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January 12, 2017

How to Get (Sort of) Free Breakfast On Vacation

With just the barest hint of a smug smile, you side-eye the screaming toddler at the next table. “I’m such a good parent,” you think, even though you know hubris is wrong. “My children would never demand chicken fingers in a sushi restaurant, because we’ve raised them to appreciate a cornucopia of flavors and food styles.”

And that’s great. Good for you! Gold Star! One for each child even! (Unless you also let your children run around restaurants getting in the way of servers and being generally obnoxious. In that case I take away all your stars and pelt your house with rotten eggs, one for each footstep your child has taken under a server’s tray, one for each adult who’s been forced to talk to your kid against their will when it wandered over to their table, and one for each server who’s been forced to listen to you talk about how you take your children out all the time and they’re just so sophisticated.)

I’ve been the smug parent; my kids are great eaters. But I’ve learned to wipe that smug smile off my face. You know when you’ll regret teaching those little gourmands that the stinky, expensive cheese is so much better than shrink-wrapped cheese product singles? When they start rejecting the kids’ menu, around the age of nine, maybe younger. When a six-year-old wants a taste of caviar on toast with a little crème fraîche, it’s a cute party trick. When you have to remind a growing fourteen year old that the caviar is for everyone, things get awkward. You’re going to spend all your money on food.

So you learn to cook, which is cheaper than going out. You recycle food, you upcycle food, you take food home from dinner parties (and you aren’t shy about asking for the leftovers). And you never, ever pass up a doggie bag.

When our family travels, food is a huge part of our fun. We’ll sleep on couches, we’ll hoard frequent flyer miles, and we’ll do anything possible to avoid checking luggage and paying the fee. Why? SO WE CAN EAT ALL THE FOOD. But we get our money’s worth. We leave nothing on the table, not even a crust of bread.

So where am I going with this? Bear with me.

On a recent trip to New Orleans with all three kids, we borrowed a friend’s apartment, the perfect place to sleep for free and make breakfast in the morning. We carefully planned our meals in advance (and managed to squeeze in trips to the World War II Museum, the Audubon Aquarium, and City Park, and we took plenty of long walks and a ride on a steamboat, so it wasn’t all food). We ate in some great places, from casual to fancy. And one amazing meal at Galatoire’s yielded two great breakfasts. Here’s how.

Rillettes are nothing more than roughly chopped meat or fish with some other stuff. And what you’re about to read is not real rillettes. (Want the real deal? Try this.)


Make Rillettes from Leftovers

  • Box up half a salmon filet you couldn’t finish because you ate too many appetizers.
  • Hard-boil an egg.
  • Mash up the egg and the salmon, and add salt, pepper, and hot sauce. I won’t be mad if you add a half teaspoon of mayo to pull it all together.
  • Serve on top of a toasted English muffin and enjoy your breakfast.

But what if you still have some leftover crab and artichoke and a little duck confit? Now is when you pat yourself on the back for raising kids who like fancy food, because your leftovers will be spectacular.


Breakfast Muffins with Leftovers

The best leftovers for breakfast muffins are any leftovers whatsoever.

  • Bring home leftovers, like crab and artichoke.
  • Make an omelet with the leftovers, using one egg for each muffin you plan to serve.
  • Cut the omelet into as many pieces as you have muffins.
  • Toast some English muffins and fill each one with omelet.
  • Layer the omelet with the rest of your leftovers, say, a little duck confit.

Eating breakfast out on vacation is a needless expense, especially when you can relive last night’s dinner by slapping it on an English muffin.

Make your upcycled brunch extra special by serving it on a pretty plate. I don’t recommend stealing your host’s pretty plates, not even as a souvenir. But you know where to get pretty, mismatched plates: Goodwill, of course!