Meb Byrne

Archive for the ‘brunch’ Category

The All Night Egg Plant

In breakfast, brunch, diner, recommended, restaurant, syracuse on August 19, 2009 at 3:58 pm

Syracuse can be a tough town for foodies, especially if you’re looking for something more than a chain restaurant (read: Erie Boulevard.) Visiting foodies should acquaint themselves with The All Night Egg Plant to appease their diner-hungry stomachs.

The Egg Plant’s success lies in its simplicity, allowing patrons to make what they will of the restaurant. Early morning coffee? Early afternoon brunch? Late night munchies? The Egg Plant satisfies all criteria, with a simple menu of tried-and-true dishes, fresh ingredients and straight-forward service. The popular omelets can be stuffed with up to three ingredients, from a large list that ranges from traditional (cheddar, ham) to eclectic (lox, hash) to downright weird (chocolate syrup, peanut butter, assorted berries.) Strange combinations often work well; be adventurous! A similar, if slightly less bizarre, assortment of pancake flavors and toppings are equally scrumptious. Even the chocolate milk is made to order.

The prices are modest, the atmosphere calm and welcoming. The crowd runs the gamut in age and ethnicity, making the open dining room lively during peak hours. With such great breakfast basics, there’s no reason not to make The All Night Egg Plant a staple of your Syracuse dining experience.

Recommended.

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Tabard Inn

In brunch, dc, recommended, restaurant on August 5, 2009 at 1:18 pm

The Tabard Inn, located in the heart of DC’s posh Dupont Circle, is a cozy hearkening back to the colonial era. The exterior is unassumingly pretty and wreathed in flowers. Inside, the dark, wood-paneled lounge exudes a quiet, rustic elegance, with mismatched paintings of early US presidents and carvings of eagles. Shaded lamps and wall lights cocked at odd angles exude soft lighting; squashy sofas and armchairs abound.

The restaurant of the Tabard Inn is scattered throughout several cheery rooms, with an open courtyard tucked in the back. A sheer multicolored awning drapes over the patio, where you can lounge away a Sunday morning with drinks and dining partners. Brunch, the restaurant’s most popular meal of the week, is heralded by a bread basket, proportioned to the size of your party, and piled high with savory muffins, olive bread, and a light and airy focaccia that’s packed with veggies.

The Tabard Inn features clean, fresh ingredients that hold their own shape and flavor, giving each dish surprising taste and texture combinations. The savory tart, a stand-out, is a birthday-cake sized slice of pastry, striated into delicate layers of crab, corn, asparagus and onions. The tart falls apart beautifully as you cut into it. The traditional Eggs Benedict are, mercifully, not too liberal with the Hollandaise, allowing the creamy flavor to just play on your taste buds. For heartier fare, the omelet with Hens of the Forest mushrooms and Brie has a precocious bitter bite, and is served with chunks of hash browns and a flaky biscuit.

For those with a sweet tooth, the vanilla brioche French toast is a scrumptious choose-your-own-adventure. Topped with peach-berry compote, and served with pots of clotted cream and intensely flavorful maple syrup on the side, the dish beckons with many possible taste combinations.

With the liberal brunch portions, you won’t need dessert, but the menu is quite tempting. Our server recommended the coconut carrot cake as one of the best desserts on the menu. Artfully presented, the cake matches the coconut and carrot flavors together well. The icing is good but not great, and the accompanying white chocolate macadamia nut ice cream, served in an inventive pastry crust, is overkill. The cake would be better paired with a simple French vanilla, or for a zingy surprise, a raspberry or lemon sorbet.The Saturday and Sunday brunch menu choices rotate regularly, but the menu always maintains a few staples. Dress is casual but classy. Reservations, at least a week in advance, are strongly recommended, though if you get your name on the waiting list right when the restaurant opens, your wait shouldn’t be obscene.

Recommended.

Alice’s Tea Cup

In brunch, lunch, nyc, restaurant on July 21, 2009 at 8:21 pm
Alice’s Tea Cup is, quite simply, the best brunch and lunch restaurant I’ve found in New York City.

Smoked salmon & scones.

First, there is tea. You must have tea. Alice’s offers a comprehensive book of tea choices, ranging from common to exotic. Each brightly hued pot of tea is a different shape and size, and is brought directly to your table, with a sponge secured to the spout to catch dribbles.

Second, there are scones. Where else can you have scones and tea on a regular basis? (Starbucks doesn’t count.) The best is the pumpkin scone, judiciously spiced and very moist. The mixed berry scone, also good, has a snappy, sugary crust. Some of the scones, especially the ham & cheese and buttermilk scones, tend to be on the dry side. Remedy this with the clotted cream and raspberry preserves served with each choice; the flavors pair well and melt in your mouth.

The entrée menu is short and sweet. Puréed soups change daily. A few dainty combinations of veggies and protein are available in either salad or sandwich form. The smoked salmon on black bread is the best of the sandwiches; the lapsang chicken, served with apple slices and tea-infused hard-boiled eggs, works best as a salad. However they are prepared, the entrees are cute, classy, and consistently delicious, combining unique ingredients to keep things interesting.

If you’ve gone to the trouble of getting an early afternoon table at Alice’s on the weekend, forget calorie counting with the mundane watercress sandwiches and indulge in the luxurious brunch menu. Pumpkin pancakes are fluffy, moist and intensely flavorful. Smoked salmon and scones are layered with tender poached eggs and a tasty Hollandaise sauce. The Curious French Toast gooey with syrup and chocolate sauce and sprinkled with fresh berries; this decadent entrée should be listed as a dessert. Top off your meal with a morning cocktail: Alice’s apéritifs are fun, spicing up classics like Bellinis with peach-infused tea, simple syrup, and a single bobbing raspberry.

Alice’s Curious French Toast.

With all the girly girls in New York descending on brunch restaurants every weekend, Alice’s is incredibly popular. The wait at any of its three locations is consistently one to two hours on weekends, and longer around midday. (Reservations are taken for parties of six or more ladies. I say ladies, and I mean it. Don’t try to bring men here. They just don’t understand!) All of the locations are whimsically painted with illustrations and passages of Lewis Carroll’s classic story, for which the restaurant is named. Chapter 1, on the Upper West Side, feels like a magical rabbit warren, hidden below street level. Chapter 2 is a tall building on the Upper East Side, with cream and burgundy décor, a winding staircase, and a wonderfully inventive bathroom. Chapter 3, also on the Upper East Side, feels a bit boxy at times, but features a sweet outdoor garden.

Montmartre

In brunch, dc, french, restaurant on June 30, 2009 at 3:58 pm
If you couldn’t guess by now, I’m a big fan of outdoor markets. I’m also a big fan of brunch. (What other meal is designed specifically for lazy rich people?) So I was excited to combine my two interests in an outing to Montmartre, located a block away from the Eastern Market in DC.

I will say one thing in defense of Montmartre: the quiche-of-the-day is superb. The crust is thick yet light and flaky, the eggs moist, the fillings (on this day, bacon and various cheeses) flavor-packed with a slightly sweet aftertaste. Get the quiche.

My praise ends there.

This is not to say that Montmartre is a bad restaurant. It is not. The servers are friendly. The space is nice. The mimosas are tasty. The buckwheat crepe is hearty, crispy, and chock full of meat and vegetables. It does, however, need salt. The quiche’s side of greens is fresh, but unfortunately paired with a weird mayonnaise; a better choice would have been a light vinaigrette.

The clincher for me was the desserts: five flat, despondent-looking tarts, sugar glazed beyond hope. In a strange move, the fruit of the blueberry tart is covered by a top crust, masking the flavor and making the dessert more high fructose corn syrup than berries. The kitchen presents these sad tarts beautifully, surrounding them with a pool of vanilla sauce and a drizzle of raspberry. The gigantic mint leaves as garnish, however, are overkill.

In the end, Montmartre’s wait is too long, its decibels too high, its service too harried and its portions too large to be a faithful representation of French cuisine.