Tag Archives: brunch

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Three Brunches, Three Sighs of Contentment

There’s no deep mystery behind the formula for a successful brunch. Basically, you want to offer a breakfast option, such as eggs, provide enough food to tide us over until dinner (it is breakfast and lunch after all), and serve everything up in a comfortable, casual environment.

These three restaurants fit the bill nicely.

Kafe Leopold

In Georgetown, you’ll find Kafe Leopold tucked away in a cozy space between M Street and Cadys Alley. If the weather’s warm enough, try to snag a table on the shaded, cobblestone patio with its bubbling fountain, because it’s quite atmospheric.

The inside’s sleek, bright and airy, with natural light streaming through the windows and all-white furniture that reminds me of IKEA.

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I got the eggs with grilled ham and toast.

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I’m blanking now on exactly what this is that my friend Melissa ordered. I know it’s vegetarian, and am pretty sure it’s an assortment of tea sandwiches with different types of cheese.

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A visit to Kafe Leopold is not complete without at least a gaze toward their dessert display case.  This pic does not do it justice.

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After each getting up to check out the offerings, Melissa and I named our top three options. We shared the dessert that was on both our lists, the Napoleon.

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Good lord.  Anything with puff pastry gets me, and this was a tour de force of flaky and crunchy. The vanilla cream and dabble of berries put it over the top. “Mmmmmmmm” was the general verdict.

L’Enfant Cafe

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A neighborhood spot on 18th Street in Adams Morgan. If they had TVs, this is where I’d come during the summer to nibble on a crepe and watch the Tour de France.

My three friends and I wandered in, hungry and perhaps slightly sleepy from a holiday party the night before.

I really like the brick walls and homey bar in the dining room. The diners were a nice cross section of neighborhood couples, groups and families. (With extremely well behaved small children who miraculously didn’t scream or shout. Thank you restaurant gods.)

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My frittata with seasonal vegetables, goat cheese and potatoes really hit the spot.

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And that fantastic bacon needs a special shout out. So meaty and well cooked. That’s how all bacon should be.

The Original Pancake House

As I walked up to the Bethesda restaurant yesterday to meet my friends, there was no sign of life from the outside. Great! I thought. There’ll be no wait. Everyone’s gone home for the holidays!

Um, no, it was packed. We entered and I was immediately pinballed around, bumping into people from all directions in the small waiting area. This place does boffo business.

Ended up being about a 15-minute wait, not bad at all considering there were six of us and it was the peak of brunch hour.

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As the name suggests, you probably want to order pancakes here.  They’ve got almost every variation you can think of. (Except for Johnny Cakes, the cornmeal pancakes that I will always associate with “The Sopranos.” RIP Vito Spatafore.)

The menu at The Original Pancake House hilariously lists the calorie counts for each item. My friend Matt says it’s a law in Montgomery County. My advice: Don’t look at the calorie count. You don’t want to know.

Didn’t matter much to us anyway; this was a fit group of people. Fay and Randy ran eight and ten miles respectively to the restaurant, for God’s sake.  I think they earned the right to pig out on whatever they wanted.

I chose “The Works”: two eggs, bacon, hash browns, and three pancakes. Here are the blueberry pancakes.

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Near the end of the meal, Matt said, “You’ve got to take a before and after picture!”

Before:

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And after:

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There you have it. Three spots that will all leave you yearning for a pleasant food coma nap. Can’t go wrong with any of them.

Happy brunching!

Kafe Leopold
3315 M Street, NW
Washington, DC
202-965-6005

L’Enfant Cafe
2000 18th Street, NW
Washington, DC
202-319-1800

The Original Pancake House
7703 Woodmont Ave.
Bethesda, MD
301-986-0285

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Enjoying Life and Brunch at Dino

No one’s ever said the words, “Sure, I can do brunch, but can we make it quick? I’ve got to be somewhere.” At least I’m hoping it’s never been said. If it has, that offender needs to be banished from brunch for one year.

Who hurries through brunch? Brunch is about leisure and savoring a lazy weekend morning/afternoon. You don’t need to be somewhere else, you’re having brunch!

If you can dine al fresco, like at Dino in Cleveland Park, even better. With great people watching along Connecticut Ave., and situated next to the guy with the flower stand, it’s a primo place to be.

My friend Melissa and I plopped ourselves down and immediately tucked into the basket of fresh bread.

The bottomless mimosa brunch comes with an appetizer, an entree, and of course, bottomless mimosas.

Stuffed squash blossoms.

They tasted as good as they looked. That’s buffalo milk ricotta in there, and a very delicate tomato sauce.

Melissa ordered the risotto, which she mentioned was a bit salty. I got the cinghiale bianco (fusilli with ground wild boar).

Wine and herbs and al dente pasta. Oh yeah, and the wild boar. Nice.

Meanwhile, the refills of mimosa kept coming. We chatted, we people watched, we ate more bread, I drank more mimosas, we continued chatting…

That’s what brunch is all about.

Dino
3435 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC
202-686-2966

McKinney & Doyle: Rachael Ray Knows Best — Ask the Locals.

This post is for my Team in Training teammate and friend Anne, who had a very rough Sunday, but is tough as nails and on the mend.

Actually, Anne is partially responsible for this post.  When we talked about cheering on a few teammates racing up in Pawling, NY for the Pawling Triathlon, one of her first questions was, “So where are we going to have lunch?”

“I’ll find something,” I said.  “I’ll do some research.”

When you’re looking for small, out-of-the-way places, Roadfood.com is a good place to start — and wouldn’t you know it, they had a review of Karen’s, a roadside cafe in Pawling specializing in hearty breakfasts.  Sounded just about right.

Until the Tao of Rachael Ray came into play.  Remember how on $40 a Day she would dispense the advice, “Ask the locals”? Always made me laugh — one, because she said it like clockwork every single episode, and two, because the word “locals” conjured up images of Deliverance toothless-types.

We were standing at the triathlon getting hungrier by the minute (cheering is hard work), and chatting with another spectator who was from the area. I mentioned we were looking for good brunch, to which he replied without hesitation, “If you want brunch, you should go to McKinney & Doyle.”

This man seemed trustworthy.  Off we went.

McKinney & Doyle began as a bakery and expanded into a cafe. The bakery is on one side of the space.

There’s a very comfortable, homey feel to the dining room.

They’re easy to miss unless you look around, but up along the walls are some really funny quotes, like this one:

And another gem that Anne emailed me later:

“A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch.”

- James Beard

As for the food, thumbs up all around the table.  It’s a particularly nice brunch menu.

Here’s Andrea’s chicken salad.

Anne’s California omelet wrap.

I couldn’t decide between the chorizo scrambler and one of the omelets, and asked the server, “Which one has more food?”  She shot me a puzzled furrowed brow and answered, “They’re both pretty equal, but the scrambler does come on fresh tortillas.” Sold.

It was chorizo and scrambled eggs with potatoes, refried beans, fruit salad and a side of salsa and Tabasco.

Quite satisfied, we drove off to swim in the lake.

Never ignore the words of Rachael Ray.  Ask the locals!

McKinney & Doyle
10 Charles Colman Boulevard
Pawling, NY
845-855-3875

Sweet Grass Grill. Brunch. Good Times.

I struggled to start this post, because I was wavering on which angle to write about.  At first it was going to be about Sweet Grass’s approach to sourcing local and natural ingredients; then I thought I’d speak (again) about my affection for Tarrytown.

In the end, it boiled down to this: I just wanted to talk about brunch.

I realized at Sweet Grass that I need to do brunch more often. Like, a lot more often. Lunch is fine, dinner is the norm, but brunch — brunch is a whole other animal.

For one, it takes place on the weekends, a time when everyone’s much more relaxed and chipper; and finding people in a relaxed and chipper state these days is no small feat, so that counts for something.  Brunch can be elegant, but it’s also casual.  It evokes thoughts of spring, naps, jazz on the radio, and the Sunday paper (A soon to be purely nostalgic association since most of us read everything online these days. Sad, but true.)

The best part is, it’s okay to indulge at brunch. You’re allowed to eat crazy stuff. Extra bacon, sausage, mimosas, muffins the size of softballs, pancakes piled high and topped with whipped cream… hey, it’s all good, it’s brunch!  It’s two meals in one!

I’m sure Sweet Grass makes a good dinner spot, but I walked in and thought man, this place was built for brunch.  Just look at it, with its airy dining room, cheery colors and sunlight streaming through the large windows.

You can order from the regular lunch menu if you prefer, but my friend Jillian and I were all about the brunch items.

Like this basket of beignets, hot from the fryer and lightly dusted with powdered sugar.

Jillian ordered the French toast with thick-cut sourdough bread and fresh strawberries.  I had a bite and it was a definite thumbs up.

(I wanted to take a picture of Jillian with her French toast and the beignets, but she refused to be included in the money shot of gluttony goodness.)

My torta came with a side of not-too-sweet apple and oat muffins, which we gobbled up.

And here’s the torta.

It’s fried eggs and brioche croutons with a piece of braised pork, greens and a mustard sauce.  The mustard sauce was a surprising zinger — almost too strong — but the flavors worked nicely together.  And I loved having that tender piece of pork on top.

(I should briefly mention Sweet Grass’s ingredients, because I think it’s important. Spinach, lettuce greens and eggs are local from Stone Barns, as are some of the pork products.  Many other ingredients come from farms in upstate NY.  The pigs are on an all-vegetarian diet, and the restaurant uses antibiotic-free meat and sustainable seafood.)

Jillian and I were at Sweet Grass for quite a while, just eating and chatting.  We had a very nice server with an easy smile.  I glanced around the full dining room and saw a mix of families, couples and groups.  Everyone looked cheerful and in a great mood.  See, that’s the beauty of brunch. It makes people happy.

When can we go again?

Sweet Grass Grill
24 Main St.
Tarrytown, NY
914-631-0000

Facebook Made This Brunch Happen

I am one of those people who hasn’t quite come around to this Facebook thing.  I’m on it (because of peer pressure), but don’t do anything with it, meaning I haven’t filled out my profile, only log in to accept friend requests or read things people send me, and am too lazy to update my Facebook status.

Today I received two Facebook messages saying, “You have a (frost) snowball war request.”  I have no idea what that means.
I’m a Facebook loser.

So imagine my surprise when Facebook of all things, facilitated a reunion with an old high school friend.

That’s Roger on the left with his lovely wife Abi.  My friend Rishi, another high school pal, is on the right; we hadn’t seen Roger in about 15 years — just one of those situations where you scatter after high school and eventually lose touch.

Roger and Abi are professional musicians living in Japan, in town visiting friends and family. Rishi friended Roger, then Roger friended me, we emailed a few times, spoke on the phone, and that’s how we all ended up having brunch together at Public.

Rishi picked the place, and he did a bang-up job; Public’s a stylish, lively spot in the heart of Nolita serving a first-rate brunch.

My 2-egg “Fry Up” couldn’t have been any better: served on sourdough toast with mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, and sensationally meaty and smoky bacon.

These crispy quinoa hashbrowns were fantastic.  I never would have thought to brown up quinoa like this.  Rishi made a keen observation: “You can take anything and it tastes good fried.”

Meanwhile, between bites, we caught up with Roger.  He and Abi have two children, with a third on the way.  We reminisced about high school and the multiple occasions when Roger almost killed us with his maniacal, daredevil driving.  We remembered the time we all went hiking on Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire, wandered off the trail and ended up climbing up a sheer rock face.  And much to Abi’s amusement, we spoke fondly about one particular classmate who was the object of obsession for many a high school male.  She was a legend. (If by chance she happens to be reading this… sorry about all those times we drove past your house to see if you were home).

At the end of brunch we parted ways and promised not to let another 15 years go by before seeing each other again.  What a good time.  And I have Facebook to thank for it.

Seriously though, I’m not updating my Facebook status.

Public
210 Elizabeth St.
New York, NY 10012
212-343-7011