A Tale of Two Brunches

I am not a brunch person. Given a choice, I do not “do” brunch, as I cannot understand why anyone should take two perfectly good meals (breakfast and lunch) and combine them into one. However, I do like the savory/sweet aspect, as well as the longer serving hours. At the end of the day, we need to eat when we get to Manhattan; so if they want to call it “brunch”, it is fine with me.

ABC Kitchen 

It is a very, very trendy, locally sourced farm-to-table place, loud and crammed even by NYC standards. Actually, the space itself was huge and beautifully designed (in a universally likable “shabby chic” style), but the individual tables (and guests) were almost on top of one another.

I really did want to love it, as it came highly recommended by somebody I trust implicitly as far as food is concerned.

However, I liked it but did not love it for a few reasons. First, I always have to be excited about the menu, and the only items I was excited about were the salmon tartar toast special (with the fantastic addition of zest!), and the lentil soup with celery root, parmesan and herbs. The wine list by the glass was unoriginal and way overpriced, so we opted for some tasty beers (Rare Vos, a Belgian-style ale available on tap (see photo below) and Fire Island Red Wagon IPA (bottle).









The bottom line is that everything was solid, but it did not blow me away. These days, being locally sourced is almost an expectation, so that, to me, cannot really be a selling point. It was a difficult reservation, perhaps, not quite worth the effort.








Locanda Verde

As a former food service professional, I have a huge appreciation for the timing and precision of service; and I was immediately impressed by Locanda’s perfectly run kitchen, and the server’s focus and sensitivity. It is a much lower-key place with a nice neighborhood feel, and I felt right at home. I was pleased that it was not too full of itself despite the superior food quality.

But enough said; let the food speak for itself:

  • Tre–Stelle house made juice of pomegranate, blood oranges and Valencia oranges
  • Sheep’s milk ricotta with truffle honey and burnt orange toast
  • Steak Tartara Piedmontese with hazelnuts, truffles and crispy guanciale
  • Wood-Fired Uova Al Forno with corona beans, mozzarella and black Tuscan kale

Add to that a fun by-the-glass wine selection, along with many other exciting options on the menu, and I was utterly satisfied. I cannot wait to eat there again! No pictures, though, as the morning after Nocturne, I could not hold my camera steady enough to produce anything worthwhile.

The point of the exercise was not the Jean-Georges Vongerichten/Andrew Carmellini showdown, but simply trying to understand what it is that I value and look for in a meal (not trendiness but understated quiet confidence).

P.S. I must admit that both brunches were reasonably pricey, so here is a cheap and fast brunch idea (“pre-theater”, if you are, like me, a Sunday off-off-Broadway matinee fan) at Grandaisy Bakery in Tribeca :

$11 buys you two slices (pieces) of Roman-style pizza (we really enjoyed Pizza Cavolfiore (cauliflower and gruyere) and Pizza Pomodoro (tomato; the name on the menu really should have been “pizza rossa”), a Sicilian-style ricotta and orange peel pastry, and Moroccan mint tea.

Buon appetito!


Calling All Vegetarians and Mathematicians

Our Saturday morning routine during much of the year involves a trip (a 2-minute walk across the street) to the Adams Morgan farmer’s market, where I get a few essentials and a few extras that strike my fancy. For me, bad weather is almost synonymous with cooking, so yesterday I had to stick to my routine and go shopping outside in the rain. Cursing under my breath, I was picking through wet vegetables bins, when I was rewarded with a most beautiful Broccolo Romanesco specimen:

Broccolo Romanesco is a native of Lazio, Italy, and is known in the U.S. as Roman cauliflower, Romanesco broccoli, or coral broccoli. It is a beautiful and fascinating object on several different levels, as it is a mathematical plant (its shape is fractal, meaning each mini-floret is arranged along a logarithmical spiral, which, in turn, is part of a larger spiral).



Pasta e broccoli (exactly what it sounds like – pasta with broccoli) is a great way to showcase the nuttiness, sweetness, and fantastic texture of Broccolo Romanesco (much more versatile than regular cauliflower or broccoli). For this simple dish it is best to use short pasta, such as penne, orecchiette, rigatoni, etc. I rather like using Montebello Strozzapreti (an imported organic durum wheat semolina dry pasta), widely available at WholeFoods, Yes Organic grocery store, among other places.

Broccolo Romanesco is first blanched (3-4 min) and then very quickly sautéed in olive oil infused with garlic and crushed red chilis. Once it is added to the cooked pasta, grate a good amount of Pecorino Romano over the steaming top, perhaps, with a bit of fresh pepper. You can add some more high quality olive oil, if you’d like.

Naturally, another immediate association I have with bad weather is drinking wine, especially a nice red, especially one that has warm spices, earthiness, and depth (besides, I would not dream of having a delicious pasta without a glass of wine :-)). I cannot think of a better wine than a 2007 SanValentino Umbria IGT (a harmonious blend of Sangiovese, Montepulciano, and  Sagrantino, a native of Montefalco) by legendary Paolo Bea to drink with my sweetie on a cold night like this (well, out of what I currently have in my wine cabinet).








Feel free to come up with something different that will warm up your heart; maybe it will be another wine, maybe scotch, maybe a nice piece of chocolate…

What's YOUR poison?