America Sits Down to Breakfast

Monitor writers report from four cities, coast-to-coast, about the meal that weekend diners love to linger over

Denver

Breakfast Western style might be steak and eggs, pancakes, and coffee out on the range. Back in the fine Western restaurant, though, home-fried potatoes are a must. And all true Western-style restaurants offer biscuits and gravy served with country sausage and home fries. Nowadays, the beans on the menu might be Anasazi beans - found in the ancient cliff houses of Mesa Verde and germinated.

At the Table Mountain Inn in Golden, Colo., the homey southWestern style restaurant serves up a variety of terrific Western omelets, skillets, and steaks. Big portions are served on big plates. You might want to go wrangle horses or rope a few steers after cowboy-sized meals like these.

Golden is a charming little town clinging steadfastly to its Western heritage. A big "Howdy Folks" sign welcomes visitors.

Drew Cavins, the chef of Table Mountain Inn says, "Here in Golden, the old West, frontier days, Gold Rush, is a big part of the atmosphere, so we serve a lot of different cuts of beef, which is the mountain man's style of eating.

"We also use a lot of indigenous ingredients - more of the Southwestern style - things that grow in the area like chilies, cilantro, and pinon nuts."

Out West, the Denver omelet - filled with chunks of ham, cheddar cheese, bell peppers, and onion - is a classic staple on most restaurant menus.

But the most significant influence on Western and Southwestern breakfasts is Mexican cuisine. Table Mountain Inn's fabulous chili-relleno omelet is a variation on the classic Mexican dish. An Anaheim chili is roasted and skinned, its seeds removed, then stuffed with jack cheese and folded inside an omelet, and a spicy tomato salsa is ladled over the top.

Another favorite at Table Mountain and other restaurants is the breakfast burrito. Eggs are scrambled up with chunks of avocado, sauteed onions, and peppers, rolled with pepper jack cheese in a flour tortilla and served with chili verde (a green chili sauce).

Beef steaks and ham steaks are broiled over a mesquite wood-burning stove at Table Mountain Inn, too.

The skillet dishes are meant to remind you of Gold Rush days and weeks on the pioneer trail. Home-fried red potatoes with onions are smothered in a variety of combinations - eggs and bacon with melted cheddar or mushrooms, bell peppers, tomatoes, and spicy jack cheese. Very hearty and delicious. But then, melted cheese and a dash of chili powder could make even a brown paper bag taste good.

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