New York Brunches at Allswell and Calliope

January 17, 2013 | By | COMMENTS

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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.

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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.

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The next thing Allswell has that you don’t have at home is this warm biscuit topped with ricotta and honey:

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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:

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And the Eggs Benedict was extraordinary, almost Glo’s-worthy, with the fresh ham and piquant hollondaise on top:

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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:

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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.

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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.

I was joined by my friends Brendan and Kenny and we quickly set about tackling the menu. Shuna came out to coach us through it…we had some hard work ahead of us.

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:

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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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Categories: Brooklyn, East Village, Manhattan, New York, Restaurant Reviews

  • Phoebe

    This is a weird, but just last weekend, my boyfriend and I went out for brunch and he ordered something called “Arnold Bennett” eggs, which was indeed something like what you describe, although it didn’t have a bechamel sauce. It was pretty good, but I’d never heard of it before, and here you are talking about it too. What a coinky-dink! Oh, and this was in Manchester, England, at a cafe called Thyme Out.

  • http://www.EatStylePlay.com/ Eat.Style.Play

    okay…DC is the like to BRUNCH capital and Mecca I mean it’s what we do! Every saturday or sunday but i tell ya’ll i’ve never had food that looks this good! I love brunch espeically with a ton of friends and you get a bunch of dishes. I think everyplace i go i must try the Eggs Benny…I guess I just love the sauce and the eggs so much. All of this food looks delicious and I’m def going to try them when i vivist NY soon.

  • john@heneedsfood

    I thought it was odd, when I was in the States last year, that brunch seemed to be served only on the weekends. I’m so used to having it any day of the week. Not that I have it every day! The Omelette “Arnold Benedict” does look a little frightening!

  • Gill

    Omelette Arnold Bennett (smoked haddock, parmesan and bechamel) was invented by a chef at the Savoy Hotel in London for the writer Arnold Bennett (1867-1931, best known for his novels about the Potteries – otherwise known as Stoke-on-Trent).

  • Michael Duffy

    Wait, wait, WAIT! You had the Ricotta biscuit, AND the sticky bun, AND the Eggs Benedict, AND the eggs over sausage and beans? And you called this brunch? This was the whole day’s worth of food! OK, they’re great over there at Allswell, but really …

  • Linda

    Calliope is my fave restaurant in NY, but never had brunch there yet. The chefs there including Shuna are so talented, deserving of all the accolades. I believe the almond cake you ate is a slice of Gateau Basque, a magnificent cake made in French and Spanish Basque Country. Buttery almond shortbread crust enclosing custard and sour black morello cherry jam.

  • NYC:)

    Calliope is so fantastic–love brunch and their dinner is to die for. Cassoulet. Period.

  • Mike

    WOW, that Omelette “Arnold Bennett” looks amazing and I absolutely want to find a recipe for that! This entire post has me starving, hungry now.