There's much debate in the culinary community about the origin of Eggs Benedict in the US. Some say the dish was created by a couple who used to dine once a week at the famed Delmonico's restaurant in New York City. A letter printed in the September 1967 issue of New York Times Magazine cited Commodore E.C. Benedict, a sailor and banker, as the dish's originator and namesake.
Considering that recipe books from the 1800s mention hollandaise and Benedict, all of the rumors are unlikely. Perhaps they were named after Revolutionary War traitor Benedict Arnold. But who cares, really? Anything that combines an entire breakfast platter -- eggs, ham, bread and sauce -- into one sandwich is genius no matter who invented it. For this week's Battle of the Dishes, we compared non-traditional versions of Eggs Benedict offered by two of metro Phoenix's favored breakfast spots.
In One Corner: Daily Dose
4020 N. Scottsdale Rd. in Scottsdale
I'd like to say the four-star Urbanspoon listing and dining critic Michele Laudig's favorable review of Daily Dose were what sent me to sample their popular Eggs Benedict. But the fact is, it's hard to find a good breakfast spot that 1. serves breakfast late in the day (seriously, we writers are often still sleeping when other people are already having lunch) and 2. doesn't feel like a greasy spoon or my grandma's kitchen. Lace doilies and ceramic roosters? Ick.
So off to Daily Dose I went; my faithful dining companion in tow. Located in a modern brick building in Old Town Scottsdale, the place is open and airy, with a warm orange color scheme, a large bar with extra seating and a dog-friendly patio where the servers will set out a water bowl for Spot. It's more modern than cozy, but the dim lighting and friendly staff help to combat the sterility.
DD now offers lunch, dinner and happy hour, but the place started as a breakfast spot, and that's where it's stayed in the minds of a lot of locals. Honestly, you'd probably see a lot of folks downing eggs and pancakes instead of steaks at 9 p.m. if DD didn't stop serving breakfast at 4. They've got seven varieties of Eggs Benedict, including one with crab cakes and a veggie version with roasted red peppers instead of ham. At the server's suggestion I ordered my Turkey Sausage Benedict "Daily Dose Style," with buttermilk biscuit and country gravy.
The two split halves of biscuit arrived piled high with a large sausage, a poached egg and tons of white gravy peppered with more sausage bites. I cut one open and the yolk began to bleed into the gravy. Unfortunately the whites did too. Runny egg whites are all too common at breakfast joints -- personally, I think that anything that looks like snot shouldn't be consumed until it's firm and opaque. Ah, well.
That was the only thing I disliked about this Eggs Benedict. The buttermilk biscuit wasn't dry, even without the gravy. It was moist but crumbly, with a rich, buttery texture and taste that likely migrated every calorie directly to my hips as it went down. A long sausage link was split lengthwise on each muffin, the crisp outer skin nicely browned. It was well-spiced, more for flavor than heat. The spicy sausage was a perfect contrast to the flour-based white gravy and biscuit. Combined with the savory sawmill gravy, my choice of sausage instead of ham was almost sausage overkill. Not everyone thought so.
"The combination of turkey sausage and sausage gravy is perfect here," said my tasting partner. "This way, the sausage doesn't have to compete with ham or red peppers or whatever. The gravy is delicious. Thick and meaty, just like my family used to make."
Fresh fruit and gently seasoned potatoes served on the side were also tasty. My companion scraped off the egg from his dish after a bite and I gagged a little every time I bit into a bite of gelatinous egg white. But if the egg were cooked just a little more, this would've been one of the best Eggs Benedict dishes I've ever had.
In the Other Corner: Scramble
9832 N. 7th St. in Phoenix
I'd been meaning to get up to Sunnyslope to try Scramble, so I was overjoyed to spot about 20 positive mentions of their Santa Fe Benedict on Urbanspoon and Yelp!. Tucked in a mountainside strip mall, Scramble is a bright, sunny order-at-the-counter eatery. The entry hall with large glass menu boards is eerily similar to Pei Wei's layout, but the pretty bamboo floors, moss green walls and live plants help to make the place feel a little more organic.
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On my solo visit, I walked right up to the counter and ordered the Santa Fe Benedict and a bottle of milk (just in case the heat index on this baby was hotter than anticipated). I took my number and sat down, to be rewarded with a large plate of two hunks of cornbread covered with ham, egg and chipotle hollandaise before I even had time to get out my camera. Tip: If you don't want to wait in line, pop by for an early lunch around 11 a.m. on a Tuesday or Wednesday morning.
The Santa Fe platter had an enticing, smoky aroma that permeated throughout the restaurant. Definitely a good sign. I don't care much for jalapeños normally, but Scramble's cornbread was so moist and sweet that the tiny diced peppers were a nice addition. Even my husband commented that it was pretty good -- despite jalapeño cornbread being in his opinion "a sin against the South" -- when he sampled my leftovers.
Rosemary potatoes were well-seasoned. The poached egg was perfectly cooked and the thick slab of cured ham had a pleasant sweetness that complimented its naturally salty flavor. The hollandaise was stick-to-your-ribs thick and studded with smoky chipotle peppers that tasted almost like bacon. I washed the first few bites down with milk as I felt the heat creeping up my nostrils, but after the first couple of bites even a spice wimp like me could barely detect any real heat.
The Winner: These were two creative and tasty takes on the traditional Eggs Benedict; you won't go wrong with either. But Scramble's better egg execution and savory chipotle aroma tickled my tongue and my tummy. Plus, they've got all-you-can-eat pancakes through the end of September, another incentive to visit.