Food is one of the joys of travel. I love trying local specialties, seeking out little family run restaurants hidden down an alley, and getting to know a new culture through the flavors of its cuisine. My travel memories center on food, and an astonishing number of my vacation photos do too.
Food can also be one of the miseries of travel. Specifically, I’m talking about airplane and airport food. On shorter or domestic flights, this unpleasantness can be avoided by putting a few snacks or even a sandwich in your carryon. Although I do always start out with bags of dried fruit and nuts in my purse, it just isn’t practical or possible to bring enough food from home for most international trips. Given the limitations of what one can carry through security and customs at each stop, then the spoilage factor for an eight or ten or even twenty hour trip, travelers are at the mercy of the overpriced, overprocessed, limp airport food options. Of course, the food on the plane is much, much worse. So during layovers we take advantage of the airport wifi to distract ourselves while eating our depressing airport meal, then I scout around the gate area, looking for the least offensive food to buy and carry onto the plane. It makes me cranky, to be perfectly honest.
So imagine my surprise when, on a recent trip to Costa Rica, I had not just an edible breakfast in an airport restaurant, but a delicious breakfast. The setting, of all places, was the George Bush International Airport in Houston, Texas at around 6:00 am. Fresh off a red-eye from Seattle, gritty-eyed, rumpled and dazed, we shoved our bags under the table and picked up our menus without much hope. The waitress poured coffee into those little non-Seattle sized mugs. The mosquito whine of Fox News on the TV was interrupted regularly by blaring flight announcements. It was an unlikely venue for an epiphany, to say the least. But it came in the form of a breakfast so good that I ate every bite with relish and knew I needed to have it again, and soon.
Yes, it was waffles. But in this case crispy tender Belgian waffles were a platform for a few simple toppings that harmonized with each other so perfectly that I replicated this breakfast as soon as I got home. And it has earned a place in the regular weekend breakfast rotation.
Start with your favorite waffle recipe. Don’t have one? Here is a good place to begin, or if you have a sourdough starter handy you can’t go wrong with this one. Pour yourself a comforting large cup of coffee and then get the waffle maker going.
Once you’ve got a plateful of hot crispy waffle goodness, it is time for the really important part. Drizzle the waffles with honey—not enough to drown them, but just enough to gleam from shallow puddles in the bottom of the waffle-treads. Sprinkle a handful of roughly chopped walnuts over the top. Then add a dollop of mascarpone. It won’t take much—no more than a tablespoon. Finally, if you’ve got them, you could gild the lily by slicing up a few fresh strawberries or throwing on a few blueberries.
And that’s it. Deceptively simple, but oh-so-good. The sweetness of the honey is balanced by the slightly bitter walnuts, then there is just the right amount of richness from the mascarpone–the whole is so luxurious in the mouth that it’s almost indecent.
Good in an airport, yes–but so much better on a Sunday morning at home, still in pajamas, with plentiful coffee and a couch just waiting to receive you after you are done with breakfast and ready for a little nap. Try it. You’ll see.