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Posted at 12:20 PM ET, 01/24/2011

Breakfast buffets? Get the yawns out.

By Bonnie S. Benwick

Met my cousin for an early breakfast the other day, at a power spot in Northern Virginia with white tablecloths, mature waiters and a nice view.

stravelabuffet_opt_opt.jpg Ho-hum.

Unfortunately, the buffet could have been in any hotel where breakfast is incl. with the price of a night's stay. You can recite what was there along with me: juices that don’t taste fresh-squeezed; one table with a few standard cereals and containers of yogurt; a platter of colorful “seasonal” fruit that has no taste; a platter of generic mini-danish; oatmeal that goes gloppy; an omelet station with de-packaged shredded cheddar, diced wan tomatoes and bell pepper; the conveyor-belt toaster with a tray of commercial bread and rolls; foil packs of cream cheese; scrambled eggs, shiny bacon and spongy triangles of french toast with a bowl of warmed maple syrup.

C’mon, buffet chefs of the weekday dawn. You can do better. About this time last year I was in Israel, where fresh vegetable salads, flavored spreads, cheeses, savory pastries and fresh, un-containered yogurt were standard fare. Here’s a challenge: Google images of hotel breakfast buffets – apart from brunches. I bet you’ll find the good-looking ones are not made in the U.S.A.

Time to start something. Let’s group-think a suggestion list, suitable for leaving at every disappointing morning table. Do’s, don’ts, whys and why nots. We’ll compile the ideas in an easy-to-print format.

Here are some of mine:
• Expand your egg universe. There are better ways to hold them than scrambled in a steam tray.
• Think ethnic/outside the box. Spice things up. What’s popular breakfast food in other cultures? Chances are, someone who’s doing prep in your kitchen knows how to make a dish that will surprise and satisfy.

By Bonnie S. Benwick  | January 24, 2011; 12:20 PM ET
Tags:  Bonnie S. Benwick  
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The best breakfast buffet I ever had was at the Hotel D'Angleterre in Copenhagen. Excellent quality and a huge selection of food. I sat by the window with my individual pot of coffee and watched all the pedestrians rush around Kongens Nytorv on their way to work. It was fabulous!

Posted by: BMore_Cat_Lover | January 24, 2011 1:21 PM | Report abuse

It's the lack of attention to detail and lack of choice. There are only so many dishes that can really hold up to an extended stay on the steam table. The things people really want are freshly made--omelet/egg and crepe stations, carved meats. The more you have of those, and the better the quality, the more expensive. When it gets very expensive, people would rather have an elegant sit down experience as opposed to the high quantity/possibly low quality buffet.

Posted by: Louise9 | January 24, 2011 3:34 PM | Report abuse

The problem is that people are afraid to deviate from "traditional" breakfast foods. If they took a risk and explored other savory options, they'd be more exciting! For example, I rarely see something like a soup or pasta. People like pizza too!

Posted by: sigmagrrl | January 24, 2011 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Sigh...... The lack of good breakfast options in DC drives me to tears. If ever there SHOULD be a breakfast town, this is it!

Posted by: spazmazilla | January 24, 2011 4:37 PM | Report abuse

I'd love to see more dates and figs: stuffed with mascarpone or chevre, bacon-wrapped, as preserves with cheeses, with savory biscuits...

Posted by: eatwithpleasure | January 26, 2011 3:44 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Louise - it's that they don't care, or the facility doesn't really want to spend the money or time to make breakfast great. Breakfast is best when it's freshly prepared - omelets just off the pan, waffles just out of the waffle iron. And to make great breakfast pastries, you should be doing them in-house, and making an actual croissant dough for your croissants, and actual Danish dough for your Danish. It takes a lot of time and care and creativity, and you can't charge as much for it as dinner. It's no surprise that places take the easy way out.

Posted by: ModernDomestic | January 26, 2011 4:22 PM | Report abuse

The best breakfast buffets I've had were all at hotels in Hawaii. Other than the amazing fruit and coffee, the buffets there are definitely more ethnic - there was miso soup, but more particularly, rice soup, which really isn't much different from oatmeal. You can top that with a variety of toppings provided by the hotel, like pork sung (dried shredded pork). On a similar vein, I like hotel buffets that provide plain oatmeal and a variety of toppings so that you can prepare it the way you like it. I would even be happy with hotel scrambled eggs if they had things to mix in - different types of cheese, scallions, bacon, chopped spinach, sauteed mushrooms, etc.

Posted by: stephykay | January 27, 2011 11:36 PM | Report abuse

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