Thursday, January 7, 2010

Oatmeal #7: Egg'lectic Cafe

Merry Christmas from my parents' house in small-town Central Illinois! I have left the cold, crowds, and culture of Chicago for the corn, cows, and cholesterol of my hometown, population 1,600. Before I had been home 12 hours, my mom's crotchety, foul-tempered Dachshund (Their cuteness is deceptive. If they were ugly, they would've been extinct long ago.) had already enormously pooped on the living room floor, my dad had referred to the guy to whom my cousin has been married for 5 years as "ding-a-ling" (As in he said something like "I'll ask ding-a-ling about it."), and when I answered the door for the UPS guy delivering us some wine, he took one look at me and said "Oh, you're not 21." (Key fact: I am 24.) I protested most vociferously that I was indeed of age and gave him a librarian-esque glare over the top of my glasses that should've felled him like a bullet, or at least implied "I have a blog about oatmeal and frightfully curly hair. I demand that you take me seriously." However, he was apparently the UPS Super Moral Rule Follower and Poor Age Judger of the decade, because he refused to yield the wine until I produced my mother. Hmph. So, since I am in Central Illinois, I slashed his tires.*

*This is a lie.

Anyway, completely separate from the downfalls of small-town life, we have had An Unfortunate Happening. (Very Bad Movie. But wait, there's more! And it keeps coming! That was an unpleasant set of YouTube clips to sort through.). My trusty Zack Morris camera (The sound it makes when you turn it on is not unlike the old dial up internet noise.) was hanging in there, against all odds, but this time, it disastered me for real, yo. When I went to upload the picture, all my camera did was give me this ominous red screen with the word "FAILURE" or something equally foreboding and apocalyptic. Generally, what I do in this situation (because it happens often) is just get the oatmeal again within a reasonable time frame, so I can have the picture. (Because I know the pictures are what make all the difference to you readers.) However, this oatmeal is from a restaurant in the suburbs, which I frequent but rarely. So my options were either to wait on this post for three months or try to pass off a stock oatmeal photo (yes, those exist). I went with the latter, so the misleading image above is not a real picture of this post's featured oatmeal. This is just a photo I found through Google image search, but I will say that it does look fairly close to what I actually ate (except I didn't use a spoon with a handle apparently carved from Abe Lincoln's log cabin). Eventually I'll go back and perhaps get the oatmeal again, and then we can pretend this never happened. Kind of like we Americans errr....casually pretend that this never happened. (Probably was aborted because we were too sissy to face the insane wrath of Canada.) Sorry about that, England. We like you now, mainly because you have cool accents, say things like "there's a spare in the boot," and you don't really challenge us in the Olympics (boo China and their ridiculous (yet effective) Project 119!). Anyway, we will soldier on despite these setbacks. Look at how many things are trying to thwart my blog!

This post's oatmeal is from the bizarrely monikered Egg'lectic Cafe, a sit-down breakfast place located in Wheaton, Illinois (Motto: "A Distinctive Community!"), about 30-ish miles from where I live in Chicago. Yes, this blog has abandoned chains forever!** I believe there is another location, but that is certainly not enough to call it a chain. It is incorporated though, which should stand for something. (I don't know or care what.) I had been there once before, and I would classify it as your typically solid brunch joint. Nothing blew my mind, but nothing stood out to me as horrid--just slightly above average. However, my friend AH-D lives in Wheaton and lured me back with the promise of good oatmeal at Egg'lectic, a visit to Half Price Books (I restrained myself this time and only bought seven books.), and a late-night viewing of Waking Ned Devine. Now, who could resist that? So I schlepped myself out there through the snow and cold and wretched traffic and presented myself to the Cafe, ready to try their oatmeal. They were dutifully unimpressed.

**One post
  • Price: $5.49 + tax, and then I got coffee, toast, and an egg, so my bill was something like $11 before tip. (I am uncertain of the exact total because AH-D picked up the check. My friends are so supportive!) From what I have seen of other restaurant oatmeals, the average price is somewhere around $5, so this is a bit on the expensive side, but barely. However, I got quite a bit of food for $11, and the sourdough toast was quite good. (6)
  • Size: Only one size, like most restaurants, but I am guessing it was maybe 12-14 ounces? Pretty good for the price, and it was filled to the brim. (8)
  • For the first time, I encountered the wonderful phenomenon of a few different oatmeal options on the menu. A spectacular idea, if you ask me. I forgot to write down what the other menu items were, but basically you could have a choice as far as how your oatmeal was prepared and what "family" the toppings came from. What I finally ordered was called "Baked Cranberry Oatmeal," because it sounded the best. It came with brown sugar, apples, cranberries, pecans, and milk on the side. I was pretty pleased with this selection, and the fact that there were several different oatmeals really ups their score in this category. I am discovering that this is one area where sit-down restaurants can really distinguish themselves from the quick-service variety, because they have the ability to offer not just different toppings, but different preparation options. This cannot be overrated (unlike that ridiculous corn hole game, anything starring Julia Roberts, and "marketable skills"). However, my one complaint about the toppings on the particular oatmeal I ordered is that the apple slices were way too big. They were about the size of an apple cut into 8ths, which you can't really scoop up with a spoon into your mouth without cutting it first (the apple, not your mouth, obvs), unless you are The Mouth of Sauron from The Lord of the Rings or Loud Howard from Dilbert. (If you are either, I am sorry.) Because of this, I think the apples tended to overwhelm the cranberries, but regardless, the toppings were plentiful and well-blended. (7)
  • Texture/appearance: I am really bummed that I didn't get a picture of this oatmeal, because it was rather beautiful (except for the paltry "seasonal fruit"--a single orange slice--that was pitifully thrown on the plate for decoration). The oatmeal was very thick and milky without being overly runny or firm. I think they lined the bowl with the toppings, poured the oatmeal over that, sprinkled on brown sugar, and then put it in the oven for a bit, because the brown sugar was melted in lovely, luminous pools that spilled over the edges of the bowl. This kind of tricks you when you first get the oatmeal, because you can't see any toppings. (I always fall for all of the sneaky oatmeal tricks!) It isn't until you dip in your spoon that you find them, which is a clever trick. I would've liked a tiny bit more "bite," but on the whole, it was very well-prepared. (8)
  • Temperature: But GAH, the old temperature monster reared its ugly head! I, frankly, cannot understand how oatmeal that has just been pulled out of the oven can either A) go cold during the walk to the table or B) not get hot enough while in an OVEN. It is a critical problem if oatmeal that professes to be "baked" is not hot enough. It wasn't cold, but just warm. Perhaps you are all tired of listening to my temperature complaints. Well, let me tell you, I make oatmeal every Sunday that routinely burns my tongue, so it's possible! I would greatly prefer a burnt tongue over lukewarm oatmeal. I should start ordering my oatmeal like that. "I would like your oatmeal, please. And if it doesn't scorch off the first layer of skin on my tongue, I am sending it back!" I'll even sign a waiver. (4)
  • Taste: Nom nom nom. Pretty good stuff. It was decent without toppings mixed in, which is a good sign. But the toppings were good as well. The apples were baked with (I think) cinnamon and other such fall spices, the cranberries were expertly dried, and the pecans were precisely chopped. One problem, however, is that apparently they went for form over function (I will not take a shot at Apple, I will not take a shot at Apple...), because, yes, the brown sugar LOOKED nice, but there was just soooo much, the final result was incredibly sweet oatmeal. But if/when I go back, I would get it again. (7)
  • Calories: What are these "calories" of which you speak? I have to bulk up for the Chicago winter.
  • Intangibles: It's a cute little restaurant. I would call the decor "Midwestern Kitsch," meaning that it's decorated with things like quilts, burlap sacks,*** and wheelbarrows.IV And as I said, the rest of the food was good, there is really just very little that stands out as exceptional. However, as a sit-down restaurant, Egg'lectic does have the Holy Grail of all things breakfast-y : the bottomless cup of coffee. I just kind of wish it had something about it that would really make it eclectic. (4)
***Also known as "The Bag of the Classy"
IV"You'll never take me alive! Not while I have myself chained to my wheelbarrow!"

TOTAL: 6+8+7+8+4+7+4=44

Very solid score for Egg'lectic Cafe. I have nothing else to say here.

Now, even though this blog is all about me, I ask you to give me a bit to toot my own horn. I would like to end this post by mentioning that, at the beginning of this year, I set a goal to read 52 books in 2009. I'll have you know that on Christmas Eve, I accomplished this mission, and I'm kind of proud of it. So, no matter how you feel about this blog, no matter how ridiculous you think it is, at least you know it comes from the mind of someone who is reasonably well-read. And in order to preempt what would surely be thousands of emails, I close with the Top Five Seven books I read this year (in alphabetical order):
Finally, because it is the end of the year, many people are releasing their "Best of 2009" lists. I get very excited about such things, and I peruse as many of them as humanly possible. (In case you're wondering, this one is my favorite, even though I only like about 15 of the songs.) Anyway, throughout my internet musings, I am discovering one common, disturbing trend. This song is on EVERY SINGLE list. Every one! And (be warned, this is one of my darkest secrets) I HATE IT. I think the singer's voice is like that of a sleazy, past-his-time lounge singer who is perpetually drunk and tries to hit on the cocktail waitresses. (Is such a person ever in his time?) I think there are two potential conclusions here. A) My music tastes are dwindling by the day, and soon my eternal favorite will be Party in the USA or B) This song is the Citizen Kane of music--everyone says they like it because so many other people have said they like it, but secretly, everyone hates it. So, my question is, what do you think?

Finally, part two, because I don't really like this post, and I am not satisfied with it's level of humor, I will leave you with this. Upon first viewing, I would put the number of things wrong with that clip at somewhere around 47.


  1. Oh no, I viewed your post too late! The clip has been removed! :(

  2. I heart Egglectic Cafe. A fantastic Wheaton breakfast restaurant!