It has been a LONG time since we’ve been able to go to a fun brunch place in the city. DH has been baking up a storm, which helps with the bread situation, but even if he wasn’t, one of our groceries in town makes decent bread from its bakery (not great bread, but you know, decent), as does one of the sandwich shops that does delivery. With decent bread it turns out it’s relatively easy to make a few restaurant quality, or at least nice coffee-shop quality, foods that I often pick when I’m ordering from a trendy place in the city.
The first super easy thing is Ricotta toast. A nice thick slice of bakery quality bread. Then a thick smear of Ricotta from the dairy section of the grocery store. Then I will usually put on a nice jam. (We have been eating a LOT of nice jam). That’s all there is to it, but it feels really fancy and it tastes so good.
Avocado toast. We have been buying a LOT of avocados because they’re a way to up the fanciness of a ton of different foods. Even the simplest version with sliced avocados on a piece of regular sliced bread toast is delish and indulgent. But you can fancy it up by adding salad/tomato/cheeses/fancy seasoning/fancy sauces/eggs/etc. There are tons of suggestions on the internet for things to add.
Burrata with tomatoes or grapes. One of our local grocery stores finally started carrying burrata and I am in heaven. (I got addicted to it in paradise and for a long time only got it at a couple of the fancy restaurants in town when we had speakers or job candidates.) If you’ve got grape tomatoes, you can quickly cook them until their skins burst with some salt and balsamic vinegar, then place them next to the burrata on a plate and finish with some nice olive oil. Or roast grapes for a different experience. Then eat with nice crackers or breads.
Roasted vegetables and starches. Roasting vegetables and potatoes and sweet potatoes etc. is just GOOD. And when you have leftover, you can add them to other foods to fancy them up. Leftover beets or eggplant or even roasted potatoes just add a special something to comfort foods that elevate them to something you’d pick off a restaurant menu.
Fancy grilled cheese. Plain grilled cheese is great (especially dipped in tomato soup), but you can fancy it up just by adding things to the sandwich before grilling. Put in your favorite veggies (especially roasted, or maybe a thick chunk of fresh tomato and/or avocado, or fresh herbs). Fruit or jam is another direction to go.
Fancy quesadillas. Same idea as the grilled cheese, except in a tortilla wrapper. DC1 recently added fried potatoes and that was pretty amazing.
Random stuff in a pita. Scalzi puts things in burrito wraps, but you can do the same thing with a pita and suddenly it becomes fancy. Leftover vegetables (I often have beets) with feta, hummus or tahini or even just yogurt tend to go really well in a pita sandwich wrapper and just taste good.
Bake stuff on flatbreads. Which is a fancy way of saying make pizza without baking pizza dough. But if you use a nice flatbread and add herbs and a cheese and a vegetable (tomatoes, roasted eggplant, etc.) or onions or cooked potatoes.
Fancy salad greens with a fancy vinegar. Grocery stores just sell fancy mixed greens that all you have to do is wash. Add fresh mozarella and sliced tomatoes while tomato season is still upon us.
Flavored fizzy water. Get some syrups, or if you don’t want the extra sugar, order fancy balsamic vinegars (with the money you’ve been saving not going out to eat…) to add to carbonated water. Elderberry syrup is another good addition that is sometimes hidden in the homeopathy part of the grocery store. Or just increase your La Croix and related beverages consumption. (Bonus fanciness points for using a metal straw.)
Loose leaf tea. Sometimes maligned as not being a cure-all, but loose leaf teas are usually better quality than tea bags and there’s a lot of flavors to try. I like mixing hibiscus and mint, but my new favorite tea is definitely Tulsi (aka Holy Basil).
You can also just add things to your regular meals. Open up your fancy spreads and dips. Experiment with fancy hot sauces. Now is the time to open random bottles that you’ve been saving in your pantry or the back of your fridge for the right meal or the right guest. The right meal is now and you are the right guest.
Add avocados and beets and pistachios to things. Or fresh herbs— we’ve been doing a lot of buying of cilantro and parsley since only mint seems to stay alive in our garden. Parmesan flakes also elevate foods.
None of these things take that much time– they’re quick weekday style meals (even if we usually eat them on weekends out) and make great breakfasts and lunches (or quick dinners). But they’ve been helping me when I feel like I’m missing out on eating out in the city.
What fancy quick meals do you recommend? What have you been eating?