Some people hunt eggs, but I prefer to eat them. As a kid, I thrilled more to the feast than the hunt — as in the feast of hard-boiled eggs and leftover egg dishes that remained in the wake of annual visits from the bunny.
Today, modern chefs are pushing any envelope they can get their hands on to honor the egg. Eggs aren't just for breakfast anymore as evidenced by the dishes I've gathered here, many of which have become some of my favorites. Here are a few of the best and brightest egg dishes at popular destinations across America.
PHOTOS: Egg dishes to sample at popular destinations across America
Chef/owner Wylie Dufresne of wd-50 in Manhattan has elevated the egg. Some liken Dufresne to a mad scientist for his off-the-charts creativity, but I prefer to think of him as a culinary magician who has blazed a trail for other chefs to follow. One of Dufresne's latest creations is a poached egg and shell with pumpernickel, Caesar dressing and a lily bulb (used in traditional Chinese cuisine) that has been pickled and charred. All of it is edible, including the shell, which is made from sugar and other ingredients.
"We've always loved eggs here at wd-50, especially the texture of a really well poached egg, and thought that the texture of the egg would be perfect juxtaposed with a crunchy item and if we could come up with an edible egg shell this would provide a fun visual as well as crunch," Dufresne says.
Wd-50, 50 Clinton St., New York; (212) 477-2900, http://www.wd-50.com
Across town along Columbus Circle in Manhattan, chef Toni Robertson features a signature buckwheat and eggs dish at Asiate in the Mandarin Oriental. Don't be fooled by the name. Asiate signature buckwheat and eggs features a quail egg, soba noodles, Osetra caviar and uni cream.
Asiate, 80 Columbus Circle, New York; (212) 805-8881, http://www.mandarinoriental.com/newyork/dining/asiate
The City of Brotherly Love shows its affection for eggs at City Tavern restaurant, a historic, Philadelphia landmark that serves 18th century cuisine just a few steps from Independence Hall, the Constitution Center and the Liberty Bell. Chef Walter Staib prepares his eggs Chesapeake using poached eggs and crab cakes with a house-made tarragon Béarnaise sauce and potatoes O'Brien.
"Crab, like lobster, was so plentiful in the New World and eating eggs cooked by themselves was saved for precious occasions because they were most often used by frugal cooks in recipes, such as breads, cakes and casseroles," says Staib, whose City Tavern's crab cakes are breaded in homemade Sally Lunn breadcrumbs, a recipe that dates to the 18th century. "Thomas Jefferson loved creamy, French sauces and wrote often of using herbs that he grew," Staib says, so "this Béarnaise sauce is fit even for Jefferson, our most esteemed epicurean Founding Father."
City Tavern restaurant, 138 S. 2nd St., Philadelphia; (215) 413-1443, http://www.citytavern.com
Portland, Ore., is home to a chef who incorporates beef into his most popular egg dish. Chef Scott Neuman of ¡OBA! in the heart of the city prepares a certified Angus beef chicken fried steak on a Cheddar biscuit topped with a fried egg. He serves it with chorizo gravy and a smear of poblano mashed potatoes.
"What could be better than these ingredients, in this combination?" Neuman asks rhetorically. "I'm sure it's not the best for your cholesterol, but it tastes amazing."
¡OBA!, 555 N.W. 12th Ave., Portland, Ore.; (503) 228-6161, http://www.obarestaurant.com
In what's becoming one of America's hottest food cities, Milwaukee shows off an unusual egg dish under the tutelage of chef Brian Frakes at the historic Pfister Hotel. His signature duck egg, meatballs and gnocchi dish at Café at the Pfister requires complex preparation: gently steeping basil stems in béchamel, crafting house-made meatballs, topping the dish with warm eggs sliced in half (soft side up) and drizzling with chorizo oil.
"Despite the complexity of this dish, it is surprisingly light because the pork in the meatballs and the soft-cooked egg pair beautifully," says Frakes. "The velvety yolk blended with the basil milk coat the gnocchi. Wipe the plate clean with some fresh crusty bread."
Café at the Pfister, 424 E. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee; (414) 390-3878, http://www.lat.ms/HcmpSt
On the easy eating front, Skillets in Charlotte, N.C. tempts patrons with a little slice of America served in—what else?—a skillet. Skillets owner Ross Edlund, who was once one of Chicago's most celebrated bakers, traded the Windy City for skillet concoctions in the South.