Lincoln Ristorante (brunch)
I’ve already blogged about Lincoln before (http://photo-hungry.com/post/40743689139/lincoln-ristorante), but I have to post again, because the brunch deal here is A STEAL! First of all, let me just repeat: Lincoln is an insanely gorgeous restaurant (see above). One of the best-looking restaurants in the city. I can’t decide if I like it better at night, with the lights of Lincoln Center twinkling in the background, or during the day, with the beautiful natural rays of sunlight peering in. Either way, you’re in for a treat. Second of all, the brunch deal - 2 courses for $35 - is an amazing deal given the wide selection and the option of so many of the same dishes served at lunch and dinner, with a few bonus “brunchy” items. Third, the food, especially the pasta, is awesome. An additional benefit: this place is roomy and is good for groups! ATO and I brought my parents, my sister and my brother-in-law here, and we all had plenty of space to lean back and relax. This is my new fancy brunch spot. Love it.
Complimentary breads: the pizza bread could be a lunch unto itself. So good.
The dips: a chickpea, eggplant and garlic dip and some very fine and flavorful olive oil.
Our little starter bites: fried chickpea cubes! Dense but interesting little suckers.
Ahhhh, the glory: the pastas. Above is the tagliatelle with green asparagus, morels and stracciatella. It’s morel season, and these morels definitely stole the show. Intensely flavorful and earthy. The asparagus were bright and crisp. Fantastic.
The pappardelle with black pepper, served with duck confit, mustard greens and grated foie gras. Can we say rich? Dang. Very good, but a bit one note. I would have appreciated more mustard greens, which really cut the decadence of the duck confit and foie gras.
The ravioli filled with salt cod, topped with a fresh tomato marinara, chives, lemon and thyme. Our least favorite pasta of the day. The tomato sauce, while nice, completely masked the flavors of the salt cod.
The gigli verde with ramps, pork sausage, marinara and sheep’s milk ricotta. Wow. Spectacular. Spicy pork sausage, tangy marinara, creamy ricotta…. it’s hard to think up a more delicious concoction for a pasta dish.
Oh wait, perhaps we just did. The ricotta gnudi with English peas, favas, carrots, radishes and meyer lemon. I mean, just look at those huge soft gushy balls! Eesh, that didn’t come out right (and I can’t resist: that’s what she said!). Anyway, this dish was so vibrant, as if plucked right from a veggie garden on a bright spring day. Yum.
We move on to the entrees. I veered away from the brunch items, explaining, “I can make eggs at home; it’s like the only thing I can make.” Well, I was wrong. I knew that as soon as I set my eyes on the frittata with spinach, English peas, mascarpone, marinara and young lettuces that my sister ordered. I definitely cannot make that at home. This frittata was excellent. Ridiculously light and fluffy, so flavorful and so much cheese! Oh the cheese… it still sends goose bumps up my arms just thinking about it! Be warned, this entree is not for the weary; even my sister, a strong eater, could not conquer this gigantic heavy slice.
The fish, beautifully prepared: halibut with green asparagus, morels and a brown butter zabaglione. A light touch, once again with those devastatingly good morels and fresh green asparagus. Beware the mayo-ish brown butter zabaglione though: it isn’t necessary, and honestly, it’s pretty gross.
The striped bass, served Mediterranean style with roasted red pappers, green beans and an olive sauce. Very pleasant; again, the fish itself was cooked just right, with that yummy crusty char.
The braised beef brisket with a salad of beets, barley, horseradish and salsa verde looked beautiful, but was not what PB expected. He looked very thrown off as he took each bite. We gotta say, it didn’t look like braised brisket to us either!
Mmmmm my chicken. Prepared with garbanzo beans, tangy marinated pickled eggplant and spring garlic. A real lesson on just how tender and juicy chicken can be. Such a clean, wonderful dish. The only thing missing was a crispier, saltier skin.
Despite how sickly full we all proclaimed ourselves to be, we still ordered dessert. This family can eat. We all ordered a scoop of gelato. Above was my favorite: the toasted riso (rice) gelato. Super creamy, but pleasantly surprising with the chewy little grains of rice. The crunchy crumble beneath added another awesome layer of texture and the slightly burnt and vanilla flavors were intoxicating.
And again, the candy bowl! They are so generous with the amount of candy offered, and I totally take advantage of their generosity every time. He he ;-). I mean, c’mon, the candy comes wrapped! Into the purse you go. Thank you!
The NoMad (for brunch)
Since it opened last year, I’ve loved The NoMad for dinner (see prior post: http://photo-hungry.com/post/21274114610/the-nomad) and for cocktails and bar snacks. But I only recently discovered that I also really love The NoMad for brunch. While the space is dark and hip and sexy by night, it’s nice and bright and happy by day. I kinda prefer the latter. The vibe is definitely slower and more relaxed - I felt like I could sit back (the big cushy chairs are super comfy), take a deep breath, do my own thing and enjoy the wonderful food and drink coming my way. New favorite brunch spot? Perhaps.
If you’re feeling too hungover to “hair-of-the-dog” it, start with one of their non-alcoholic “soft cocktails.” They are delicious! Above is my Orange Julius, which is apparently a real thing and not just a made-up word in a Modest Mouse lyric to fit the rhythm of the song, as I had previously believed. Orange juice with cream -what a smart and tasty idea - and of course The Nomad had to one-up it with orange blossom water as well!
Basil-fennel soda with lemon and sparkling mineral water. It’s like drinking a refreshing and invigorating hike. Ahhhhh…..
We all went for the “lunch” portion of the brunch menu (i.e., the non eggs and pancakes). Above is TC’s scallops seared with acorn squash, brown butter and sage. “Ohhh, a fall harvest!” he exclaimed as he gulped it all down. We sure do love The NoMad’s scallops… always cooked to perfection.
ATO ordered the duck roasted with cranberries, celery and orange. Definitely reminiscent of a Thanksgiving feast. The duck was expertly cooked to medium rare - I’m totally drooling again just looking at that pretty blushing pink hue!
I went for the ultimate gut bomb: the chicken sandwich on brioche with black truffles and foie gras. The NoMad is known for the chicken for two on their dinner menu, and this is their lunch version. It’s like all of the most decadent flavors in life, piled high onto one naughty, indulgent sandwich. It’s almost too much…. almost. Both JC and I ordered this dish. She finished about 1/4th of her sandwich (granted she was hungover), but I finish my whole thing with minimal assistance from ATO. Food coma can be so sweet…
The chicken sandwich also comes with a little crunch and freshness on the side: a beautiful and bright raddichio salad with crispy crackly chicken skin. Totally great side to balance the rich chicken sandwich.
Oh and of course we ordered a side of shoe string fries! After all, brunch is not brunch without some form of fried potatoes. These were particularly delightful: garnished and elevated with fried herbs and lemon rind. Zesty!
Brunch at Home (featuring Russ & Daughters)!
My parents were in town so we decided (for once) to invite them over for a “home-cooked” meal! Brunch, of course. It’s the only meal I really ever host. I like the flexibility (and ease!) of serving eggs or sandwiches or both. I’m definitely not ambitious or crazy enough to tackle dinner.
I have a set formula for hosting brunch. Buy a bunch of classic NY bagels, pick up a variety of yummy cream cheese, splurge on some high-end smoked fish, gather a couple other fun toppings and bake two quiches (plus or minus a couple minor adjustments for each specific brunch). It’s making a meal without much cooking (just assembling)… what I do best!
So here’s revealing all the brunch tricks I have up my sleeve…
First stop, Russ & Daughters. A New York institution that’s been around almost 100 years in the Lower East Side. I have to say, I love Zabar’s more than anyone I know, and it is one of my most favorite places in this whole city. But when it comes to smoked fish and other like specialties, Russ & Daughters takes the cake.
Expect a line, a crowd… probably both. Expect to be overwhelmed by choices. Expect to be delighted by the offerings.
I mean, just look at that selection of caviar! Where fish eggs go to die, and New Yorkers go for take-out luxury ;-).
So here’s what we ended up taking home on this trip. For our little starters, we’ve got wasabi-infused flying fish roe and smoked trout mousse. Spread on crackers or bagels. Equally good either way. In fact, the flying fish roe was delicious on just about everything - just ask my dad who was putting it on his smoked nova. Also pictured is the veggie and plain cream cheese from Russ & Daughters (even their cream cheese is better than most!).
Mmmm…. carbs!! The stage for all the toppings. The bialys at Russ & Daughters are freakin amazing! Best in the city.
A closer look at the smoked sable and the classic Gaspe nova smoked salmon. Beautiful. We’ve had the Western nova and the Scottish before as well, but the Gaspe nova - so mild and rich - has the widest appeal and is always a crowd pleaser! Sliced perfectly thin for ultimate enjoyment. And ATO audibly sighed with happiness at his first bite of smoked sable. Sooooo good.
Quiche and salad go together like peanut butter and jelly. Here’s my simple go-to salad: fresh, slightly bitter arugula tossed with crisp, sweet apples and dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add blue cheese to taste. This Long Clawson blue was the PERFECT blue for this salad. It had just the right amount of bite and saltiness to creaminess ratio. Recommended to me by Murray’s Cheese. Love that place. Spot on suggestions.
Here’s my culinary crowning glory. Quiche. The one out of three things I know how to make. I’ve mastered my quiche-making skills over the years and come up with these recipes by trial and error. My classic-style quiche: caramelized onions, scallions, pancetta (sometimes I sub with turkey bacon, real bacon or ham, or sometimes I go sans meat) and smoked Dutch gouda. Throw it all into a Fresh Direct whole wheat pie crust, toss in some eggs mixed with milk, and bake til done. Voila! Bubbling hot melty quiche is served. I love it, I love it, I love it!!
Here’s another look at my quiche. I get two pics since it’s such a rare occasion when I cook. This one is a new development for me, but it’s probably my most successful and my best received. Jumbo lump crab with fresh asparagus, fresh spinach and Parmesan. Lighter and a bit more vibrant than the other version. What can I say? I make good quiche! :-).
And sometimes it’s just the little things that make the difference. Like good juice. I’ve discovered a love for Sir Real juice - it tastes fresh-squeezed, like a lovely hot summer day on a farm. It’s also less sugary than your typical Tropicana; especially the grapefruit juice (above), which is refreshingly tart and tangy.
We had a lot of leftovers. I’ve never been good at portion-controlling for a set number of people. But have no fear: no leftovers were left behind!
If you’re looking for great brunch food with a twist, check out Maharlika, a Filipino restaurant that got its start as a brunch pop-up, but has now settled into a permanent cozy, casual spot in the East Village. In a city that’s obsessed with Thai food, there’s definitely a dearth of other Southeast Asian flavors, especially Filipino fare. After experiencing Maharlika, I have to ask: why? It’s delicious, and everyone should try it!
I actually first heard of Maharlika when I saw it featured on a Food Network program about best hangover brunches. I was immediately sold.
Well, we weren’t hungover, but this brunch still sure was good….
RL and ATO both ordered the Eggs iMelda: homestyle pandesal (a yeast-raised bread popular in the Philippines) topped with two poached farm eggs, grilled prawns, fresh taro root leaves laing, kalamansi (citrus) hollandaise, kamote home fries and maliit salad with coconut-sugarcane vinegar dressing. ATO was dazzled by the number of different components offered to him on his plate (it’s like buying 1 chocolate and getting 5 instead!). They were all tasty, and no one component distracted from, or interfered with, any other component. He was especially infatuated with the taro root leaves laing, which resembled cooked spinach or kale, but had a more unique, exotic flavor. And of course he sucked every succulent morsel out of his giant whole-grilled prawns!
The Sunburnt Calf
Come get your brunch on at the Sunburnt Calf (the Aussie-themed baby sister to the Sunburnt Cow, in the LES)! Fine. The food here is by no means special. It’s not even very good. It’s just OK. BUT at brunch on weekends, for as low as $20, you get a size-able entree and the opportunity to drink yourself into oblivion. Guzzle mimosas (moomosas), bloody mary’s (moo mary’s), Fosters, screwdrivers or Greyhounds to your little heart’s content!
Above is “The Heart Stopper”: grilled hanger steak, 2 poached eggs, crispy onion, bacon and hollandaise sauce. I accidentally referred to it as “The Heart Attack” when it first arrived at our table, but RG astutely pointed out that a heart attack suggests the possibility of survival, whereas this dish will most certainly kill you (well, if you eat it all the time).
Fish and chips! Or should I say…. fried breading and chips! But as SS concluded, you come here for the endless drinks, not the food.
The steak sandwich. Not even in the same general genre of food as a Philly cheese steak, but it wasn’t bad. And with all the lettuce and tomato packed in, I was able to convince myself that it was pretty dang healthy….
SHOT, SHOT, SHOT, SHOT, SHOT! There’s no such thing as too early for SHOTS! One as we waited for our table, one as we paid our check. Party time. Woot woot!
My Penn girlfriends and I were long overdue for a girls’-only get-together. So we designated last Saturday as our unofficial “throwback” day by having brunch at Caffe Storico, a relatively new Stephen Starr (God of restaurants in Philly) project, set in the beautiful New York Historical Society museum in the UWS, followed later in the day by watching the newly released Pitch Perfect (we had an “a cappella group” in college - it’s in quotes for a reason ;-)).
We all opted for the more breakfast-side of the menu (pastas and paninis were also offered). I find it really difficult to judge a restaurant by its typical breakfast/brunch dishes. Eggs are usually eggs, in all their shapes and forms, pancakes are usually pancakes, etc. - some are obviously better than others, and once in a while you’ll come across a really awful version, but I’ve never had an egg or pancake that absolutely blew my mind or really showed much insight into the culinary abilities or creativity of the kitchen. So suffice it to say, the food was definitely good, but nothing stand-out. Standard satisfying UWS brunch fare. I will say, however, that the setting was wonderful. And especially suited for a group of gathering girls. It’s actually in the museum itself, and is built with high ceilings, lit up by huge bright windows, surrounded by white china from the museum’s own collection and lined with a funky bright pop of color from the greenish/yellow leather seating running against one wall. Given the combo of classic solid food and very cool setting, I would definitely return. Just don’t bring a huge hungry man (or ATO)! Portions are not big.
Above was the frittata of the day, with peppers, onions, broccoli and parmesan cheese, served with a fresh green salad.
Here’s the spinach frittata with mozzarella, also served with the same greens.
Baked eggs and spicy tomato with crisp pancetta. Very cool visually.
And finally the polenta and poached eggs with taleggio and mushroom ragu. Needed some sprinklings of salt, but it was tasty. Also, I kinda like semi-burnt toast!
A note on service: it was slow. Hire more help! Despite that, because of our waiter’s charm and bright smile, and because we were lazy and just wanted to split the bill quickly, I think we ended up tipping 25%. Oh well.
One final word of advice: Go see Pitch Perfect! It was awesome, I laughed my a$$ off and I left with that warm, fuzzy happy feeling!!!
Hudson at Haymount House (Briarcliff Manor, NY)
We were headed back to the city after the wonderful wedding of our friends SB and AS, set in a mansion in the midst of the beautiful fall colors of Staatsburg, New York. We decided to stop for brunch on the way home, and chose Hudson at Haymount House because of a recent glowing review from the NYTimes. Farm to table dining, an old mansion with a view of the Hudson River, a kitchen led by the former chef de cuisine at Corton (my personal favorite in the city!)…. we were sold!
On top of that, brunch was a relative-to-New York City-great deal. $29 for a Mimosa or Bloody Mary, an appetizer and an entree! Above was my tasty Bloody Mary.
While ATO and I both had our fair share of lobster this week (check out recent posts on Flex Mussels and Le Bernardin), we still hadn’t had our fill. And with the other appetizer options ranging from a variety of salads to a risotto or waffles, what sane, dollar maximizing person wouldn’t choose the lobster sliders with coleslaw? What a steal! Tender, lightly dressed chunks of lobster sandwiched between super buttery, toasted brioche…. ohhh yum.
The rest of brunch was pleasing as well. Nothing mind-blowing, but good classic brunch fare. Above are the locally smoked salmon eggs benedict with crispy potatoes. The hollandaise was a tad too congealed in an unappealing way.
And here’s the grass-fed angus burger with ramp remoulade and hand-cut french fries. Some bites of the burger gave off that lovely musky gamey grass-fed taste, while others were more plain burger and a bit bland. And while I requested medium rare, the burger came out more medium. Still pretty good.
Oh and because it was brunch, I added a free-range blue hen egg on top. This is what happened when I tried to stack my burger up…. not easy to eat!
And before heading out, we wrapped up our meal with a coffee and a hot chocolate. I’m pretty sure they used some sort of powder mix for this, but it was nostalgic in that “I’m a kid and it’s a snow day and I get to watch movies all day” type of way.
A nice stopping point if you’re looking for a city break, or looking for a peaceful place to eat on a Hudson Valley fall foliage trip!
Kefi is awesome. Amazing rustic Greek food at surprisingly low prices. We actually rented out the lower level for lunch and served 70 of our family members and wedding party, the day after our wedding. So we’re a bit biased. Their events manager still always sends a smile and an appetizer our way when he sees us come in. It makes us feel special.
But, alas, I always felt one thing was amiss: a brunch menu! Oh, but how quickly things can change in just one year. A few visits ago, I came in, opened my menu, and…. heart pounding….there it was! Eggs, in various shapes and forms, pancakes and french toast…. a real legit brunch menu! Yipeee! It’s fast become my go-to brunch spot on the UWS. None of this waiting in line for hours with baby strollers shiznat; walk right in and enjoy some delicious brunch nosh!
So this Sunday, after a hilly 18-mile race that sent us running around and around Central Park 3 times, KF, ATO and I hobbled (rather, I hobbled, these two pros were strolling!) in tired and starving. The most rewarding state in which to eat! Without hesitation, I ordered my absolute favorite brunch offering here: a soft, warm pita wrap filled with fluffy scrambled eggs, punctuated by salty greek sausage, decadent fried potatoes and spicy and sweet peppers. Served with a classic Greek salad and some house-made chips. Ahhhh…
Meanwhile, ATO made a new, happy discovery. My satisfying salad from Lil’ Frankies the night before had put salad on his mind, so he ordered the bitter greens tossed with shrimp, orange segments, green olives, shaved fennel, graviera and red onion, dressed with an orange blossom-coriander vinaigrette. We actually served this salad at our post-wedding brunch, but I guess he missed it ;-).
But the biggest find of the meal: the Greek home fries. Ridiculously good. Crisp and charred, but moist and potatoey, showered with just the right blend of fresh herbs and spices. Perfect post-race recovery meal!
Sunday was gorgeous. Unfortunately, I had conference calls and work scheduled all day. Except from 11am - 1pm. Brunch outside was in order! So we walked 10 blocks north to one of our brunch stalwarts, Bar Boulud. It (1) is close to our house, (2) has a $32 prix-fix 4-course brunch (which we didn’t actually get this time) and (3) has open outdoor seating with a great view of Lincoln Center. Their food, while not superb, is solid classic French brasserie-style fare, and their charcuterie is awesome (Frank Bruni called this place a ”terrine machine, a pâté-a-palooza” which my dorky self finds really funny).
ATO ordered the roasted beets served beneath a bed of baby arugula, sliced green apple, roasted pumpkin seeds and yogurt (looking at the picture and based on recollection, I can’t tell you where this so-called yogurt is). Like one of my favorite Outkast songs from year 2000, this app was “so fresh, so clean.” The beets were sweet and slightly tart and the crunchy spiced pumpkin seeds really elevated both the texture and flavor profile of this dish. I made ATO switch apps with me.
I ordered the chilled spring pea soup with lightly poached rock shrimp, cream and bread crumbs. Very grassy and herby. Some people like that. But to me it tasted like a green juice and just felt too healthy. I wanted more cream! But ATO liked, and was nice enough to switch apps with me. Win win (at least for me).
Speaking of healthy dishes…. ATO ordered a salad for his entree (don’t worry, he’s not on a diet at all). Ruby red shrimp served atop baby romaine lettuce and garnished with fennel and buttermilk dressing. Again, this is a perennial favorite of his which I just don’t get. To him, it is flavorful and light. To me, it is a bit fishy will inevitably result in an empty stomach 2 hours later followed by a big afternoon calorie binge.
So I had the oesfs florentine instead…. poached eggs over spinach, jumbo lump crab (a bit shiesty with the crab) and rye toast, all drenched in yummy hollandaise. Now this is more like a brunch dish. Nothing to write home about, but satisfying.
AND after that, you can stop by Epicerie Boulud and grab some of that amazing charcuterie, to enjoy in the comforts of your own home. Or maybe some delicious French style macarons. Or both. (You can guess what we did). Nom nom!