Crunchy Bottoms

Striking the caloric balance. Barely.

Tag Archives: brunch

New York City 2012: Absolute Bagels

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I hadn’t physically spoken to anyone in two days. Not even after settling into Morningside Heights. In fact, especially after settling into Morningside Heights. It’s quiet here in the evenings. I also have a bad throat. On a normal day – when the stars are aligned – I’m a sociable, chatty person with a wicked sense of humour (pfft), that hopefully translates into my writing.

Anyway, this morning, I popped into Absolute Bagels, joined the snaking queue that went out the door, and uttered my first words of the day: “Everything bagel, toasted, smoked salmon and cream cheese. Oh, and coffee please. With milk. No sugar.” I happened to forget that if what you’re ordering isn’t listed on the menu, it’ll probably bump up the price, and it did. Mine was apparently a Nova Bagel (price listed beside the cash register, only when you’re about to pay up), and as with all cosmic, cataclysmic explosions, my wallet got nuked with $8.50 thereabouts. I did see some stars in my vision.

Absolute Bagels is probably the cheapest and best bagel joint in the Morningside Heights borough – if you stick to the cream cheeses and tofu spreads. Those go for around $3.80. Coffee is $1.00 or so.

Most people do a quick grab and go, some buying as many as a dozen bagels at a time with a tub of cream cheese spread. Bagels over the Christmas lull perhaps? I was settled into my corner table, facing the kitchen, noticing only vaguely that the line that had spilled outside had started twisting around the store.  It moves fast, even if it never really shortens. The kitchen is a well-oiled production line, with batches of fresh bagels being hauled out of a steaming metal cauldron and into the oven every fifteen minutes or so. The total time it takes for a kitchen staff to deftly slice a bagel in two quick cuts, schlop a dollop of cream cheese on, and wrap it all up averages at one minute. I would know. I was seated there pretty long in my early morning haze.

My bagel itself was perfect, lighter and smaller than the mammoth ones at Brooklyn Bagels, crisp on the outside with a slight chew. This is, on a very fundamental level, an awesome bagel. The fillings, on the other hand, were sparse to say the least. I’ll probably get a cheaper cinnamon raisin bagel with strawberry cream cheese next time. Nova Bagel aside, the length and persistance of Absolute Bagel’s queue speaks for itself.

For now, all I can say is that the stars are aligning, and if my throat is willing, I’ll be speaking more too.

Absolute Bagels 

Address: 2788 Broadway, New York NY 10025

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artichoke cafe + bar: Brunch!

It was about time that I popped by Artichoke again. It’s the rainy season, and the last I remembered, I left my umbrella at the restaurant. That was last November. I’ve gotten drenched more times than I care to remember since then.

No, I’m only joking. I missed the place, and going Food Geek-y chatting with Bjorn. I have been meaning to drop by for brunch before heading off to the cows in Switzerland for my summer study. Perhaps then I’ll finally get round to putting up recipes again. Who knows?

The last time I was at Artichoke for dinner, Bjorn brought out an unassuming slice of toast with a dollop of his homemade labneh (yoghurt and double cream) and drippy chunks of peach jam – one of the new products of his tinkerings in the kitchen. It was sensational, and I all but declared that such a beauty should only be savoured with a cup of strong, bitter coffee. You know, the perfect pairing for a brunch dish and that whole jazz.

Crunchy toast and sweet, syrupy jam to mellow out the tangy bite of the labneh. This was an unnamed, mysterious concoction that surprisingly worked. This is comfort food.

And then this was introduced proper to the brunch menu under an equally unassuming name of Cheese & Jam Toast ($14.00), and served up with a couple of slices of freshly made pita bread, and a thick slice of toasted sourdough. It was great, although less tangy than what I previously tried. Hopefully it’ll regain its kick. It’s a unique combination. Try it.

This is the Brunch Special ($24), also known as Artichoke’s take on the Ploughman’s Platter, with chicken terrine, labneh on the side, eggplant jam, homemade pickled vegetables, green olives, and thick slices of sourdough. It’s one of those iconic English dishes, so you can imagine that I was rather surprised seeing this among Artichoke’s Moorish influences.

I tell you, the chicken terrine is fantastic. It’s a lot lighter than most terrines, flaky, and certainly not mushy. It is seasoned perfectly with a dash of some spices for a beautiful fragrance. This isn’t pâté though, so while you should schmear some on a slice of bread, it is not going to spread like butter, but add a small bit of that sweet eggplant jam (I tasted the caramelized onions more than eggplant, so haters needn’t worry) and you’re good to go. This is essentially a cold dish, so if you’re hankering for one of those belly-warming brunch dishes that’ll send you back to bed right after you wake, you might want to consider their ever-popular scrambled eggs (with sides of mushrooms and feta cheese, or maple-glazed bacon chop, or Moroccan sausage).

Or you could check out the Ful.

Read more of this post

Hatched

Hatched

I do plenty of silly things now and then, and lately, I’ve run out of excuses for the mindless things I’ve done.  It’s like there’s some missing link between my thought processes that my brain just skips without realising.

I have no excuse for dining at an egg-inspired all-breakfast place and not ordering anything to do with eggs.

Really. Don’t bother waiting for my explanation because I have none.

I wasn’t thinking. (Haven’t been doing that for a while, and…wait, is that considered an excuse? Shrugs.)

So I returned to Hatched to redeem myself. Read more of this post

Cafe Hacienda

 

Cafe Hacienda

 

In a direct one-eighty to the Choupinette post I put up a while back, I’m embarrassed (well, a little) to admit that yes, I’ve been brunch-ing far more frequently than I would normally and that I will now openly declare that I’m brunching as opposed to just having a late breakfast. It sends a chill up my spine that I realise that I don’t think I can return to that normalcy. I’m afraid, very afraid.

The thrill of finding an awesome brunch place now supercedes the steady thinning of my wallet.

Well almost.

See, the novelty of doing something unconventional (like having brunch dishes at 4pm, brunch-ing on a weekday before class, playing with Google Man to find brunch places..) will never wear out as long as this idea of brunch is still shiny and new to me.

And as long as I keep chancing across gems like Cafe Hacienda, nestled in the lush foliage of Dempsey Hill, all peaceful and warm and blissful and cozy and empty during weekdays and with killer Eggs Benedict…

I’m saying tata to breakfasts and lunches.

 

Interior

 

All-day breakfast and brunch places are sprouting up all over the island, and while Café Hacienda’s brunch and breakfast spread of waffles, egg dishes and pastries aren’t going to win an award for variety, it is much appreciated and admirable that they make up for the lack by executing the few that they have to offer fantastically. Now that’s reliability – doing one thing right and well each time without fail, namely, their Eggs Benedict.  Read more of this post

Choupinette

Choupinette

I’ve never been a brunch person.

At least not intentionally because, I mean, can I be blamed if I sleep in and have breakfast at 10-11am? I still consider that breakfast, by the way. Feel free to contend with me on what you’d like to call a meal at that time. I thrive on confrontation.

Meals, to me, are the fundamental three: Breakfast, Lunch and then Dinner.

Anything else in between is subject to preferential labeling. Brunch, tea, lunchner, dinch (you know, since breakfast + lunch = brunch. Therefore lunch + dinner = lunchner/ dinch), dinper, supner. Whatever.

I don’t care what time I’m eating something at, because regardless of how school life has been granting me only lunchners and supners, the only and important fact to me remains: I’m eating.

‘Nuff said.

Yet this was a planned brunch. Afternoon classes make certain of that. And have I mentioned how there should be more weekday French brunch places to cater for the increasingly prominent crowd of late-rising tertiary zombies? Oh any kind of brunch place is fine. But I’ll be a regular at any French cafe. Give me a piping hot croissant anytime and you’ll seal the deal. Read more of this post