Marcus and I took a little day trip to Philadelphia this past Saturday -- the primary reason for the trip: our anniversary dinner that evening at Barclay Prime. While we were there, we also planned a lovely brunch with Dani at Café Estelle over in Spring Garden.
Café Estelle is named after Estelle Green, the grandmother to its chef, Marshall Green. Ms. Green ran a catering company in New York and "instilled a love of eating and creating food" to her grandson early on. She "taught him that food was a way to bring people together and share in an intimate experience." Since then, Chef Marshall Green has studied culinary arts at the New England Culinary Institute and has worked in many high-end establishments in Philadelphia, including Fork, Django, as well as Ansill & Meritage, before opening Café Estelle.
Inside Café Estelle.
Café Estelle believes in a healthy and sustainable way of living (i.e., "quality + caring = good food"). All breads and pastries (except bagels) are made on-site as well as its sausage, bacon, brined and smoked turkey, mozzarella cheese, ice cream, club soda, and mayonnaise (just to name a few). All ingredients are local and organic whenever possible.
Despite my typically insistent rule of thumb of not ordering the same main course as another member of the table, Dani and I both couldn't resist ordering the shirred eggs with spinach, mushrooms, truffle oil, and cream, all served with home fries and toast. A shirred egg is one that is cooked individually in cream or butter in a small ramekin. Chef Green's version of shirred eggs was cooked in cream but had the added goodies of spinach, mushrooms, and truffle oil! The eggs were softly baked inside a petite ceramic skillet dish with the accompanying veggies layered in and the truffle oil generously drizzled throughout. The eggs were at that ideal temperature where it just passed into just cooked territory and the runny-ness of the yolk is creamy and indulgent. The shirred eggs went perfectly with the homemade slices of toast, making for a wonderful brunch course. The home fries were really soft and had a nice spread of country spice to liven up the starchiness. Highly recommended, especially if you enjoy truffles/truffle oil on pretty much anything! :P
Marcus had his usual brunch favorite, steak and eggs which had flatiron steak and two eggs any style (he went with poached) served with home fries and toast. The eggs were nicely poached, and the steak was tender and juicy throughout -- as much as a flatiron steak can be.
Since spring has come upon us, it would have been silly not to order ramps when given the option on the menu, given its hysteria-causing nature in recent years. Here, we shared ramps a la plancha with Romesco sauce as a side, which is of Catalan origin and is typically made from almonds, pine nuts/hazelnuts, roasted garlic, olive oil and nyora peppers (i.e., a small red bell pepper). The Romesco sauce was the perfect pairing as the nutty and garlicky flavors from it brought out the inherent pungent nature of the grilled ramps. Even with the pretty hefty price tag for four-five measly stalks, it was totally worth the little splurge!
Dani had never had scrapple before, so we also decided to try the homemade scrapple. Scrapple is typically made using scraps of pork stewed with cornmeal, which is then shaped into a loaf for slicing and frying. Since this was homemade scrapple, it wasn't the kind classified as "mystery meat" (which can be horrifyingly and unabashedly delicious, too :P) -- you could tell that it was made with the top quality ingredients and pan-fried to a crisp loaf slice which went perfect with our runny eggs, poached and shirred.
Dani and me.
Findings: Brunch at Café Estelle was such a treat, thanks to Dani for the recommendation to go! The atmosphere is very comfortable and relaxed, which is just what I like -- an unpretentious brunch spot that still puts forth a delicious menu made from seasonal and quality ingredients. The country/home-style cuisine offered by Chef Marshall Green is quaint and welcoming. I would definitely want to return here for future brunches whenever we're visiting Philly -- the "trek" (if you even want to call it that) to Spring Garden is totally worth it!
Price point: $9.75-13.50 for each main brunch course, $2.50-6.25 for each side.
--April 21, 2012
444 North 4th Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19123