Farm House Local's warm interior, ultra-friendly service and tasty huevos rancheros make the Larkspur restaurant a pleasant way to start your day. (Robert Tong/Marin Independent Journal)
Kendra Kolling holds one her overstuffed sandwiches at her booth, the Farmer's Wife, at the Civic Center farmers market. (Frankie Frost/Marin Independent Journal)
The fried egg sandwich is a popular item at M.H. Bread & Butter in San Anselmo. (Robert Tong/Marin Independent Journal)
Osteria Divino's pomodore e basilico, eggs poached in tomato sauce and basil, is a unique breakfast dish. (Robert Tong/Marin Independent Journal)
Fairfax Fix sandwich at Taste Kitchen & Table. (Robert Tong/Marin Independent Journal)
Breakfast is a meal of many interpretations, from skip it to stuff yourself. That’s a broad range from which to determine a universal criteria for finding five prime places to start the day.
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My ideal is somewhere between the two extremes. I can’t imagine facing a morning without it, yet overwhelming the system with pork products, greasy potatoes or anything needing syrup can lead to the need to return to bed. Not to diminish these selections, which can be especially craveable after a late night. But many of us have a local go-to place or two for the typical diner fare; with so many that are fairly comparable, I didn’t include this genre in my list.
I also left out higher-end dining establishments that are more focused on brunch. Finally, I excluded coffee shops and bakeries that don’t have substantial food offerings.
With this in mind, I ventured to make discoveries that might be unknown.
(Next up for the Five Best series is pizza. I’d love to hear your suggestions; email me at the address below).
Taste in Fairfax
It’s hard not to enthuse about everything on the menu at Taste in Fairfax. Like egg in a basket ($7.50). Think light, warm buttery croissant layers stuffed with a pesto and goat cheese paste topped with mushrooms and cheese, and placed on a base of arugula tossed in a balsamic condensed glaze with a poached egg on top. On weekends, there are five versions of eggs Benedict to flip over, all on a house-made English muffin with poached eggs and perfectly prepared hollandaise sauce ($8.50 to $9). There’s the classic with black forest ham and another with smoked salmon and arugula. My favorite is the Blackstone ($9), with steamed spinach, lightly grilled tomato and crisp bacon.
If there’s any stomach space to spare, it’s hard to depart the premises without a baked good or maybe a bag full from French- trained pastry chef Jerry Navas. His display is a feast for the eyes and these delectables aren’t just for show. Not near Fairfax? His croissants (sweet and savory), muffins, scones and cookies are available at all three Marin Equator coffee shops!
• 71 Broadway Blvd., near Bank Street, in Fairfax; 415-455-9040. www.tastekitchenandtable.com
The farmers market might be known more for grazing samples than eating a full morning meal. But you can find many excellent choices to energize your stroll through the aisles to gather the week’s bounty. There’s Barrio’s vibrantly flavored mañanero/breakfast taco ($5) and Brittany Crêpes’ ham, cheese and egg crepe made with organic buckwheat batter ($9). And then there’s the Farmer’s Wife.
Be enlightened with a chili-maple bacon, avocado, farm egg, chèvre and pepper sauce melt ($15). It’s natural to pause at this price tag for a grilled cheese but this is culinary artistry. And for most appetites, one is enough for two. As you indulge, you’ll find good reason why Kendra Kolling recently won the people’s choice award at the annual Kendall-Jackson Heirloom Tomato Festival celebrity chef challenge for the second year in a row. Her commitment to delighting her customers shines through with every carefully selected and crafted layer. As she says, she’s “filled to the brim when she comes up with new sandwich combinations,” which a weekly look at the menu occurs often and sways with the seasons.
Each overstuffed sandwich includes a salad. Most recently it was mixed greens, juicy tomatoes, crispy lemon cucumber and sweet peach slices.
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• The Farmers Wife is at the Sunday Marin farmers market from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays at 3501 Civic Center Drive in San Rafael. For more information, go to www.thefarmerswifesonoma.com.
M.H. Bread and Butter
With an alum of the well-known Tartine Bakery in San Francisco at the helm, there was no doubt when M.H. opened in 2013 that the breads would be stellar. But the inviting tables just off the sidewalk on the south end of San Anselmo Avenue, the cooking wizardry happening behind the counters and the content patrons enjoying the community vibe, make it so much more.
A favorite is the fried egg sandwich ($12). The medium country bread has a strong crust and malleable center to absorb the goodness of the perfectly cooked egg (I recommend you request two), tender bacon, aged cheddar, sliced avocado and roasted tomato basil aioli. It is delivered on a small cutting board with a green salad on the side and is outstanding.
Or try the poached eggs over baked Japanese sweet potatoes, smoky braised chard and crème fraîche ($13). Or maybe brioche French toast with poached plums, whipped vanilla mascarpone and maple syrup ($11). The iced coffee with cubes made of coffee ($2.50) and an added drizzle of the vanilla bean infused simple syrup is the best cold brew around.
• 101 San Anselmo Ave. at Belle Avenue in San Anselmo; 415-755-4575. www.mhbreadandbutter.com.
Farm House Local
Farm House Local could be missed because of its tucked-away location off Magnolia Avenue in downtown Larkspur. Or it could be too easily dismissed as just another restaurant espousing the trendy trifecta of local, organic, farm foods. That would be a pity. What you’ll find is a pleasing upscale-rustic atmosphere with food that’s on the mark. With an impressive set of credentials, chef David Monson expertly prepares dishes like huevos rancheros ($13) and a daily, seasonal omelet ($13). The warm interior and fresh patio space along with ultra-friendly service make this a pleasant place to wake up the day.
• 25 Ward St. at Rice Lane in Larkspur; 415-891-8577. www.farmhouselocal.com.
Known more for Florence-born chef Elena Fabbri’s authentic Italian dinner dishes and live jazz in the evenings, Osteria Divino is a prime stop for breakfast too. The casual European ambiance is stylish and comfortable, and tables on the sidewalk offer a view of Sausalito’s appealing off-the-tourist-track local beat.
For an Italian twist on eggs, try them poached in light, chunky tomato sauce and basil ($9.50). The sauce is edible with a fork and you can use the freshly baked focaccia to soak up any that’s left along with the egg yolk. Or choose from a wide variety of omelets ($9.50 to $11) and a few more Americanized entrees like French toast ($10) and buttermilk pancakes ($10.50). The organic sides of veggies or fruit are seasonal sourced from the farmers market. Add a large fresh squeezed orange juice ($5) and hot beverage from the espresso bar.
• 37 Caledonia St., near Johnson Street, in Sausalito; 415-331-9355. www.osteriadivino.com