Tag Archives: pancakes

Battle of the Brunches, Part I: Big Jones, Chicago

16 Aug

Andersonville is home to so many great restaurants offering weekend brunch. Where to begin? My husband and I tried two different places, on two consecutive weekends. This is Big Jones versus Bongo Room, head to head! Let’s check out Big Jones first.

Our meal kicked off with some complimentary beignets. They were okay – just fried dough really, a bit bready. The powdered sugar helped make them tastier.

Beignets

Complimentary beignets

Hubby ordered the Bayou Teche, a very flavourful  omelette with meaty crawfish, cream cheese, and andouille sausage. Both our entrees came with a choice of grits or hashed potatoes (which we picked, they were crispy just how we like them.)

Bayou Teche

Bayou Teche

 

I ordered the Eggs New Orleans – Crab cakes stuffed in a popover (reminded me of Yorkshire pudding), topped with perfectly poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce. This was honestly the best interpretation of a crab cake benny I’ve ever had.

Eggs New Orleans

Eggs New Orleans

We both liked our entrees so much, we came back a second time and ordered the exact same thing!

Big Jones has a good selection of loose-leaf teas, served in a beautiful glass pot:

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Bloody Mary Jones

Hubby got the Bloody Mary Jones. On a separate visit, I tried the Morning Dove brunch cocktail – the fresh grapefruit juice pulled me in. It was okay, but nothing spectacular. The Intelligensia coffee however, is spectacular, so I’ll stick to coffee in the future.

We shared the buckwheat banana pancakes at the end of our meal. We asked our server to make sure the pancakes arrived after our savory plates were done, and he happily obliged. The pancakes were fluffy and delish, served with crunchy pecans and caramel sauce.

Buckwheat banana pancakes

Buckwheat banana pancakes

Everything about this meal was fantastic – the food, the atmosphere and the service. I would recommend making reservations however – on our second visit, we were treated like second-class patrons since we had not made a reservation. What was supposed to be a 10 minute wait for a table turned into a 35 minute wait, and left a bitter taste in my mouth. Maybe this is an opening for another restaurant to  stake claim as Andersonville’s top brunch spot?…

Info: Big Jones, 5347 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60640 USA

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Brunch in Asheville: Tupelo Honey

18 Apr

At the center of downtown Asheville, North Carolina, is a great place for brunch – Tupelo Honey. There’s a nice enclosed patio area, but it was intensely heated, so we chose to eat inside.

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My husband built his own omelette – stuffed with roasted red peppers, asparagus, caramelized onions, and goat cheese.Tupelo Honey - omelette

This plate-sized sweet potato pancake with pecans is a signature dish. Definitely large enough to share!

Tupelo Honey - Signature Sweet Potato Pancake

I was a bit disappointed that the egg white frittata was no longer on the menu, so I ordered the Eggs Betty instead: two medium poached eggs on a buttermilk biscuit.  I really liked that Tupelo Honey let me choose asparagus instead of ham on the side, and sliced tomatoes instead of hash.

Tupelo Honey - Eggs Betty

The Final Word: Tupelo Honey serves up a solid breakfast with Southern flair.

Info: Tupelo Honey Cafe, 12 College Street Asheville, NC, 28801 USA,  and several other locations

Tupelo Honey Cafe on Urbanspoon

Form vs. Function at Royal, Watertown

13 Mar

Last weekend was the long awaited soft opening of Royal in Watertown. (The restaurant had been slated to open 2 months ago but hit a few snags.) When we found out that Royal had opened, my husband and I hurried over there to experience the New American/French cuisine for ourselves.

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The restaurant itself nails the loungey vibe and vintage-meets rustic look, with gold-framed mirrors adorning deep red walls and blackboards hanging from the ceiling near the entrance . 

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Royal is trying to be a lot of things – a dining room but also a coffee shop, given this setup for sugar and milk, near a rack of to-go coffee cups.DSC02078

The coffee was terrific both in taste and in price – a bottomless cup for $1 with purchase of an entree. It came in nice large mugs, but milk and sugar were delivered in small espresso cups. It was impossible to pour milk into my coffee without spilling much of it on the rather dusty tablecloth.

Royal Watertown soft openingIt’s clear that form trumped function in Royal’s choice of dinnerware.  Our water glasses were large squarish things that seemed more suited to being table centerpieces – something you might put a floating candle in. Though the concave edges cradled my lips as I sipped, the container itself was awkward to hold.

On the other hand, the food is delicious and creative, and artistically presented. Here’s the amazing house boursin and wild mushroom omelette with a chive hollandaise, potatoes, heirloom tomato salad, and arugula.  DSC02089

Still, aesthetics comes first. All entrees, like my ham and Gruyere crepe below, came beautifully arranged on a rectangular “platter”. I use quotation marks because I’m not quite sure what to call it. It was a heavy black thing with rough and slightly sharp edges, and a textured surface. The platters did show off the food as works of art – like paintings, but they were awkward for the servers to carry.

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I was actually having trouble finishing my meal – partially because it was filling, but also because I was getting worn out from the exertion required to cut off each bite – the butter knife I had was not sharp enough to cut through the crispy crepe and the uneven surface of the platter didn’t help. That was a little too much exercise for me at brunch time. My husband joked that it was as if we were eating gourmet food off of a sidewalk.

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The Royal pancakes had a lot going on – too much for my husband’s taste – he wouldn’t get them again. But I thought that the combination of salty of the crispy pork belly and the sweet candied walnuts and syrup actually worked. Royal pancakes

Right now, Royal doesn’t look like much on the outside. But the inside holds a lot of promise. There are still some kinks to be worked out – the placement of the tables could be improved for example, and the dinnerware tries too hard to be trendy. However, the food is definitely creative and tasty. Royal is definitely a much-welcome addition to Watertown!DSC02095

Info: Royal, 45 Lexington Street, Watertown, MA 02472 USA
Royal on Urbanspoon

Modern brunch: Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, Toronto

1 Feb

Mildred's Temple KitchenMildred’s Temple Kitchen is a bright, roomy, and chic spot for Sunday brunch with the girls…and one guy (I dragged my fiance along). At the front of this Liberty Village restaurant you’ll find a few high tops and a bar – coffee bar in the morning, cocktail bar later on. Unfortunately, Mildred’s doesn’t take reservations, though we knew to expect a long wait.  Our group of six waited almost an hour to be seated, but it was worth it. Some brunch spots stuff you shoulder to shoulder with diners at the next table. At Mildred’s, tables are nicely separated so you can easily navigate to your seat and dine in comfort (what a concept!)

IMAG1976“Veda’s Choice” – well-executed poached eggs with smoked salmon on a croissant, with salad on the side.

IMAG1978The “Huevos Monty,” with black beans and cheddar cheese between flour tortillas, topped with eggs, salsa, and avocado crème fraiche, is one of the more creative items on the menu.

IMAG1980“Mrs. Biederhof’s Legendary Light & Fluffy Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes” arrived in a shallow pool of maple syrup and topped with whipped cream and more blueberries. You can’t deny it – everything is beautifully presented. Though the pancakes were yummy, they were definitely denser than I had expected, based on their menu description. I still like my pancake recipe better.

What’s the one big downside to Mildred’s? The bathrooms. A door off to the side of the coffee bar reveals a corridor lined with white unisex stalls on one side, and a row of sinks on the other. Once inside a stall with the door closed. a soundtrack begins to play. Soothing music? Absolutely not. Instead, voices of airline stewards announcing the safety instructions for an Air Canada flight, followed by French announcements for a flight to Paris. You know, probably one of the least desirable places to do your business is in an airplane stall. Why Mildred’s designers would want to make us feel as if we were trapped in one is beyond me.

The Final Word: Good quality takes on standard brunch fare and comfortable seating – I could definitely lounge here for hours (no wonder the long waits!) Prices are a nudge above average, but you’re paying for the atmosphere. I just don’t understand those bathrooms!

Info: 85 Hanna Avenue, Toronto, ON, M6K 3S3  Canada

Mildred's Temple Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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