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DVD Review: Breakfast Special

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Breakfast. Everyone knows what it is, and everyone knows how it should be observed. There’s the breakfast skippers, the breakfast lovers, the diner crowds, the social breakfasters, and many others. The PBS program Breakfast Special spotlights people who love breakfast and the places they love having it.

Breakfast Special visits restaurants in New York, Ohio, Georgia, Florida, California, and Oregon (watch for Breakfast Special 2 to see the restaurants visited that didn’t fit in the allotted hour). All of the featured restaurants are independently owned (no IHOPs here) and offer their customers something special. The show is another entertaining installment in director/narrator Rick Sebak’s reliable library of food-based documentaries.

Breakfast foods are nearly all comfort foods and variations on comfort foods, but the key to a restaurant’s popularity is not just good food, well prepared. Regular patrons at the restaurants visited all praised their choice as being like “family.” There is a social aspect to going out for breakfast when regulars gather at the same place four or five or even seven days a week. The staff knows the customers and their preferences, and the customers get to know each other.

Breakfast has long been promoted as “the most important meal of the day,” but the most important meals are the ones that actually get eaten. For breakfast skippers, it’s got to be lunch or supper, dinner or brunch, or any of the colloquial names assigned to meals other than breakfast. The diners in Breakfast Special treat themselves to a variety of delights from the simple bowl of oatmeal or congee to more complex creations often doused in hollandaise sauce. The dishes shown are enough to convert breakfast skippers to, at least, occasional indulgence.

Visually-oriented people should not watch Breakfast Special after eating—the dishes will make them want to eat more even when they’re already satiated. The cooks and chefs preparing the breakfasts we see are creative and sometimes daring. Creativity is not usually a word associated with breakfast, a meal characterized by starch or starch and protein (with lots of fat, if possible), but here we see combinations that look absolutely yummy (and some are even healthy!).

Breakfast Special is not focused primarily on the food. There are interviews with the people who prepare and serve breakfast and those who eat it, and a look into the ritual of breakfast, which differs from person to person, and place to place. Its purpose is not to convince people to eat breakfast (but after seeing these dishes, who can resist?), but to document what successful restaurants and cafes that cater to the breakfast crowd are all about. It’s a cheerful, upbeat presentation infused with good spirit—a pleasure to watch.

Bonus features on DVDs can be hit-or-miss, but “Cooking Up a Breakfast Special” offers the viewer insight into the making of Breakfast Special (pity those poor people, having to eat out every morning!) and a preview of the restaurants that will be seen in the next edition. It’s as entertaining as the main feature. There are also “Breakfast Special Promos.”

Bottom Line: Would I buy/rent/stream Breakfast Special? Yes, definitely. I’d also like to visit the featured restaurants—they’re awesome.

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