Sunday, December 28, 2008
Brunch - We Take Reservations!
Brunch never seems to arrive soon enough each week. As with most NYC dwellers who love food, meeting up with friends for a leisurely daytime meal on Saturday and/or Sunday is definitely one of the weekly highlights. Brunch can really be one of the most therapeutic events in the life of a New Yorker, but that can so often be immediately destroyed by the combination of a long wait and low blood sugar. I am here to tell you about some of the best brunch options in New York City that are completely stress free - the way any weekend day should be. The food and atmosphere are fabulous for both groups and dates, and yes, they take reservations too!
First stop and number to call, the west village's Morandi. The atmosphere here is what I love most about this rustic, Italian restaurant. With its brick walls, wood paneled ceilings, and tile floors, this spot immediately transports you to Europe. The large space is extremely welcoming and conducive to groups - encouraging diners to linger and truly enjoy their meal. I recommend ordering the bruschetta with ricotta, nuts & honey for the table once you sit down. As a quick blood sugar fix, this will allow you to take your time ordering and simply to soak in the setting. Any of the poached eggs dishes are perfectly prepared - my favorite being the Uova Affogate - two poached eggs over fava, artichokes and escarole. The brunch menu also offers more non-brunch items than most. All cravings are satisfied and there is a constant flow of customers throughout all hours of the day.
Next stop (and my top choice for the moment), Hundred Acres - a warm welcome into Soho. This restaurant wins on all levels - setting, food, service, and fun. The front bar room opens onto McDougal street while the back room leads to garden dining. The food is simple and delicious. Even a basic grapefruit jumped off the plate as it was topped with black pepper and cranberry compote - a unique combination that brought new flavor to the winter fruit. The Acres scramble is unbeatable - sausage, peppers, onions & gruyere served with Texas toast. Again, it seems simple, but the eggs are perfectly prepared, bringing the flavors together in a way that most could not. If you are not in the mood for eggs, the organic chicken salad served over apples and greens as well as the burger are wonderful options. But, I recommend that you do it up here - order as many items as possible, allowing you to sample the culinary expertise of this chef.
Onto the east village and my trusty "old" standby, The Smith. I finally made it here for brunch! And, similar to my dinner experiences, I left more than satisfied. I typically order an egg dish when I go to brunch, which I did here too (the open face omelet with asparagus and brie is a great option). Pancakes and French Toast always leave a little something to be desired. But, we boldly decided to add an order of their French toast with maple butter and caramelized bananas for the table. We ended up fighting over the dish. It was incredible. And, when I go back no matter the number of people I am with, I still plan to order an egg dish for myself, but with a side of French Toast (of course for anyone to share). And, the more dishes you order, the longer you can linger at your table! Although brunch does not normally constitute several courses, I want my meal to last just as long as a dinner outing would - afterall, there is probably much more to catch up on after a weekend night.
Final destination, Chelsea's Cookshop - a seasonal American restaurant supporting local and organic ingredients. The owners are actually the same as those of Hundred Acres and that is very apparent in the perfect preparation of the egg dishes. Here, the scramble with caramelized onions, crispy bacon, and creme fraiche over a buttermilk biscuit is a must. I also recommend sharing their pastry of the moment. The last time I went it was the fresh ricotta beignets with plum compote. But based on the season, the chef is constantly trying new creations, and all have been wonderful. No matter the time of year, this is a great spot. The open kitchen and stone oven in full view warm you right up. And, on warm days, check out the outdoor patio - one of the largest sidewalk spaces in the city.
Never fear, despite being able to make a reservation, all of these spots are still happening scenes - packed with diners starting as early as 10:30 am. A simple phone call will save you the headache that you definitely do not need on a weekend morning. You can now sit back and relax. Enjoy that bloody mary and the company of your friends knowing that on this outing you will not be spending as much as you would at a dinner. You and brunch have never looked so good!