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WQED TV producer and PITTSBURGH Magazine back-page writer writes about his current work and assorted other things.

Too much good stuff.

July 18th, 2010 · 2 Comments

OK.  I’ve been ignoring this blog too long.  When you get involved in the final phases of putting a program together, there are too many things to take care of, and on-line communications may suffer.  Lots of news.  And we’re not finished with breakfast yet.

Our program called BREAKFAST SPECIAL aired on most PBS stations on Wednesday evening July 14 at 8 PM.  The reactions have been very kind.  TV critic Robert Bianco in USATODAY made my day.   Bianco’s remarks inspired Pittsburgh Post-Gazette blogger Chad Herman to post an introduction he wrote several years ago when I gave one of those “Last Lectures” at Carnegie Mellon University, years before Randy Pausch made his, and Chad’s posting was an unexpected honor.  Tons of other very nice notes on my Facebook page (friend me) and on Facebook’s Official Inside Scoop On Rick Sebak (like that.)  I’ve also set up a Facebook “page” for Breakfast Special.  And who knows what you might find on Twitter (follow me @rickaroundhere)?

All of the positive reactions are gratifying, but this isn’t a completed project yet.   In the middle of the editing process, we realized we had a problem:  too much good material.  Bob and Glenn and I had been to 17 places around the country, but when Kevin and I finished editing 8 stories, we realized we were already at our time limit.  Do we cut the stories in half to make room for 8 or 9 more?  (Oh, that hurts!)  Or do we cut the material in two and go for a 2-part-er?  (Eek, we’ve never tried that before!)  We decided on the latter course of action.

I talk to my boss at WQED.  I call PBS.  I confer with Kevin and Matt and Frank in the editing room.  We talked with Buddy Nutt about the music.  We finished the show on June 5, and I drove it to Virginia on Sunday June 6 so we could meet all our PBS deadlines.

So, if you’ve seen BREAKFAST SPECIAL, you know we’ve been to Cartwright’s Maple Tree Inn in rural New York state, to The Breakfast Club on Tybee Island in Georgia,  and to two places in Columbus Ohio:  Skillet and The Best Breakfast & Sandwiches, both of which were suggested by Nick Dekker who writes the blog called “Breakfast With Nick.” We also stopped in the Cuban spot called La Herencia Cafe in Saint Augustine, Florida, and then learned a little about “jook” or congee at Hing Lung Restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown, thanks to Sandy Wada, her friend Kent Liu and her blog called “Foodhoe’s Foragings.” We capped off the program with visits to Tin Shed and Helser’s On Alberta, both in Portland, Oregon, both suggested by Paul Gerald who writes the blog called “Breakfast In Bridgetown” and a guidebook with the same name (and now apparently a collector’s item until the 2nd Edition comes out.)

If you’ve followed us on this blog and out website (where there are “tastes” of several stories), you know there are lots of places still to come.

Tags: "Breakfast Special"

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 BB and SS // Aug 20, 2010 at 12:41 am


    My partner and I were watching PBS in Portland, OR, and decided to watch the Breakfast Special because we saw that you would be visiting Portland. We love breakfast, and eat at our local favorites, and try out new haunts often. I am local to Portland, (meaning I was born and raised here, not “localized”, and from another town) and I was very disappointed in the restaurants you chose to review in Portland.

    Both restaurants in your show have only been in business for several years, were both located on Alberta (way to get a good variety!), which is an area that has only recently become a part of Portland’s culture, and nothing was mentioned about the food being local or organic, both of which are very important qualities to Oregonians. (Also very important to both of these restaurants, judging from their websites)

    There are many, many breakfast restaurants in Portland that beat out these places, hands down, in my opinion. This is not to say these two restaurants are not charming in their own right, and have delicious food, but that there were many restaurants in Portland that I would have thought of first, had I been asked about breakfast in the Bridgetown.

    There is Marco’s and Fat City Cafe in Multnomah Village, There is Cup and Saucer , on Hawthorne, and The Pancake House, and The Golden Touch, on Barbur Blvd. And, last but not least, The 24 hour Hot Cake House, which is truly a Portland Institution.

    Marco’s offers locally grown food, with a wonderful eclectic menu, with classics like Eggs Benedict, with a NW spin to make it Salmon Benedict. Fat City is a typical greasy spoon with spam and eggs, and amazing hash browns. The Pancake House offers a huge array of pancakes, from German style to topped with local fruit. And Cup and Saucer is a Hawthorne favorite, with organic free range eggs, and the owner has been so savvy, she has been able to expand to two other restaurants within her chain in the last 20 years. She features local artists monthly for the art on her walls.

    Fat City knows us by name, we run into the owners in the local grocery store. Marco’s employees live in the neighborhood. Both have been tried and true for several decades, and are not new to the area.

    I understand the need to offer both new, and old style food when making a documentary such as yours, but I also understand the need to have variety, and to interview actual locals… Meaning people born, or close to, born her in the area. Variety meaning, maybe, just maybe, restaurants from different streets, at least!!! One of the women you interviewed has only been here for 3 years! She kept saying things were “very Portland”. These are your experts???
    She said she used to live “way across town in SE Portland”… NE and SE Portland are next to each other… on the same side of the river.

    Being from Portland, and seeing your choice of restaurants and people to review made me question the other reviews in your show. Do I believe that the places featured in Columbus, Ohio, or Tybee Island are actual local favorites? Not really… No real locals were featured in Portland, so I can only believe no real locals were featured in those other locations.

    Your show fell short of our expectations, to say the least. Yes, everyone has their own opinions, but the show was advertised differently than what was shown, at least for Portland. I would say that you did not do your research when it came to Portland Breakfast.

  • 2 Rick // Aug 26, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    BB and SS

    I’m so sorry that our program has made you so unhappy. That certainly was not our intention.

    And I’m not sure how or where our program was advertised that led you to expect something different from what you saw.

    When we make food-oriented programs, we try to visit good places, never claim that we are being definitive or comprehensive, and we don’t pretend to have some way to determine who qualifies as a “real local” and who doesn’t. We try to get to as many good spots as we can, and we talk to people who are eating there that day. We don’t call them “experts.” We just consider them kind folks who were willing to talk.

    I learned about how rich and wonderful a breakfast city Portland is when I started to do research for this program. The amount of time we had didn’t allow us to do more than two spots in any one city, and working with Paul Gerald, the author of the book Breakfast In Bridgetown, we decided to stay in one neighborhood because we thought it gave you an idea of how many great places might be in such a city.

    I’m also sorry that we didn’t get to the places you love best. My ultimate hope was that people might go and try to find new places where breakfast is something special. I know that all the good places are not on TV shows.

    Again, I’m sorry you were so upset.

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