Everywhere we’ve gone to shoot stories for this upcoming BREAKFAST SPECIAL, I’ve tried to ask all the people we’ve interviewed if they have a “Best Breakfast” of their lives. “Was there one morning or one special food or some special place where you had a superlative breakfast?” The answers are often fascinating and sometimes very specific. Many responses have involved hotels in various places around the world.
All along, I’ve thought that if I were asked the same question, I’d say “I remember a breakfast at this beautiful old historic hotel on the coast of New Hampshire. I had lobster hash with poached eggs. Hollandaise on the side. An amazing meal. Unexpected. The best.” I have this picture from that morning back in May 2006. (Yes, I was taking pictures of food even back then.)
I was at this huge old hotel called Wentworth By The Sea with my mother then because we were on a week-long road trip around New England. It was my present to her for her birthday that year. Here’s Mom at that same breakfast. She had coffee and a croissant. Not a big eater that Peg.
My sister Nisey had suggested we include a stop at this grand hotel because she had always loved it since she first saw it decades ago when she was a Girl Scout camp counselor in New Hampshire, and she often bicycled by the crumbling old place (then in terrible shape.) Then she heard that it had been restored and re-opened in 2004, and she wanted us to see it.
It is a glorious place, built in 1874, and it’s been the scene of historic events, historic visits and some pretty great breakfasts. It’s a beautiful structure, a destination, a truly memorable getaway, a romantic seaside escape, and now a deluxe Marriott Hotel & Spa.
So, since I had maybe the best breakfast of my life there, I want to come back and find out about and taste again the lobster hash that captivated me so.
Camera guy Bob Lubomski, audio man Glenn Syska and I drove from Pittsburgh to the Wentworth on Thursday April 22 2010. It goes like this. We meet at WQED at 7 am. Hit the highway before 8, heading northeast. 630 miles. Lunch in Wilkes Barre PA. Dinner in Hampton NH. We get to the hotel about 9:30, unload the van and go to our rooms. We’re supposed to be in the kitchen tomorrow morning at 6 am. When you make a show about breakfasts, you have to get up early.
We met executive sous chef Matt Louis (on the right above) and a.m. supervisor Chris Burnett (on left) the next morning in the hotel’s sizable kitchen. We began by doing an interview with Matt about his background, hotel breakfasts and the best things to order here at the Wentworth. When we started to talk about making the hash, he brought in Chris to help, and they had prepped ingredients to show us how they put together an order of the lobster treat. We started them and stopped them. Then started them again. We asked a few questions. Matt seemed totally comfortable on camera. He chopped a lot of yellow and red bell peppers.
Eventually we would see the hash plated and presented in the dining room. You eat breakfast in one of the most beautiful spots in the hotel. Domed ceiling with vintage cherubs, lots of nice morning light.
I think the serving of hash looks bigger than it did four years ago. The presentation is slightly more formal, and the skewer of square-cut fruits is a good touch.
The basil hollandaise was excellent, making the scrumptious dish even richer and more complex. I’m happy to say that it held up to my expectations. It’s a phenomenally good breakfast.
The chefs told us however that they probably sell more Eggs Wentworth (above) than lobster hash. Eggs Wentworth is an Eggs Benedict variation with an English muffin, slices of tomato and then slices of butter-poached lobster with poached eggs and hollandaise. Served with hash browns. I like the little pieces of claw meat that they set on the side.
Their entry with big blasts of bright colors was a wonderful addition to the morning scene. It was somewhat Fellini-esque. Some of them opted for the grand breakfast buffet but many ordered Eggs Wentworth and perhaps a plate of lobster hash or two?
Did I say that this stately historic hotel is only a mile or so from the Maine border? All of these lobster breakfasts are all made with the world’s best Maine lobsters, but we enjoyed them nonetheless in New Hampshire.
When you’re in such regal surroundings, you expect to be well fed, and the Wentworth kitchen doesn’t disappoint. I was obviously impressed when I first came here four years ago, and I based my decision to come back here solely on my own impressions. But after I was there for a while in the kitchen, I realized that these people really care about the food, the service, the quality of the whole experience, and after seeing some of the ratings sheets on the bulletin board, I found out that Wentworth By The Sea is regularly recognized (on a weekly basis!) as the best breakfast and the best overall food in any Marriott facility. This place is widely recognized as a great spot for a morning meal! I wasn’t crazy to want to include it in the program. I need to send my sister there so she can see it now.