The Big Breakfast Adventure | Bakery Nouveau & Spring Hill

(In case you missed how the Big Breakfast Adventure got started, you can read it  here:  How it all began)

I am starting to have issues with this whole brunch thing.  I get up at 5 am, or earlier in the summer if I am going out to shoot the sunrise.  By 7 am I am ready to wolf down a hearty breakfast.  So all you places that start to serve ‘brunch’ at 10 am on Saturdays & Sundays – you’re killing me!

The destination for today’s Big Breakfast Adventure was on California Avenue in West Seattle, where only one restaurant made the grade for inclusion as one of Seattle Best Breakfasts:  Spring Hill.  The catch…brunch starts at 10 am.  Sigh.

So given that the ‘mountain was out’ (aka it was a glorious day) & even though I had totally missed the sunrise, I decided to head over to Alki at 7:15 am & just mosey around until the appointed hour for the food-fest at Spring Hill.  Once I had parked myself at the most eastern point of Alki Beach Park, overlooking the city, I had a sudden recollection of a distant French friend now living in Seattle telling me about Bakery Nouveau, a famed French bakery, & I was sure that she had said that it was in West Seattle.  Hmmm.  Maybe this was my perfect opportunity to check off another infamous eatery on my list & also keep the hunger pangs at bay until 10 am.  I flicked through my trusty copy of Seattle Magazine & there it was, just a few blocks south of Spring Hill.  Immediately my stomach took over directing the mornings proceedings & I was off up Bonair Drive like a rabbit at the races.

Once on California Avenue I experienced a few moments of utter confusion with the numbering system while I figured out whether the street numbers were going up or down, turned around a couple of times & then miraculously found a free parking spot fifty feet from Bakery Nouveau’s doors.  I knew it was Bakery Nouveau, not because I could see a sign…but the tell-tale throng of people spilling onto the pavement totally gave it away.  I could see I was in for a bit of a wait.  The line was long & laborious although no one seemed to care, except the servers who were obviously not excited about the prospect of bagging & boxing all the edible treasures on display or making endless cups of coffee to go.  When I finally made it through the door I was wildly excited to see the archetypal pastry display cases (seen in every self-respecting patisserie, cafe & chocolate boutique across Europe) filled with beautiful jewel-like patisserie that made me feel like I had just been teleported to Paris.  I was almost hyper-ventilating.

By the time I got to the front of the {very} long line I had decided against the hot chocolate & just asked for an Almond Croissant, even though they were over cooked.  After being robbed of $4 – Monsieur, it is just ONE croissant – I headed back out into the sunshine & made myself an impromptu cafe table out of a flowerbed just a few yards away.  The big moment had arrived.  Was a perfect French pastry about to hit my lips?  No.  Rats.  It was nowhere near messy enough or almondy enough for a really good Almond Croissant…but it was still the best Almond Croissant I had eaten since the last time I was on the other side of the pond.

(Note:  if you are familiar with Bakery Nouveau & asking yourself how this little upstart has the right to diss one of the most renowned bakeries in Seattle, here’s why I feel somewhat qualified to do so; but it’s a secret, so don’t go telling everyone OK, it’ll just get me in trouble.  I am an {undercover} Pastry Chef & I trained at the National Bakery School in London.  Now, not that everyone who ever trains as a Pastry Chef is actually a great pastry chef.  They’re not.  Some of them are not even good Pastry Chefs.  But, in my defense (bragging moment imminent) I was the Top Student in the Country in my final year (& yes I do have the medal to back up my claim).  That, I believe, gives me at least a little authority on the subject of all things pastry, dessert & chocolate.)

After devouring my expensive-but-not-heart-stoppingly-good Almond Croissant, it was time to locate Spring Hill for the main event.  Spring Hill is almost entirely unmarked.  Blink & you miss it.  Apparently I blinked several times at just the wrong moment.  Finally I spotted it sandwiched, almost invisibly, between the Seattle Fish Company & housewares heaven (aka J.F. Henrys).  I parked right outside the door & settled down to do some writing while I waited for Spring Hill to spring into life.  Out of the corner of my eye I could see the very splendid housewares store next door & I had to resist sneaking in with every cell in my body since I knew from one quick glance in the window that my wallet would be ambushed the instant that I stepped inside.  Then on the other side was the fresh fish store.  Mercy.  I hoped 10 o’clock came soon otherwise I’d be broke before I left West Seattle.

 The door swung open & I bolted for it.  I was SO ready for breakfat, even if it was going to be gluten-free.  Bless her, the girl at the desk tried her best to offload me to the bar, but, with memories of my awful bar-stool experience at Roxy’s rapidly surfacing, I was having none of it.  I wanted a table & I wanted that cute little table right in the front window.  The sun was out & I wanted to look at it. 

Peppermint leaves + boiling water = perfect tea

 Spring Hill is staggeringly civilized.  From the strikingly simple (even the cups don’t have handles) & elegant tableware to the clean, minimalist decor & incredibly well-mannered staff.  Then there was the music in stark constant to everything else:  rap.  Followed by soft funk.  Followed by blues.  Expect eclectic music at Spring Hill.

I know by now not to look at the menu.  Especially on days when what I am there to eat would never be on my breakfast wish-list.  So today I didn’t even look at the menu.  I was going to have the Bone-in Ham Steak & Cheese Grits whatever my mouth might think about that choice.  However, with the peppermint tea being simply real mint leaves in boiling water  we were off to a great start.

Bone-in Ham Steak & Cheese Grits @ Spring Hill

 When Matthew brought my plate over my nose went wild.  It smelled *amazing*.  My nose was convinced even if my mouth wasn’t yet.  My mouth followed pretty quick.  The ham steak was incredible.  It was so moist & tender, almost like slicing through a block of butter.  It tasted fantastic.  The grits however are probably an acquired taste, & one which I don’t think I have acquired yet.  They didn’t really have much flavor.  Stabbing the egg & letting the yolk seep into them helped.  The greens?  The greens were on the salty side, but they made me feel better simply because I was “getting my greens”.

It might not look like a lot of food in the photo, but I can assure you that the ham steak was huge & there were way more grits hiding under those greens that you can even imagine.  It was a lot of food & it had me beat & that’s a rare thing.  Maybe the Almond Croissant an hour earlier wasn’t such a great idea after all.

Gluten-free breakfast? Worked for me

Would I go to Spring Hill again based on this meal?  Yes.  Would I order this particular meal again?  Probably not, but only because grits are just not my thing.  I’d go there just to eat a ham steak though.  I just wish I didn’t have to wait until 10 o’clock to get fed there.  Sigh.

Bakery Nouveau on Urbanspoon
Spring Hill on Urbanspoon

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