Monday, April 23, 2007

What’s better than breakfast? Two breakfasts!

Any day that features two breakfasts is a good day. Breakfast one was really not much more than the literal origin of the word: a paper cup of bitter coffee, plus toast and yogurt, from the “continental” “breakfast” “buffet” in the hotel. Enough to prevent me from punching someone, but not really sufficient to hold me over until lunch.

So, it being Sunday, brunch was in order. We skimmed OpenTable and chose
Jarnac in the Meatpacking District.

A subway ride and a short walk through sunny streets later, we arrived, the first customers of the day. We got a seat next to the open window, where we could feel the sun on our arms and watch the locals walking dogs and toddlers.

I always like an honest waiter. So when I asked ours whether the orange juice was fresh, and he paused and said, “Well, not really,” I knew it was going to be okay.

“Is it like Tropicana?” I asked.

“It is exactly Tropicana,” he replied with a grin.

“Well, fruit juice is important,” I said, “so I’ll have a mimosa.” The Boy, feeling a need for vegetables, ordered a Bloody Mary, which came with a citrus garnish and a generous, potent dash of horseradish.

The menu featured the usual selection of brunchy items—a don’t-feel-guilty-it’s-Sunday steak dish, an elaborate omelette, some kind of lavish French toast.

We ordered the two items we hadn’t seen on a brunch menu before: pork tamales with mole sauce, and mushrooms on brioche toast with a duck egg.

Both were exactly what brunch dishes should be: hearty, filling, a little rich, a little excessive. Interesting enough to revive tastebuds still dulled from Saturday night, but not so exotic as to shock them into sudden, terrified consciousness.

The proportion of dough to filling in tamales (or pasteles) is of utmost importance; too much masa and you get a thick mouthful of corn with little meat payoff. These were nicely balanced, filled with tender shredded pork and drizzled with a dark, sweet-spicy mole. On the side were two poached eggs, and I learned that tamale dipped in warm egg yolk is a wonderful thing.

The Boy’s mushrooms were, well, mushrooms—I’m not yet completely over my fungus aversion, so I can’t wax lyrical about them—but the toast, and the egg, and oh yes, the truffled cheese that covered the whole dish—were rich and buttery and delicious.

We probably could have stayed in the window seat all day, watching passers-by and enjoying the sun, but it was time for more walkies.

When we left, there was only one other couple in the restaurant. Two blocks further down the street, wannabe brunchers crowded the sidewalk, waiting for tables at another French brasserie, this once packed and bustling.

And I wanted to say to them, “Why are you standing here? There are duck eggs and truffled cheese three minutes’ away!”

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