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(Credit: Chris Casella)

Cold Weather Comfort

Three breakfasts to beat your winter blues

By Nick Dekker

Published February 1, 2011
(Credit: Chris Casella)

It's continuing to look a lot like Christmas . . . but without the presents, the flashy decorations or the holiday parties. Columbus winters aren't that bad (trust me, I grew up in western Michigan), but the lingering snow, the gray skies, and the need to bundle up in hats, gloves and coats can become exhausting. Don't let your attitude be determined by some lazy groundhog in Pennsylvania. Fight the winter blues with some uplifting breakfast comfort food. It'll warm you up, get you out of the house, and gives you the perfect reason to gather with friends. So if you're feeling under the weather this month, take heart. Here are three breakfasts to help sustain you until we climb out into spring.

Parisian Crepes

One cure for beating the winter blahs is to get out of the house and explore. Just outside of Columbus, in Olde Pickerington Village, sits a new joint drawing in crowds with its crepes, omelets and frittatas. Owner Wayne Moore opened the shop last November, taking his years of making crepes at home and putting his skills to work in the burgeoning village center. He has already attracted a following of regulars who visit every week in search of sweet and savory breakfasts.

Village Crepe can ease your winter woes with delicate crepes featuring a variety of fresh fruits and homemade preserves. The signature crepes are the Parisian style, served with lemon and sugar. Other delectable preserve choices include raspberry, peach, strawberry and a spicy blueberry. If the signature crepes aren't enough to keep you coming back, try one of their weekly specials, which have included pistachio caramel sauce with whole mango, chocolate with Port wine sherry, gingerbread with butter rum sauce, or cranberry goat cheese. For those looking for more traditional dishes, try a breakfast sandwich, some French toast or a frittata. Moore rotates frittata specials as well, from chorizo and andouille to blue crab and savory mushroom.

Village Crepe 21 N Center St., Pickerington (614) 833-1111 www.villagecrepe-pickerington.com

Cuban French Toast

Out in Hilliard, just west of the I-270 loop, up on a small hill by some railroad tracks, sits a tiny blue diner that serves up some delicious Cuban breakfast: the Starliner Diner. Owner Molly Davis named the joint after her 1960 Ford Starliner, and has been welcoming customers to her surprisingly colorful diner for years. Take in the bright paintings and the collection of kooky clocks while you enjoy their traditional dishes, their omelets or their spicier Cuban fare.

Starliner's Cuban French Toast isn't listed on the menu, but I highly recommend asking for it. This scrumptious dish begins with homemade Cuban bread; the crust is trimmed, and the thick slices are then cut into squares, dunked in batter with vanilla and spices and fried. Reminiscent of cubed donuts, the French toast is served with a dusting of powdered sugar and a side of fruit - no syrup required! The dish is so good that one of Molly's servers began hawking a half order to her customers as a "breakfast appetizer." Share a plate as a group while you wait for your huevos rancheros or chiliquiles, two highly recommended options to awake your taste buds from hibernation.

Starliner Diner 5240 Cemetery Rd., Hilliard (614) 529-1198 www.starlinerdiner.com

Earl Grey's Choice Tea Pancakes

If you've ever passed by Zen Cha Tea Salon thinking it's just a place for drinking tea with your pinky raised, you're missing out. Stop in their Short North location and you'll soon feel refreshed in mind, body - and stomach.

Racheal Ward, one of Zen Cha's tea ambassadors, helps create a space that provides tea service the way it was meant to be: as a time to stop, relax and savor life. In addition to the world-class selection of loose leaf teas, Zen Cha will soothe your spirit with their eclectic weekend brunch menu, which literally infuses your breakfast favorites with tea. Their Earl Grey's Choice Tea Pancakes (pictured) top the list. The kitchen crew sprinkles three fluffy pancakes, made with tea in the batter, with maple-glazed walnuts and raisins. Layered amongst the pancakes are apples roasted with cinnamon, and the whole stack is drizzled with house-made syrup - a reduction of Earl Grey tea, sugar and spices. Pair this treat with one of their seasonal fresh fruit teas. My favorite choice for melting the frost is their spring tea blend: green or black tea brewed with fresh strawberries, blueberries and raspberries.

Brunch is served only from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends, and Ward suggests reservations. But keep an eye out for more Zen Cha goodness around town this year, with new locations planned for downtown and Bexley.

Zen Cha Tea Salon 982 N High St. (614) 421-2140 www.zen-cha.com