivered almonds have become nestled within the syrupy coating. Take note that, because of the gooey surface, this is knife-and-fork fare. The alternative is to pick it up with your fingers, and ask for a finger bowl to rinse off the residue. Your server will even help you finish the job with a napkin-sized terry towel.

Breakfast is served Mondays through Fridays from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m.; brunch on weekends from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Call 685-5006.

BIG CITY BREAKFAST

A visit to Manhattan not on your agenda during the holidays? No problem. Walk through the contemporary-appointed lobby and adjoining rooms at the Crowne Plaza, 701 E. Genesee St., for a Big Apple breakfast at Redfield's restaurant. The hotel's executive chef, Brent Jameson, has put together a morning menu of items that are familiar with a bit of a twist.

Nine a la carte items begin with a stack of blueberry, chocolate chip or strawberry pancakes topped with a fragrant streusel for $12. For those watching their carbs, the egg white omelet with spinach, tomatoes and feta cheese is $11. Two eggs, any style, with bacon, ham or sausage along with home fries and choice of toast is $10.95. Eggs atop house-made corned beef hash is $11.95. An omelet with your choice of two filling items is $11.75. The list includes spinach, onion, mushroom, tomato, bacon, sausage, ham, Swiss or cheddar cheese. Want more than two choices? Add 30 cents for each additional item.

You can't go wrong with the classic eggs Benedict with home fries for $11.75. Or choose a Belgian waffle with strawberries and whipped cream for $11.75, plain or cinnamon-raisin brioche French toast with maple syrup for $11.95 or stuffed French toast with a choice of applewood smoked bacon or maple sausage for $12.95.

For the light eater, a seasonal fruit plate is $7, warm Irish steel-cut oatmeal with brown sugar, golden raisins and raspberry sauce is $7, and honey-roasted granola with vanilla yogurt and blueberries is $7.

Redfield's best-kept secret is the $11.95 breakfast buffet. Tucked in an alcove near the entrance of the restaurant is a lineup of morning menu fare in individual chafing dishes. You'll find freshly scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon, and French toast. There are assorted cold cereals, plus granola and steel-cut oatmeal. Dried cranberries and apricots invite a sweet sprinkling over the cereal. But the kicker is the option to make your own waffles.

"The kids go crazy for this!" says Daniel Bunnell, director of operations for the Syracuse Crowne Plaza. Use a handy lever to release the waffle batter from the metal machine and scoop it onto the waffle iron.

Breakfast hours are weekdays from 6:30 to 11 a.m., and weekends from 7 a.m. to noon. Call 479-7000 for information.

GRANDE SLAM

Just up the street from the Crowne Plaza, the Genesee Grande presents a different ambiance from its trendy neighbor. The soaring ceilings and fresh greenery, along with eclectic décor and fanciful fireplace, lend an aura of the grand hotels of yesteryear. High ceilings in the open bistro room, located just off the registration area, maintain an elegant feel. The Tuscan room, a long, all-windowed, narrow space, offers more intimacy, while the lounge in the bar area feels less formal. Whichever area you choose, be assured of the ability to enjoy a pleasant visit with your guest.

Executive chef John Grainger adds a bit of whimsy to his 15-item breakfast menu. For a light tasting, the continental breakfast of a bakery basket, fresh fruit or beverage choice is $9. Homemade corn beef hash with two eggs, any style is $8. There are three choices for eggs Benedict: Canadian bacon, smoked salmon or spinach and tomatoes for $12.50. The Adirondack breakfast is the classic of two eggs, and hash browns with a choice of grilled ham steak, bacon or sausage for $11.

Baked Irish oatmeal ($7) is a treat with dried fruits, toasted almonds and streusel topping, all laced with vanilla-scented milk. The yogurt lover may opt for the morning parfait, which layers honey-scented yogurt, a mixed berry compote and toasted granola for $7. A three-egg omelet offers a choice of three items among ham, peppers, onions, mushrooms, Swiss, cheddar or American cheese; try it for $9.50 plus 50 cents for each additional item.

Plain, blueberry, chocolate chip or strawberry buttermilk pancakes are served with New York maple syrup for $8. Top your Belgian waffle with a choice of fresh blueberries or strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream for $8. Chef Grainger has taken the lowly grapefruit to new heights with his $5 creation of sections fanned into a flower and surrounded by a variety of berries. Egg-dipped brioche bread with a topping of vanilla icing becomes French toast for $8.

The beautifully executed smoked salmon bagel layers the smoked salmon, capers, red onions, sliced plum tomatoes, cucumber and cream cheese on a bagel sandwich for $9. Grainger's Spanish-style breakfast wrap offers a combination of scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, spicy chorizo sausage, peppers and onions and roasted tomato salsa. It's quite a daystarter for $10. Head for Scandinavian with Norwegian Morning, smoked salmon with either scrambled eggs or omelet style, and served with dollar-size potato pancakes and chive sour cream.

Breakfast is served Mondays through Fridays from 6:30 to 11 a.m., Saturdays, 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Sundays, 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call 476-4212 for information.

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