Breakfast Beyond the Ordinary

Dana Moos makes the most important meal of the day memorable.

Dana Moos has always loved to hang out in the kitchen. There’s no better spot for a catch-up conversation or an intimate talk than in the warmth of that room. On a snowy morning, we’re sipping coffee in her newly renovated kitchen, the heart of her cozy home tucked into the woods of Maine’s midcoast. Freshly baked popovers are piled in a bowl, with tiny dishes of butter and black raspberry jam nearby. Dana Moos has served breakfast to thousands of people over the years, and today I’m lucky enough to be one of them.

Moos’s love of food began early, watching her mother cook and reading food magazines in her native Maryland. She got a “free culinary education” from television cooking shows. After leaving home, she was the cook in her group of friends who shared an apartment. Her interest in the most important meal of the day began when she put on elaborate brunch spreads for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with all her family’s favorites—including popovers. “I have fond memories of going to a restaurant in Potomac where they had these big, beautiful popovers,” says Moos. “That’s where the popover thing started.” Soon, brunch became her specialty. “Breakfast is my favorite way to really be creative.”

Moos and her husband, Greg, both former property managers in Maryland, decided to try their hands at inn keeping in 2004. For five years, the couple owned the Kingsleigh Inn in Southwest Harbor, on Mount Desert’s “quiet side.” “You really have to like providing for people,” she says. “I get a lot of satisfaction from making people happy.” While the meal prep and constant grocery shopping took up a lot of time, often the couple’s afternoons were free to explore the island or relax at the beach. “We were able to enjoy what the guests were also there for,” says Moos. Every morning guests were treated to a three-course wake-up call, including fruit, baked goods, and a hot entrée. “I wanted to offer something that would make the guests say ‘wow’,” Moos says. “I’m completely driven by color and produce. I don’t need a list. I just look at the produce and think, ‘What can I do with this?’” Guests would run up to their rooms to grab their cameras for a photo of breakfast. “And this was even before Instagram!” she exclaims. Moos developed a tasty repertoire and a reputation for creative dishes, each artfully plated. “My whole premise is simple foods, put together beautifully,” she says.

The Mooses sold the inn in 2009. Dana obtained her Maine real estate license and went to work with Kim Swan, owner of the Swan Agency in Bar Harbor. There she specialized in the purchase and sale of bed-and-breakfasts and inns. She and Swan also ran the Maine Innkeeping Academy, using their experience to teach marketing and help other innkeepers. One day, Moos was asked to teach a class on “plating,” the art of making food look appealing and attractive using garnishes and sauces. She called it The Art of Breakfast. That class led to a cookbook of the same name, a collection of the best recipes she shared with guests, and more. For example, there’s the cheese blintz soufflé, based on a dish her mother used to make. “It’s really delicious,” she says. “I had to rework it so it could be plated nicely. I came up with a solution after many attempts, which has the same flavors as my mother’s, but allowed me to cut it like a cake.” Before serving a slice, Moos “paints” designs on the plate with mango, raspberry, and blackberry purees. The finished dish is light and creamy, and gorgeous to look at. There’s also her grapefruit brulée with vanilla bean crème. “I’ve never seen anything like this in any restaurant,” says Moos, as she brings out a propane torch to caramelize the sugar topping. “I want to get a thick crust, so I need a strong flame.” The crust is very much like that on a crème brulée, shattering with the tap of a spoon, revealing a sweet cream, a perfect complement to the tangy citrus. “This is the dish that got us a mention in Condé Nast Traveler,” says Moos. “A travel writer visited the inn and loved it.”

As the morning has worn on, we’ve made the switch from coffee to mimosas. Moos adds a splash of St. Germain elderflower liqueur to the flute, along with a few fresh raspberries. She makes everything feel special and elegant, but insists that whatever she does can be easily replicated. That’s also the message Moos brings to those who attend her cooking classes at Stonewall Kitchen in York. She teaches there several times a year, and her approachable style encourages students to upgrade their own dishes with small touches and details. “People come up to me after class and say, ‘You make me think I could do this,’” she says. While we talk, Moos is working on the first step of an egg roulade to be filled with sautéed leeks and Parmesan. She pours an egg and heavy cream mixture into a lined jellyroll pan, then sends it to the oven. The dish was inspired by a similar one she had on vacation in Napa Valley. “I thought, what can I do to make it better?” she says. Add lobster, of course. When the eggs have been filled with the savory mixture of vegetables and cheese, then re-rolled and baked, Moos turns to the final step, melting butter in a small saucepan, then adding sherry and fresh lobster meat. Throughout the process, she offers tips that will ensure success for the dish. “In this case, better to overcook than undercook,” she suggests. “It’s okay to let the eggs brown a little bit.” Once finished, the roulade is sliced, placed atop a bed of baby spinach, and served with a few slices of candied bacon. It’s an elegant dish, and while I admire its presentation, I can’t wait to take a bite. The roulade is indulgent and rich, but with a lovely, light texture that practically melts in my mouth. “If you follow the recipe exactly, it will come out,” Moos assures me.

Though her inn keeping days are behind her, Moos still works as a real estate broker, now with the B & B Team, selling the Maine hospitality lifestyle. But her love of and aptitude for cooking are still very much a part of her life. There may even be another cookbook in the works, and I’m sure it’ll extend beyond the breakfast hour. Moos entertains often for family and friends. I hope to be invited back soon.

Egg Roulade with Lobster in Sherry Butter

Serves 6

8 eggs
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 large leeks, washed and thinly sliced
One (8-ounce) package cream cheese
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Juice from 1/4 lemon
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup medium-dry sherry
16 ounces fresh, cooked lobster meat, cut into small chunks
One (10-ounce) package baby spinach, washed and dried
Fresh chopped chives, for garnish
Fresh cracked pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a rimmed heavy-duty half sheet pan with butter or vegetable
oil, then line with parchment paper, and then grease the parchment,
making sure to press it flat to the surface of the pan, leaving at least an
inch overhang.

In a blender, mix the eggs, 2 cups of cream, and 1/2 teaspoon salt on high
speed for 4 to 5 seconds. Pour the mixture into the lined baking sheet.
Bake until you begin to see the surface of the egg start to lightly brown,
about 25-30 minutes. Remove and let cool.

While cooling, heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat.
Sauté the leeks, covered, until soft, about 10 to 12 minutes. When
soft, add the cream cheese, Worcestershire sauce, the remaining 2
tablespoons of cream, lemon juice, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of
salt and stir. When the cream cheese is thoroughly incorporated, add
three tablespoons of butter, mix in, and remove from heat. Let cool for
a few minutes.

Dollop small amounts of the leek filling onto the egg. Using an offset
spatula, carefully spread the mixture over the entire egg sponge, trying
not to tear the egg as it is very delicate. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the

With the short edge of the pan closest to you using the parchment as a
guide, roll the egg up onto itself (like a jelly roll cake) until you end up
with the egg seam on the underside of the roll. Keep the egg covered
with the parchment left after rolling as it will help keep the egg moist.
Cover the entire roll with aluminum foil and bake for another 20

While baking, melt the remaining stick of butter in a pan with the
sherry and cook for about 5 minutes, allowing much of the alcohol to
burn off. Then add the lobster, lower the heat, and cover. Simmer for
3-4 minutes.

To serve, place a pile of fresh baby spinach on a plate. Slice the roulade
into 6 slices, layer onto the spinach, and top with a couple of spoonfuls
of the lobster butter. Garnish with fresh chives.

Recipe reprinted from The Art of Breakfast by Dana Moos.