brunch


Locanda Verde had been on my “must try” list for over a year before I finally made it there. Now that I’ve been (twice) I’m fairly certain it was my subconscious keeping me away, knowing that once I went, I’d want to keep coming back over and over (and over).

We’ll start with brunch. It was a cold wintry Sunday, one so windy I remember being thankful I made it there since I couldn’t see most of the walk there. I’d managed to secure our reservation thanks to calling directly. The restaurant limits the advance window and overall number of reservations available via OpenTable. For better availability, I suggest calling Locanda.

Since it was so cold, I ended up ordering not one, but eventually two cappuccinos. They weren’t cheap, but fellow cappuccino aficionados would approve of the strength of their espresso and proper foam. Perfection.

To start, we had to order the ricotta toast with honey. I’d had this for dinner on my first visit, the only difference being that the brunch version pairs it with a burnt orange toast instead of plain. Both times I was so blown away by the creamy fresh flavor of their ricotta. I don’t think I will ever be able to come for a meal at Locanda and not order this dish. I’m obsessed.

For my main dish, I couldn’t resist making it a full ricotta brunch, so I went with the lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberries and meyer lemon curd. While the pancakes were not cheap ($17), I have to say they are some of the best I have had in a long time. The ricotta made the interior almost creamy and the meyer lemon curd was the best I’ve ever had. I think I have found my new go-to brunch spot. I could happily spend hours upon hours here. We actually did this specific Sunday! Highly recommend.

Locanda Verde – 377 Greenwich Street (@ N Moore Street) – 212.925.3797
Reservations Recommended

Typically I get to go home to Alabama once a year for Christmas. That means I naturally think of home now in the context of Christmas foods, holiday themed decor, and colder temps, all capped off with a soundtrack of carols and the like. When I took T to Alabama for his first visit, cinnamon rolls had to be part of the experience, Christmas or not (served along with homemade chili, naturally).

The biggest “ingredient” this recipe requires? Time. All of your time. Special thanks to mom for spending so much time year after year putting these together. It did not go unappreciated.

Ingredients

  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115°)
  • 2 cups lukewarm milk (scalded then cooled)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil or shortening
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 egg
  • 5-6 cups unbleached flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in the milk, 1/2 cup sugar, oil, baking powder, salt, egg, and 2-3 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth – ideally using a Kitchenaid mixer with the dough hook attachment. Mix in enough flour for it to start to stick to the hook (or stick to the spoon, if you are mixing by hand), likely somewhere between 3-4 of the 5-6 cups of flour.

If you have mixed by hand, turn dough onto a a well-floured surface (can cover your counter with wax paper). Knead until smooth and elastic. If you mixed with a Kitchenaid, you can spoon the dough into a large, greased bowl. Cover and let it rise in a warm place until double, about 1 1/2 hours. Dough is ready if you see an indentation after you touch it.

Grease two oblong pans, 13×9 inches. Punch down the dough and divide in half. Roll one half into a rectangle, measuring dimensions of 12×10 inches. Spread with half of the butter. Mix 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the rectangle.

Roll up, starting with the wider side. Pinch the edge of the dough into the roll to seal. Stretch the roll to make it even.

Slice into 12 slices. Place them a bit apart in one pan. Repeat with the second rectangle of dough.

You can cover with aluminum foil for and place in the refrigerator for 12 hours (to no longer than 48 hours) and then bake. If you want to bake the same day, place the pans in a warm place until the dough rises to double, around 30 minutes. Pro-tip courtesy of Mama Ruth: cover with towels and put a kettle of hot water on. It’ll make the yeast plump up perfectly.

Preheat oven to 350°. Remove foil from pans (if you’ve refrigerated overnight). Bake until golden for 20-22 minutes (longer if refrigerated).

Frost prior to serving. A simple recipe for frosting is mixing 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla until smooth. I personally am a bit more generous with icing, so the above does not make enough for the two pans of 24 rolls. I recommend adding a small bit of milk to each spoonful of powdered sugar to make as much as you need to ice. Vanilla extract is a nice addition – another great option is almond extract.

Hope you enjoy them as much as my family has over the years.

Back in December, I went to brunch with my sister to celebrate her birthday before we went to the Pink show. I sent over a bunch of options, but she came up with her own idea – The Dutch. I had been curious for a long time about The Dutch but kept forgetting to go. Problem solved. It was a day where light snow was coming in, a common occurrence for me, food, and SoHo.

I was having a hard time making a choice when it came to the menu, as there are so many great options. There is a crispy whole grain waffle, apple, maple-bourbon, and pecans. And then there’s the soft scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, trout roe, and a bagel. Or what about the shrimp and kimchi fried rice served with two eggs and grilled pork belly? So much awesome, only one plate.

When it came time to make a choice, I was thankful to not have to! As is often the case, my sister and I chose to go the “best of both worlds” route, mixing savory and sweet. First, we got the hot fried chicken served with honey butter biscuits and slaw. Fellow brunch splitters rest assured – the dish comes with two biscuits!

And for our sweet option, we had the cornmeal flapjacks, which were served with salted butter and blueberry syrup. The cornmeal made for an interesting addition – it made it a bit more savory than your typical pancake, as did the lovely salt they added to the butter. I really liked the blueberry syrup, which was nice and sweet but not that super sugary version you often find with syrup. Nicely done.

On New Year’s Day, I found myself back over in the area with a group of girlfriends. When the restaurant we had a reservation at was closed (I’ll be kind and leave them unnamed but restaurants accepting reservations when they’re closed is the worst), I found myself back at The Dutch. I was again torn by what to order (even more so having had the magical mix). Thankfully another friend wanted to order the same mix. What can I say – fried chicken, honey biscuits, and cornmeal flapjacks. It’s just magical.

The Dutch – 131 Sullivan Street (@ Prince Street) – 212.677.6200
Reservations Recommended

Several weekends ago, I felt compelled to try Guinness pancakes at Alchemy in Park Slope. It was the first weekend after we returned from Dublin and when I saw them, it seemed like they were there just for me.

When the server brought them over, hey seemed nice and fluffy. They were perfectly cooked to a light golden brown and were topped with fresh fruit. When I took my first bite though, I found them to be dry. As for the flavor, the Guinness was barely detectable at all. If I’d not ordered them myself, I don’t think I would have caught that they were even flavored. (Side note – I hear Alchemy is great for dinner, so I’ll definitely be back for another visit.)

T and I started talking though and decided that the weekend after his birthday, I should give them a try. I found that the Internet loves to *talk* about Guinness pancakes, but only a select few actually share a useable recipe. I grabbed the one that seemed like it would work the best and was curious to compare the end result. The recipe makes around 12 4″ pancakes. Allow approximately 10 minutes prep time (can be prepared and left in the refrigerator overnight) and about 20 minutes cook time.

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • ¾ cup milk (¾ cup buttermilk can be substituted to replace both the milk and the lemon juice)
  • 1 cup flour (I tried just regular all purpose)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt (plain, vanilla, or honey – I used vanilla)
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ½ cup Guinness Draught
  • 1 tsp. vanilla (I substituted 1 tsp. maple extract)

Stir the lemon juice into the milk. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar and cinnamon. Add the egg, yogurt, and butter into the bowl with the dry ingredients and whisk gently. Add Guinness, vanilla, and milk mixture to the batter. Whisk until blended.

Heat a griddle, or you can also use a frying pan. When it is at the right temperature, drops of water will sizzle when dripped onto the surface.

Use ¼ cup of batter per pancake. Let the batter sit for about 2 minutes before flipping. I’m not sure the location of the blogger I found the recipe from, but my “pancakes” came out more like crepes. Not bad at all, but was not what I was expecting. With a bit of care and skill, I was able to get them to flip without breaking. I also realized very quickly that the darkness of the pancake does not indicate it being burned. I panicked after a couple turned out on the dark side but was able to confirm with a quick taste test that everything was just fine. One very important note from the recipe is that due to the carbonation in the beer, the pancakes will bubble more than normal pancakes, so you won’t be able to use this to determine when to flip the pancakes.

Cook the pancake on the other side for about a minute. Remove from heat and repeat prior step with the next 1/4 cup of batter until all batter is used. I followed their tip of keeping the pancakes warm while cooking others, put them in a 200-F oven. Serve immediately.

These were actually quite tasty Guinness crepes. The recipe did state that if you like thicker pancakes, that substituting self-rising flour may make sense. They also recommended divide the egg, incorporating the yolk to the dry ingredients as usual. Then beat the white on high for thirty seconds until it is frothy. After the Guinness, milk, and vanilla have been added and the batter whisked, you would fold the egg white is folded into the batter. Worth a shot!

Not that I’m exactly a pro, but I’m learning that hosting in-home events can be a challenge. Especially if, like me, you don’t cook often. The timing can be tricky and you don’t want for your guests to be stuck waiting for too long without enough to eat. Everything coming out once everyone has left would definitely be a hostess faux pas.

I’d never tried an overnight french toast casserole but thought it was the perfect addition to the line-up for Dixie’s recent birthday brunch (AKA my annual excuse to have all of my friends over for brunch in February). I adapted it from this version I found online.

Ingredients:

  • 12 slices day-old bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (or, if you’re like me and bought new bread, oatmeal thick style bread worked quite well – added a bit of additional flavor)
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 12 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon bourbon (whatever you have will work – optional, but delightful)
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish. Arrange half the bread cubes in the dish, and top with cream cheese cubes. Sprinkle 1 cup blueberries over the cream cheese, and top with remaining bread cubes.


Mix the eggs, milk, vanilla extract, bourbon, and syrup in a large bowl. Pour the mixture over the bread cubes. Cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Take out the bread cube mixture from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cover, and bake 30 minutes. Uncover, and continue baking 25 to 30 minutes, until center is firm and surface is lightly browned.

In a medium saucepan, mix the sugar, cornstarch, and water. Bring to a boil. Stirring constantly, cook 3 to 4 minutes. Mix in the remaining 1 cup blueberries. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes, until the blueberries burst. Stir in the butter, and pour over the baked French toast.

The result was quite good. The recipe claimed that it would serve 10, but I think most at the event were able to get a bite of this. Perfect for splitting at an event like this.

In addition to lots of great food and conversation, my little five-year-old pup was completely exhausted with all the fun she had. Win!

I’d been meaning for a long time to go check out brunch at Buttermilk Channel. But brunch at Buttermilk Channel is extreme on all levels. Portion sizes? Generous. Wait times? Be ready to just grow roots and stick it out. No reservations with crowds that don’t let that send them away means there will likely be a wait at just about any hour – even if you plan to get there early.

This particular Saturday, we got there around 11am and only found about a 30 minute wait. Not too bad, in the grander scheme of things. We sat down and ordered right away, having perused the menu while waiting at the bar. Our friends ordered a short-stack to enjoy as they waited for their main dishes. Look at this. Just a taste of what was to come.

Our food came out fairly quickly, though we were missing one dish. As we started to eat what had already come out, they kindly sent out one of their jelly doughnuts for my BF to eat while he waited on his meal.

I was unable to resist the allure of the pecan pie french toast with bourbon, molasses, and toasted pecans. My oh my. Sometimes I’ve found things such as this to be too much for me – even with my significant sweet tooth. Yes, there was definitely some sugar on my plate – but it was just teetering at the line of excess, and worked perfectly for me. Note, I did not need dessert the rest of the day (I was also not complaining).

The fried pork chop with cheddar waffle wasn’t just big – it was massive! The flavors were excellent and paired perfectly with the cheddar waffle – hanging out beneath the pork chop fully dwarfed by its size.

Is this somewhere I’ll indulge to eat at on a weekly basis? No. Is this somewhere I’ll definitely be making a return visit? Why yes.

Buttermilk Channel – 524 Court Street (at Huntington) – Brooklyn – 718.852.8490
Reservations for parties of 5 or more only

I’ll admit that I randomly opt in for lots if Urban Daddy and Thrillist specials. I try to remember to check and see if they have appalling reviews but, more often than not, when friends email wanting to go, I’m in. Especially if it’s a good offer. And chances are if, like this one, it involves lobster – I’m in.

Grey Lady - Lower East Side

Grey Lady – Lower East Side

It wasn’t until I was sitting in Grey Lady that I realized why it was so oddly familiar. A quick peek on the Googles confined what I suspected – this was the old White Slab Palace space. A place that served generic cocktails with an inflated pricetag that tried way too hard. It was quite different to see it now as such a bright space. I mean, I could actually see my friends’ faces – though to be fair, it was all of noon on a Saturday. The feel of the restaurant was crisp yet cozy. I felt like I was in the Hamptons. Mission accomplished without requiring the LIRR. 

Dark and Stormy - Grey Lady

Dark and Stormy – Grey Lady

The special included a brunch main and unlimited cocktails for $35. For cocktails, you could choose from filling your glass with a mimosa, bloody mary, or dark and stormy. I started with a mimosa, which was good but standard, before progressing to the dark and stormy. Warning – that one means business.

Lobster Roll - Grey Lady

Lobster Roll – Grey Lady

For mains, it wasn’t a true choice as far as I was concerned. I knew coming in that it was all about the lobster roll. On their regular menu, that alone will set you back $25. The preparation was simple. There’s a buttered split top roll. Lobster was plentiful – check out this claw meat! Mayo was light – just like I prefer it to be. It’s paired with a light portion of potato chips and a celery salad. Summer on a plate!

I’d like to come back and check out their dinner menu. In the meantime if you’re like me and are not quite ready to let summer go, add this one into your rotation. It’s almost like you’re at the beach. Almost.

Grey Lady – 77 Delancey Street (at Allen Street) - 646.580.5239

When a French Toast tasting brunch at Duo Restaurant and Lounge popped up on Urban Daddy, the question wasn’t if I’d go … it was when I’d go. The special included unlimited mimosas alongside a sampler plate of three kinds of French Toast. All good. But wait. It was the three kinds of French Toast that won me over. Ready for it?

French Toast Tasting

First, we have the Cookies ‘n Creme French Toast – with vanilla bean creme and crushed cookies. Tasty and borderline more aptly classified as a dessert (not that I’m complaining).

Cookies and Creme French Toast - Duo

Next, their Peanut Butter and Jelly Stuffed French Toast. Oh yes. Taking that childhood favorite to a whole new level.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Stuffed French Toast - Duo

Finally, there was a more staple variation of “out there” French Toasts – the Nutella and banana option, with the bananas caramelized.

Nutella and Caramelized Banana French Toast - Duo

We were still a bit hungry though and ordered their crab cake appetizer and French fries (shoestring style) to round out the meal. Both were the perfect addition.

Crab Cakes

The restaurant was surprisingly fancy. The below light fixture in the center of the dining room sums it up nicely.

Ceiling at Duo

The crowd was light for brunch and the special lead me to believe the bulk of their customers comes from other meals. Service though was attentive. The management was even super accommodating in honoring our special even though (gasp) someone else apparently had already redeemed it due to a system snafu of sorts.

I’d be curious to check out this spot for drinks. Looks like it would draw a swanky crowd.

Duo – 72 Madison Avenue (b/w 27th/28th ) – 212.686.7272
Reservation Suggested

Yesterday I went for the second time to Cafecito Bogota, this time with the wonderful Power User crew from Google Places. I remember the first time I visited, it was a swelteringly warm day in June. The kind that’s so warm, people choose to stay in rather than even head out to bask in the sun. Yesterday though it was a gorgeous taste of spring kinda Sunday that the streets of Greenpoint were hopping, as was the restaurant.

On my first visit, I remember my goal was to get the most filling option off of the menu – after having been through quite the workout to get there (that day the train wasn’t running the whole way so I’d gone train to bus to a brisk run to get to the restaurant). The Llanera (one of their “Arepas Montadas”) definitely hit the spot – an arepa piled high with caramelized beef in a chimichurri sauce, topped with avocado slices. Their dishes also come served with sliced bananas and a mixed green salad. The beef was tender and perfectly seasoned and their arepa was soft yet flavorful.

The brunch dishes (priced at $16,50) come served with three brunch drinks – mimosas, sangria, or refajo (half beer and half cream soda). The first time I went, the daily mimosa fruit flavor was blackberry, which was quite good and not as overpowering as I’d originally feared. Yesterday, the flavors were passion fruit or a Columbian fruit which tastes like a mix of lime and kiwi. The latter was interesting as the citrus balanced out the sweetness of the champagne – but I preferred the passion fruit version – and the sangria surprisingly trumped all.

Yesterday I wanted something less filling and went with the Columbian Pericos eggs, a dish our server explained is the Columbian breakfast standard. The scrambled eggs came in a circular mound, with the scallions and diced tomatoes perfectly sprinkled evenly throughout the eggs, all topped with bacon. The arepa was light and fresh – the perfect accompaniment.

To finish, one of the servers brought us a round of aguardiente, a warm shot of an anise-liquor they’d prepared with sugar cane, cloves, and something I seem to be forgetting. A distinct flavor, for sure and a nice gesture from a restaurant who was super generous and accomodating to our group. Thanks to the staff and to Google Places for the fun brunch outing!

Highly recommend this brunch spot. Depending on where you live, this might take some time to get to, but it’s worth the travel. And while you’re in the area, I recommend walking another stop back up along the G and making a pit stop to pick up breakfast for the next day at Peter Pan Bakery – might as well while you made the trip, right?

Cafecito Bogota – 1015 Manhattan Ave. - Greenpoint, Brooklyn – 718.569.0077
No Reservations

I’d been dying to try Seersucker and figured it was a perfect time when two of my Southern friends were in town back in November.We instantly noticed that the wood pieces along the wall, mounted at a set interval, were intended to align to the ridges in seersucker fabric. Nicely done.

Seersucker - Carroll Gardens

Seersucker - Carroll Gardens

We had a plate of their biscuits – $10 for 4. They were served with three different types of spreads and preserves.

Biscuits with Homemade Preserves and Molasses Spread - Seersucker

Biscuits with Homemade Preserves and Molasses Spread - Seersucker

I really enjoyed my blackened catfish tacos (I was a bit antsy about doing that for brunch – but they worked well with the other items we ordered). They were prepared with cabbage, radish, lime, and hoppin’ john. Next time I’d probably do the buttermilk pancakes with salted molasses butter and bacon. Mmmmm bacon. Service was very attentive as well. Portion sizes were generous but not ridiculous. Just right.

Blackened Catfish Tacos - Seersucker

Blackened Catfish Tacos - Seersucker

The verdict on the pork hash was that it was good, though a little lacking on flavor. Gorgeous presentation though, as you can see below.

Pork Hash - Seersucker

Pork Hash - Seersucker

Probably the most surprising dish out of our party was the … vegetable salad? Yes, that’s right. Comprised of only vegetables from the local market. Not your usual salad, as there was no lettuce in this salad. Colorful and fresh, it looked like fall on a plate. Now that it’s winter, it seems to have rotated off of the menu. Here’s hoping for a return of this concept except with a spring twist come March.

Vegetable Salad - Seersucker

Vegetable Salad - Seersucker

Brunch Crew @ Seersucker

Brunch Crew @ Seersucker

Seersucker – 329 Smith Street, Brooklyn – 718.422.0444
Reservations Suggested – Note: Brunch Sunday Only

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