No matter how you choose to celebrate (or ignore) Valentine's Day, two things are certain: The sun will set and rise again in the morning. It's easy enough to go out to dinner and share a bed with someone, but harder to stick around when that special someone pulls you close in the morning and breathes air that smells like dying directly into your face. On the front lines of love, mornings are when the real work is done. And breakfast—a meal you share when you are most vulnerable—is a crucial part of the equation.
If you stumble out the door half-asleep, head toward the Central District's Cafe Selam (2715 E Cherry St, 328-0404) for a bowl of foul—stewed, spiced fava beans topped with fresh onions, tomatoes, green chilies, and soft crumbles of hard-boiled egg and feta cheese—to awaken your senses. You might brush hands as you reach for warm, crusty loaves of French bread to sop up this comforting dish, the flavors of which linger on your lips like the memory of a kiss.
Just as exciting are the piquant salsas that dress the breakfast dishes at Ballard's Señor Moose (5242 Leary Ave NW, 784-5568). Huevos rancheros ($10.95)—eggs atop handmade tortillas and earthy black beans, with avocado slices and rich, tangy crema—come bathed in a beautiful red salsa that's deep on flavor, speckled with blackened bits of roasted chilies and tomatoes. It's hard not to feel utterly at home with someone when you're eating the city's best home-style Mexican comida in creaky wood chairs that feel as if you've been sitting in them all your life.
If you can't be bothered to wash your face or put on any makeup, make your way to Tilikum Place Cafe (407 Cedar St, 282-4830), where large windows let in sunlight that makes everyone look beautiful. Also lovely: Tilikum's Dutch baby ($9), an eggy, airy pancake baked to order in its own cast-iron skillet. You can order it with a sweet or savory filling, but you can't go wrong ordering the classic version, with fresh lemon and a dusting of powdered sugar. The "Tilikum Fry Up" ($14) is one of the most satisfying (and filling) breakfast dishes around: eggs, a hand-formed sausage patty, bacon, sweet and porky baked beans, seared tomato halves, and grilled baguette.
Diners are a dying breed, and this fact lends a bit more romance to a meal at a good greasy spoon. Hash browns are the equivalent of a warm, familiar embrace, and this is especially true of the kind served at Voula's Offshore Cafe (658 NE Northlake Way, 634-0183), where they come in lovely, dense slabs—the outside brown and crispy from the griddle, the inside steamy and soft. They're served alongside most of Voula's generous breakfast plates, but I like them best mixed with sausage, onions, mushrooms, and cheddar cheese in the hobo scramble ($12.60). There's often a line at Voula's, but no matter: Help yourself to the coffee provided outside while you wait. Seattle's cool, drizzly weather will give you the perfect excuse to huddle with your significant other.
While some people crave potatoes in the morning, others prefer the comfort of rice or noodles. The pork and century egg congee at King Noodle (615 S King St, 748-9168) never fails to soothe me: a simple stew with tender pork and chewy preserved egg that arrives, bubbling, in a hot stone pot. The steam rises up, tickling your face and neck like the soft breath of someone holding you close.
I had a baby last year and can tell you, unequivocally, that waking up early every morning to the sound of a small, helpless human crying out for you forces you to redefine your idea of romance. These days, my husband's greatest demonstration of love is making sure that the coffee pot is prepped every night so that when I wake up in the morning, all I have to do is stumble downstairs and turn on the stove. Later, while I nurse our daughter, he cooks me breakfast, which, because we are simply trying to get out the door on time, is often whatever leftovers we have topped with a fried egg.
Whenever I manage to pick up fresh eggs from places like Early Bird Farm (available every other week at the Sunday Broadway farmers market) or Stokesberry Sustainable Farm (for sale every Saturday at the University District farmers market and every Sunday at the Ballard farmers market), I am reminded what a crime it is that, as with relationships, we often settle for less than the best.
Every time I break into a perfectly fried, fresh egg, its runny yolk spills out, becoming a gorgeous, golden sauce. It feels like a small miracle, the same way that love, over time, seeps into every corner of your life, making even the most mundane things beautiful.