When I lived in New York, I swore off brunch. “Brunch is for idiots!” I declared. “You wait forever, you spend a fortune, and for what? Food you can make just as good at home for way less money.”
That’s why there are so many entries on my Breakfast Recipes page: I mostly make brunch at home. But while in New York, this last time around, I ate two brunches so good, they put me in my place. I couldn’t make food THAT good at home.
The first brunch, chronologically, was at Allswell in Williamsburg.
The first thing that Allswell has at brunch that you don’t have at home is wallpaper. Lots and lots of it. All different kinds.
The next thing Allswell has that you don’t have at home is this warm biscuit topped with ricotta and honey:
What a winning combo: the ricotta is lighter than butter, but cool and creamy and takes the biscuit to a place a biscuit’s never been taken before. The honey calms the biscuit down.
The sticky bun was very good, especially warm from the oven:
And the Eggs Benedict was extraordinary, almost Glo’s-worthy, with the fresh ham and piquant hollondaise on top:
I ordered eggs on top of white sausage and beans. The sausage tasted house-made, which–being in Brooklyn–it very well may have been. It was some of the best sausage I’ve ever tasted:
So there you are, a brunch at Allswell better than a brunch you can make at home.
And now let’s ratchet things up even more with brunch at Calliope in New York’s East Village.
My main motivation for visiting Calliope was Shuna Lydon, the extraordinarily talented pastry chef and blogger who worked her magic at Peels before moving down the block to the very buzzed-about, clearly loved Calliope.
It started with sweet stuff, Shuna’s wares, so to speak. This puff pastry with roasted pear was so masterfully done, the pear should’ve been in a museum somewhere. Instead, it wound up in my mouth:
This brioche and creme fraiche custard tart with pears and chocolate was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before: layered with fruit, topped with fennel seeds and salt, it’s a taste sensation that should sweep the nation it’s so good.
This almond cake (I think that’s what this was, it’s been a while) was totally up my alley. I could’ve eaten the whole thing but had to share with Kenny and Brendan, those bastards:
As you can see, Shuna’s one talented lady. After all that, we took things in a more savory direction with this INCREDIBLE (yes, it’s all-caps worthy) smoked sable plate with horseradish cream and pickled beets:
That fish really took me by surprise; the texture was firm and smooth, the taste smoky and sweet. And with the horseradish cream and pickled beets, it’s something you’ll crave so much you’ll become a regular at Calliope. I may have to move back to New York just to make that happen.
Everything else at Callope lived up to the high standards set by the earlier stuff. This omelet was expertly done, as you can see:
Kenny’s Eggs Benedict (which you can see at the top of this post) was pretty much the Platonic ideal of Eggs Benedict; and Brendan ate something called an Omelette “Arnold Bennett” which is basically eggs topped with smoked fish and covered in a cheesy bechamel sauce:
I’ll confess, I was a little frightened by it, but Brendan really enjoyed it.
And that, my friends, proves once again how wrong I was about brunch: you really can’t make food this good at home. Still, if you ate like this every week, you wouldn’t be able to leave your home, you’d weigh so much. So let’s take it easy and save brunches at Allswell and Calliope for special occasions, ok? Like: the next time I’m in New York.
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