Like many chefs who spend late nights at the restaurant, chef Nick Testa of Bua in New York City’s East Village can’t start his morning without coffee.
Meal #1: Cold brew
I like cold brew because it’s so bold and strong, and it’s a bit sweeter on the tongue than regular coffee. And it’s easier on my stomach than more acidic hot brewed coffee. If I’m out and about in the city, I go to La Colombe; their pure black cold brew on draft is the business. But it’s also really expensive: I can easily spend upwards of $60 a week on coffee, so I’ve started to make my own cold brew at home. I grind up a melange of whatever beans I have in the house, which I get from a bar patron who runs a coffee distributorship. No blend is ever the same. Then later in the day, I throw my cold brew into the Soda Stream and carbonate it to make coffee soda. It reminds me of when I was a kid and I used to drink Manhattan Special, which is a really strong, tasty, sweetened espresso soda that you can buy in bodegas or little Italian delis. I worked in a deli as a kid and I used to stock the sodas. Once in a while, I’d pocket a Manhattan Special and chug it in the walk in.
Meal #2: Shitty bodega sandwich
I’ll always enjoy a shitty bodega bacon, egg and cheese sandwich: soft poppy seed kaiser roll, American cheese, crispy bargain brand bacon, scrambled egg and “SPK” – salt, pepper, ketchup. I started working in delis when I was in high school, and when we were kids, rolling back from the bars at 4 in the morning, I’d open up the kitchen and make egg sandwiches for all my friends.
Meal #3: Breakfast two ways
My other favorite breakfast food is French toast sticks (which he put on the menu at Bua). What I enjoy most are the frozen ones from the box, so I started experimenting with my own, trying to come up with a recipe that is the closest to any boxed french toast stick you’ll ever get. That flavor is so nostalgic. I make a heavy, sweetened batter with lots of cinnamon and vanilla, let it soak into the bread, and then give it a dunk in a rice flour mixture to give it a crunchiness when it goes into the frier. I always use nice challah bread with a decent crust. Our challah pullman does the best job: it’s got crust on each end and is soft in the middle.
But on most days, Nick channels the 80s and digs into a box of his favorite childhood cereal.
My parents were divorced when I was growing up and my mother was always at work, so it would be up to me to cook. I always wanted cereal or frozen French toast sticks. If it was cereal, it was Cinnamon Toast Crunch. A little CTC in your life – you can’t go wrong with that. It’s still stocked in my cabinet to this day. I’m a half-a-box kind of guy, maybe more. When I get up, I bring the box, a half gallon of milk, my bowl and my spoon, and I park in front of the TV with my schnauzer Norman and watch The Price is Right. That’s my morning ritual.