Monday, March 31, 2008

A Tale of Two Brunches

(Or, Many Bloody Mary’s)

One of my favorite people graced me with her presence this weekend, and this called for celebration. The word means many things to many people, but to me (and fortunately enough, to one of my favorite people) celebration means eating, drinking and being merry, set to the music of endless girl talk and retail therapy. Amen, sister.

So brunch – it’s that time of day when last night’s partying and this morning’s hangover turns into a blur of hash browns, smoked salmon, pancakes and mimosas…hair of the dog, no? You leave brunch feeling full, slightly buzzed and ready to take on the afternoon (or the evening, whereupon you relive the last 24 hours over again.) Ahem.

But when one of your favorite people is your mama, and you didn’t spend the previous evening raging, brunch is more about catching up, sharing laughs and getting a good “base” for the shopping and walking that will ensue.

That said, we arrived at Crème around 11:25, about 25 minutes after they opened. Crème was already full- every seat in the house was taken by hungry patrons, mouths watering at passing pancakes. We waited 15 minutes, which was not a problem, as the host paid us lovely compliments and made sure we had a place to sit while we waited (yes gentlemen, flattery will get you everywhere in life.)

We got a table near the large, sunny window towards the front of the restaurant. Crème’s menu, (if you missed my last post) focuses on country cooking with a modern, slightly upscale twist. It was hard to choose just two entrees, but we settled on eggs Chesapeake, and waffles with fried chicken. Oh yes, and the bottomless bloody mary’s. When our entrees arrived we split them up and went to work.

Aside from my mom’s special Easter and Christmas fare, I don’t think I could have enjoyed brunch more.

The crab cakes were lumpy with backfin meat and the poached eggs plopped lazily on top were perfectly runny. The crunchy-on-the-outside-waffle held on top of it the sweetest, crispiest fried chicken outside of a grandmother’s kitchen.

We felt a little odd eating fried chicken for brunch, but a few of Crème’s bloody mary’s helped us feel a little less funny and a little more fuzzy. And warm. And, (as alcohol tends to do to me in general) more hungry. And these entrees didn’t disappoint there – what we ordered for 2 could have fed more like 4. (It’s probably worth mentioning that if you like your bloody mary’s spicy, as in very peppery and with a large serving of horse radish, these are for you. You’ll get your glass filled generously and often with the fiery drink by friendly wait staff that carry around pitchers of the things. If you’re not into pepper, I’d recommend you try something else, like the bottomless mimosas.)

We spent the lazy hours of brunch at Crème, soaking up sun, easy conversation and runny egg yolk on a buttery English muffin.

I’ll spare the details of the rest of the day, which include a lot of shopping and further tomato juice and vodka consumption (at Jack’s on 17th Street and J. Paul’s of Georgetown…both of which were tasty and not nearly as peppery as their Crème counterparts). And skip to the next day…Sunday…whereupon we indulged in a second brunch at Station 9.

While Crème and Station 9 share the culinary influence of Chef Terrell Danley, their brunches offer different settings and selections. While you’ll find a fried chicken variation on the Station 9 brunch menu (the batter was saltier and less sweet than at Creme) you’ll find that chicken on a buffet table.

But this is not your average buffet. My mom and I counted 4 stations in Station 9’s brunch setup, and this was before mimosa’s had us seeing double. This generous display of food included fried chicken, cheesy grits, a hot, salty seafood salad, French toast, smoked salmon, a variety of baked goods (including biscuits and carrot cake, accompanied by a huge bowl of thick, whipped cream) several kinds of sausage, pancakes and an omelet station. And I know I’m missing a few things. Phew, my pants are tightening just thinking about the selection.

My favorite parts of the meal were the grits and sausage. I’ve had Station 9 grits before (for dinner, accompanied by scallops) and remain a fan. It’s not every day that a girl from the North would choose grits over a bagel with smoked salmon, but this girl did.

The dining room wasn’t nearly as packed as Crème, but Station 9 offers patrons a much larger food selection and seating area. And the smaller crowd didn’t bother me – less people to maneuver around when I went in for a second helping of grits.

Mom and I agreed- overall, we enjoyed brunch at Crème a little more. We preferred picking out just a few of our favorite things and being served. But we’d gladly visit both Station 9 and Crème again for brunch. And next time we’ll wear sweatpants.

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