Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Brunch | brunch bunch of Summer 2012

Just like what I did last fall, I decided to do a composite yet comparative review on three brunch spots I hit up this summer -- another "brunch bunch" as summer is about to come to a close. The three weekend brunch spots I went to include: Stephen Starr's French brasserie, Parc, in Philadelphia; café-market-restaurant trifecta at Marlow & Sons in Williamsburg, Brooklyn; and the truly rustic restaurant Friend of a Farmer in Gramercy.

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Back in late July, I went down to Philly to meet up with Dan for a leisurely brunch at another one of restaurant Stephen Starr's spots (another one crossed off our list!). Located in Rittenhouse Square, Parc brings to life a "chic brasserie" of Paris, "serving traditional bistro fare in a charming and comfortable space." It also "pays tribute to French café culture, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week."

{1} The interior of the restaurant is a dead ringer for a brasserie you may find in Paris, especially with the ceiling lamps and crocheted curtains. {2} To start brunch off right, I sipped on a bellini with crème de pêche and sparkling wine, while Dan had mimosa lorraine with crème de griotte, crème de pêche, orange Juice, and sparkling wine -- both delicious! {3} If I could be any more French, I had the croque madame with grilled ham, fried egg, and sauce mornay over brioche. Really can't ever go wrong with ham, cheese, and bread -- plus, this had the nice bonus of a fried egg! Only complaint here is that there was too much sauce, causing the bread to get soggier than I would've liked. {4} Dan had the cheeseburger with grilled onion, raclette cheese, and pommes frites. Nice combination of a delicious cheese, caramelized onions, and a quality patty of beef.

The menu is comprised of very French fare, so be prepared for that! :)

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As Lisa had some business to attend to in Williamsburg later that day, we decided it'd be fun to grab brunch together right before, since we were already making the trip out there. Our first thoughts were to get to Maison Premiere so we could feast on its generous offering of various oysters. But alas, we were informed a little too late that the restaurant would be closed until 2 PM for a staff meeting, which meant no lunch there (little did we know it was because of the super recent arrival of a new chef and a menu rehaul). So that's when I whipped out my Immaculate Infatuation app on my iPhone to find another place that has a raw bar, which directed me to Marlow & Sons, not too far from there. A café-restaurant-in-one, Marlow & Sons has a "cozy, Mediterranean-accented identity of its own" with a communal table and a raw bar inside as well as a gourmet general store out front.

1,4} The "store" part of Marlow & Sons filled with organic produce, artisanal goodies, and gastronomic literature. {2} Of course we started with some oysters -- the larger ones were Barcat from Virginia, while the smaller ones were Matunuck from Rhode Island. After sampling our first round with some lemon and hogwash, we decided on Matunuck, as they were sweeter and had a more favorable texture to them. A dozen more of these followed! {3} The dark wooden interior of Marlow & Sons. {5} I had the poached eggs with panzanella (of heirloom tomatoes and homemade croutons) which was pretty good overall -- just a bit over-salted. Lisa had a simple biscuit with scrambled eggs, cheese, and bacon (not pictured), which was a bit smaller than she would've liked, but still yummy. {6} For dessert, our waitress insisted we try the restaurant's homemade ice creams, including sweet cream and peach. The sweet cream was essentially vanilla ice cream without the vanilla -- a beautifully done cream. The peach was great too -- very subtle and refreshing.

The brunch menu changes up here quite frequently, so chances are, you won't be having the same thing during a subsequent visit. Must-not-misses include the ice creams and oysters!

~ ♠ ♣ ♥ ♦ ~

After a grueling spin class at Soul Cycle, Jess suggested we grab brunch together at Friend of a Farmer. We arrived a little after 1 PM to be met with a pretty short wait (about 10-15 minutes) for the next available table. A "cozy country cafe made of warmth and wood," Friend of a Farmer was opened by Terry Morabito as an ode to small farming town in upstate New York, where he grew up. All ingredients are fresh (as the name indicates -- they aren't "friends with farmers" for nothing! :P) and has a no-nonsense country-style vibe to them.

{1} We couldn't pass up fresh-squeezed orange juice and fresh apple cider to start. Totally worth skipping the brunch cocktails! {2} A little peek inside the restaurant's upstairs dining area. Very country-home, indeed! {3} I ordered one of the daily specials -- the crab cake benedict, which was essentially poached eggs and crab cakes over English muffins with some hollandaise sauce. The crab cake was superb, as it was mostly lump crab meat and had a nicely seared exterior, providing textural contrast to the soft nature of the remaining ingredients. Though on the pricier side, I do recommend it if you're up for a tiny splurge for brunch! / {5} Jess had the Irving Place omelette with cheddar cheese, ham (substituted in place of bacon), and tomato. It came out soft and delicious!

If you're looking for a really good, no-nonsense country-style brunch, you'll certainly find it at Friend of a Farmer. The waiting lines outside the restaurant wouldn't be if it wasn't worth it!

Findings: I was very fortunate to have had some very positive brunching experiences this summer, wherever I happened to be. The price point was reasonable and around the same range for some simple yet delicious main course, whether it was at Parc, Marlow & Sons, or Friend of a Farmer. Each spot had a distinct genre of brunch to offer (i.e., French, Mediterranean, or straight-up country American). If I had to pick a place to go back to, however, it would be to Friend of a Farmer because its menu is more my brunching style (casual, laid-back classics) and to Marlow & Sons for its oysters and ice cream (dinner, too, so I could really see the restaurant's other culinary colors).

In any case, here are three brunch spots worth checking out in Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and Manhattan -- you'll bound to find something you'll love at each!

Price point: Parc -- $13-16 for each main course, $9-10 for each sparkling cocktail; Marlow & Sons -- $9-12 for each main course, $7 for each mimosa, $4 for each scoop of ice cream; Friend of a Farmer -- $12-22 for each main course, $3.75-4 for each juice.

--July 28, 2012; August 12, 2012; August 18, 2012

227 South 18th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Marlow & Sons
81 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Friend of a Farmer
77 Irving Place
New York, NY 10003

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