In one of those slow motion, cinematic moments that history brings us, a pancake went flying through the air as Napoleon (the impish emperor of France not the nunchuck wielding dweeb from the 2004 indie film, Napoleon Dynamite) attempted an intervention between his sausage-like fingers and the floor below.
Sausage-like fingers: 0, Floor: 1.
In this bit of bad luck, Napoleon blames his misfortunes in the campaign against Russia on the superstitious moment. Seems that dropping a pancake is bad luck. Certainly in this emperor's case.
The celebrated pancake has a raucous history, sweeping across our green planet in various tastes and forms, including the Russian blini (excellent with caviar and a dollop of crème fraiche), the Chinese Bao Bing (considered de rigueur for moo shu pork), pannekoeke (the bacon-infused, custard-stuffed Dutch griddlecake), or fairest of them all, the French crepe.
The pancake in the United States, with its requisite mounds of butter and maple syrup, are part of our early morning ritual, transcending cultural barriers. They can be found in most any restaurant regardless of economics, from the 5-star hotel to almost any breakfast-serving fast food emporium.
As Americans, we have been tugging at Aunt Jemima's apron strings since 1889 when the originators of the industrial pancake product first introduced it to the marketplace.
Chris Rutt, a newspaper editor in St. Joseph, Missouri, and his soon-to-be partner came up with the idea for the mix after purchasing a failing flour mill. Facing a glut in the flour market, the twosome sold off their excess flour in the form of pancake mix, freeing delighted homemakers of precious minutes during their morning pancake-making ritual.
It was some years later, in 1926, that Quaker Oats bought the rights to the product, bringing it to national fame and to breakfast tables throughout our nation and the world.
Today we enjoy a few rounds of pancakes in what we title the Flapjack Flap: Mimi's Cafe vs. The Original Pancake House. We will drizzle syrup, smatter butter and sip a cup of coffee to find the definitive pancake.
We start with an early morning journey to Mimi's Cafe in Lewisville.
In 1978, Arthur Simms, of Anaheim, California, opened his first Mimi's Café, inspired by the French country cafes he remembered in World War II and a lovely French woman by the same name.
The chain restaurant serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner, focusing on fresh pastries and hearty meals, but our stop today was for pancakes, and when our first plate of cakes arrived, served with mega amounts of bacon and two eggs, we took little time dousing the hotcakes with a steady stream of syrup. The buttery cakes oozed as we forked up the first bite and smiled with griddlecake nirvana.
The pancakes were pretty damned good, but had a thick cakiness that others might prefer more. We happen to be from the lighter-than-air faction, but still enjoyed the breakfast, nearly finishing our plate without thought to the next visit that awaited us.
The Original Pancake House may not be the actual original Portland, Oregon chain, though it still serves up an almost unlimited variety of pancakes that skim the very pancake horizon. The menu boasts flapjacks to please nearly everyone. From the legendary Dutch Baby (a Yorkshire pudding-like concoction that is best served with powdered sugar and lemon squeezes), to Swedish pancakes to buttermilk pancakes (what we were after), Original has them all.
Having taken in a days worth of calories already, we settled for a simple plate of buttermilks, and they arrived almost without hesitation, steaming and with sides of whipped butter and a flask of maple syrup.
We quickly dressed the cakes and enjoyed a bite, savoring the fluffiness. This version had a light mouth-feel and was aromatic with a strong vanilla note and a distinct creaminess.
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These cakes were incredible, and needed little more than what was provided for a satisfying meal.
For their attention to what they profess as original, we award today's Toque prize of bragging rights to the formidable breakfast host for delivering the goods in a freakishly speedy manner. The deliciously scented pancakes is what every breakfast bread should be: steaming, light and delicious. Congratulations, Original Pancake House. Your breakfast is fit for a king. Or an emperor.
Original Pancake House 5100 Beltline Rd., Addison 972-385-6468
Mimi's Cafe 2486 S. Stemmons Frwy., Lewisville 214-488-5056