Soup for breakfast? It’s delicious!

Yes, you can get broth in a coffee cup at 8am from New York Citys Hearth. Dave Bry discovers the unctuous pleasure of bone marrow first thing in the morning

I love soup. In fact, I consider myself something of a connoisseur. But Ive never considered it a morning food. So when I heard that Manhattans Hearth restaurant had started serving brodo (Italian for bone broth) in coffee mugs, and that it was becoming a popular breakfast choice I was surprised. Soup for breakfast? It did not sound great. So I went to check it out.

Hearth creates its concoctions from three base broths: chicken, beef and the house combo, called the Hearth, which is a combination of both plus turkey. Chef Marco Canora simmers the bones with spices for 18 hours at 208F (98C) and ends up with eight varieties that he sells at the restaurants windowfront broth shop, Brodo:

  1. The Classic: Chicken broth with shiitake mushrooms
  2. The BBC: Beef broth with chili oil and gloops of bone marrow that bubble into rich pools of oil on the surface (gloops, as a word, perhaps does a disservice to bone marrows deliciousness)
  3. The Marco: Hearth broth with ginger and roasted turmeric (Canora drinks it every day for breakfast)
  4. Tom Yum: Chicken with coconut milk and chili oil
  5. The BBT: Beef with beet kvass (fermented beet juice) and turmeric
  6. Spicy Nona: Hearth with garlic and chili oil
  7. What Came First: Chicken with an egg yolk and nutmeg
  8. Gilligan: Hearth broth with coconut milk and ginger

The morning I went, I asked the woman at the window for a Marco. I always like to try a house specialty, even if 10am seems an odd time for turmeric. A moment later, I was handed a paper cup with a cardboard cozy and a plastic top indistinguishable from a cup of coffee.

Bone
Bone broth at Brodo in New York. Photograph: Jeenah Moon for the Guardian

I thanked her and looked around. Where would I drink my brodo? I was on the street. Soup is not an obvious walking food, like a bagel or a hot dog or an easily foldable slice of pizza. And this was my breakfast. I felt weird standing there, and a little stupid. What would a Brodo regular do? I went around the corner and found a one-step stoop near Hearths front entrance. A fine place for a morning meal for a pigeon or a guy with nowhere else to go. I put my soup on the ground next to me and, after taking off the top of the cup, wondered whether a passerby might drop some change into it. I hadnt shaved in a few days.

When my soup had steamed off some, I took a sip.

Wow! It was delicious! A big giant snap of ginger set off the super-deep dark-meat flavor. I was reminded of the foil-wrapped cubes of Maggi beef bullion that my mom would plunk into a boiling pot on cold winter days when I was growing up. (Amazingly strong in flavor, as I recall, and amazingly chemical tasting, as this was the 70s.) This was much better. Floating bits of roasted turmeric, already staining the lip of the white cup yellow, brought a tangy, sour bitterness (turmeric tastes a lot like orange peel), making things even more interesting.

A lot of people who drink brodo do so for health reasons, apparently. I dont know a huge amount about nutrition or alternative medicine. But a quick googling reveals that turmeric is used medicinally for everything from arthritis to Crohns disease to fibromyalgia to ulcerative colitis. Ginger, I remember from the six-pack of Schweppes ginger ale that stayed in my grandparents pantry, is good for an upset stomach.

Now, Im sure I am as susceptible to psychosomosis as the next slob sitting on a stoop in New York City, but I found drinking bone broth out of a paper cup to be a very restorative experience. I honestly felt better than when Id arrived. Soup! For breakfast! Who woulda thunk?!

Soup!
Soup! For breakfast! Who woulda thunk?! Photograph: Jeenah Moon for the Guardian

Canora first opened the Brodo window in November 2014, open from 11.30am until 8 at night. It took off as a quick, easy lunch for sidewalk walkers in the neighborhood, and as business grew, he realized he was missing a morning cohort. People liked it for breakfast, he says. Theyd say, Man, I wish you would open earlier.

So he did and now serves some 20 cups of brodo every day before noon. Not as much as during the lunch rush, from 12 to 2, or post-work, when people pick up batches for dinner (or perhaps some of them for tomorrows breakfast!). But enough to make it worthwhile.

I would not think of brodo as a substitute for coffee, nor for a bacon, egg and cheese on a roll, or a bowl of granola and yogurt and fruit. But it makes for a great breakfast on its own. I dont consider the health benefits of what I choose to eat very much. (Maybe I should more often; maybe I should shave more often too.) But if I lived near a place with an easily accessible brodo window, Id be stopping by for a cup of the stuff pretty regularly. Maybe Id even get used to drinking it while I walked.

Read more: www.theguardian.com