Tag Archives: hotel breakfasts

An Ode to Road Oatmeal

Gentle Readers, it is no secret that The Practical Cook is a big fan of cereal. I eat it, I Tweet it, I make videos about it. Rarely are there fewer than 10 types of it in my pantry. I cook with it (currently, I’m trying to think of the top 5 uses for the irritating bits of cereal that collect in the bottom of the bag). But I digress. On the road, it is very difficult to get my cereal on.

Steel-Cut Oatmeal in a Bathtub-Sized Bowl

Steel-Cut Oatmeal in a Bathtub-Sized Bowl

The choices are often dicey, the milk is often long-standing, and frankly, I’m morally opposed to paying $5 for a small bowl of Tony the Tiger. So when I travel, as a compensatory move for the way I’m eating the rest of the day (because remember, I got smacked hard with the genetic cholesterol stick), I choose oatmeal.

Oatmeal with Strawberries at Grand Luxe Cafe

Oatmeal with Strawberries at Grand Luxe Cafe

Though it may go for a pretty penny in Vegas (I thought Virtually Cooking was kidding about $20 oatmeal, he was not), at least someone cooked it, and it’s generally steel-cut at that premium. And I feel good about eating it. The toppings are usually interesting and varied, and I go for skim milk when it’s an option.

Oatmeal Toppings at Grand Luxe Cafe: Golden Raisins, Brown Sugar, Milk, Bananas

Oatmeal Toppings at Grand Luxe Cafe: Golden Raisins, Brown Sugar, Milk, Bananas

But wait a second. Check out the above picture more closely. I did my usual dollop of milk, sprinkle of sugar, and big dose of raisins, then I realized, there’s enough brown sugar there to make chocolate chip cookies!! Seriously, I love a ramekin as much as the next person (quite possibly more, owning as many as I do), but you don’t have to fill it up. It’s hard to see the scale here, but it’s A LOT of brown sugar.

Another Day, Another Bowl of Oatmeal

Another Day, Another Bowl of Oatmeal

So here’s my advice, as you navigate food choices while traveling: question the portions you receive. I know Mark Bittman has written extensively about McDonald’s Oatmeal (sample of the back and forth here), and frankly, I think he’s got a point. I hate when food sounds healthy and isn’t. I like to eat my calories full on and with complete joy. Bring me a Snickers, but don’t call it oatmeal.

In the end, I’ve enjoyed my road oatmeal above most of my other breakfast options in a conference/convention setting, so I keep ordering it. I’ll wait to order the chilaquiles in Texas, and the avocado omelet in California. NYC, I’ll see you for corned beef hash and bagels. And NC, grits and biscuits please. (Pancakes and waffles will have to wait for late-night or home, lest I sugar crash.)

What do you eat for breakfast when you’re on the road? Have you tried the McDonald’s Oatmeal? The comment box awaits, post today. Or Tweet!

Question, query, compliment? They’re all accepted by emailing me at practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Tomorrow, end of season okra: Buttermilk Okra, Indian Style.

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Making the Most of a Hotel Breakfast

The Practical Cook will return to the usual order of blogging shortly, but indulge her one last piece of wisdom gleaned during her recent business travels. Let’s raise our voices in praise of the new trend of free breakfast and wifi in business-class hotels. It’s a value on a busy morning to be able to work, eat, and get ready all at the same time—all of the multitasking comforts at home. However, not all breakfasts are created equal.

As discussed before, the Practical Cook has the genetic cholesterol profile of a long-haul truck driver, not good. So she must be strategic in her choices. If your goal is, like my friend and colleague Virtual Cook, to eat pancakes in all 50 states, have at it. For me, that would lead to a sugar crash of monumental proportions during the first meeting of the day. Just can’t do it.

The Practical Cook’s Hotel Breakfast Survival Guide:

  1. Survey your options. Take the time to case the joint, see what there is to offer. If you’re going to be there over multiple days, this is especially helpful, and will make you more efficient with each return trip.
  2. Select simple ingredients. Fruit, whole grain toast or an English muffin, cereal, plain oatmeal.
  3. Have it your way. Don’t feel obligated to eat the breakfast served—repurpose it. For instance, I made whole grain toast with peanut butter and banana circles. Another morning I used one element of the fruit salad (blueberries) to mix in with my cereal. Shop the buffet like you would your pantry, be creative!
  4. Don’t forget your room key. Any time a breakfast run entails seeking coffee outside your immediate abode, double-check. I returned to my room laden with cereal and hot coffee only to discover the business card from yesterday’s Afghan restaurant in my pocket where I thought the keycard was. #caffeinefail #jetlag
  5. Ask for what you need. In this competitive environment, hotels know that business travelers compare amenities. If you don’t see something you need or want, ask for it.

Dodge the breakfast bullet, and you’ll have the room and energy to celebrate later:

Celebrating Asparagus in Season!

Celebrating Asparagus in Season!

Special thanks to all of my amazing colleagues  and friends for the many food conversations and fantastic restaurant recommendations during the trip. I look forward to the opportunity to reciprocate. Tomorrow we’re back to the usual with Weekly Menus.

What do you think of Hotel Breakfasts? Does the selection affect your hotel choice? Weigh in at practical cook at gmail dot com.

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