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04/08 This Thing with Eggs: Where did it Start?

On our 3 week foodie vaca. to Cal./SF in March, it was clear that poached eggs/eggs en cocotte/fried eggs are all the rage. Of the 20 non-ethnic places where we dined, every single restaurant's dinner menu included a dish that featured a cooked egg. In my recollection, this was not the case last year in SF. Does anyone know where this trend started in Cal/SF? A particular chef? (Just to clarify, I am not talking about the French trad.item of a soft egg on salad; I am talking about the inclusion of an egg on all kinds of entrees, sides, etc.- that are not traditional uses.) The practice is creeping into Boston now too.Appreciate your thoughts.

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  1. Think recession. Cheaper eats on menu to keep customer from going to cheaper places. And maybe veggie.

    1. The trend's been building for a while. A quick search of the archives turns up poached eggs in appetizers at Bouchon three years ago. Canteen, Oliveto, and Dopo have also been doing it for a while.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Coi has been featuring a sous vide egg on the tasting menu for about a year now. Winterland had an egg dish two years ago.

      2. It is said to a French thing (it's called "au cheval" because the egg rides on horseback, as it were) but I would like to attribute it to the Hawaiians (think loco moco).

        American food has the precedent of putting a fried egg on top of corned beef hash, for one thing.

        4 Replies
            1. re: opinionatedchef

              I am only implying that someone decided to "throw it against the wall and see if it sticks" based on it's inclusion in other dishes. It worked and now everybody wants one. You will probably not find anyone to take the responsibility and say I am the man or woman who was first. Or worse, there will be many contenders.

              1. re: wolfe

                As usual with these things, any judgment as to where "traditional uses" end would be arbitrary.

                Roland Passot has been making chawan mushi-inspired egg amuses for at least 20 years.

        1. I suspect the trend has been driven largely by the increasing quality and prices of local eggs. If you pay $7 a dozen for Soul Food Farm or Marin Sun Farm pastured eggs, you want to highlight the ingredient.

          The trend was surely also inspired by the many traditional uses chefs encounter eating around: chawan mushi, oeuf cocotte, egg on pizza, egg in soon dobu, fried egg on hash, Caesar salad, salade Lyonnaise ...

          4 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            I love egg on pizza and have only encountered it locally. Is it traditional in Italy? France? Elsewhere?

            1. re: Glencora

              I think it started in Naples, just like pizza.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                The following recipe is taken from an old Roman cookbook

                SARDA ITA FIT (Tuna)

                (Apic. 9, 10, 2)

                500g cooked tuna fillet
                1/2 tsp ground pepper
                1/2 tsp Liebstoeckl
                1/2 tsp thyme
                1/2 tsp oregano
                1/2 tsp rue
                150g dates (without stones)
                1 tblsp honey
                4 hard boiled eggs (in quarters)
                50ml white wine
                2 tblsp wine vinegar
                50ml Defritum
                2-3 tblsp green olive oil

                Cook tuna fillet. Mesh fillet together with dates, honey, wine, vinegar,
                Defritum and oil. Put mass into a bowl and garnish with egg quarters.
                Possibly the first Caesar salad.

            2. re: Robert Lauriston

              I agree with Robert. Chefs are responding to a drastic increase in the quality of eggs available. Marin Sun Farms began selling organic, pastured eggs just five years ago. For the first few years, supply was extremely low. The popularity of Marin Sun Farms eggs (and the hefty price tag) has inspired many farmers to start selling pastured eggs. Riverdog and Soul Food just started selling pastured eggs over the last couple of years.

            3. I don't think it's a conspiracy. The practice wouldn't be spreading if diners didn't like it. I suspect people like having an egg thrown in, as it were, because eggs are something they feel guilty about eating at home (cholesterol, and all that). We are more permissive about our diets when we eat out or travel, and heck, it's only ONE egg.

              1. I don't think there's such a thing as non-ethnic (boy, *that* could be an exciting discussion, and not in a good way) and I don't think featuring an egg is new at all.

                1. I vote for your favorite place ... Manressa ... and 'The Egg'.

                  1. Another wind pushing The Egg onto our dinner menus is the growing interest in and influence of Spanish cuisine. Eggs play an important role in traditional and modern Spanish cooking. Two obvious examples are the Spanish Tortilla (cake-like omelet) and the Revuelto (savory scrambled eggs).

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Paul H

                      One of the house specialities at Piperade is piperade with poached eggs.

                    2. Well, I think we all know that just about every country in the world has been mounting poached, fried, soft-boiled eggs on top of entrees to add luscious texture, good mouthfeel and extend more expensive ingredients... back around the time soup was invented. The U.S. was no exception and it was a common practice prior to 1950's sub-urbinization & the new pop culture which frowned open. Even then it has been common to find it in many traditional regional uses with burgers, CFS, waffles etc.,

                      In terms of the high end restaurants.... I personally started seeing this in NY around 2002, and in L.A a year later. I have been seeing chefs doing this on the Food Network (particularly Iron Chef) for at least 3 years now.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                        thanks, eat nopal, the latter was exactly on track for what i am looking for.
                        now i can post on the ny board to learn further. btw, did you see my post on mexican in napa?- the restaurant that was recommended to me that was not the one you wrote up? you seem the most likely person to have tried it or to try it in the future when you're there again.

                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                          No I didn't see it... whats the name of the place?

                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                            la playita on jefferson- there are 2; the good one is at the end furthest from the high school.

                          2. re: opinionatedchef

                            I first saw it in NYC (maybe around the same time Eat Nopal did) at Babbo - the lamb tongue salad with poached duck egg, which I think has been on the menu since it opened.

                            My first Bay Area sighting was at Bar Tartine, maybe 2 years ago - poached egg on pork belly.

                        2. Weird—just got an e-mail from No. 9 Park listing on their Mom's Day menu "fried egg with truffle-taleggio sandwich and herb salad."

                          1. Not sure where it originated but I've been seeing the egg thing in NYC restaurants for about four years now.