Brunch


Café Moutarde
239 Fifth Avenue
(at Carroll Street)
Park Slope
(718) 623-3600

 

 

 

Café Moutarde almost doesn’t fit the surrounding scene — even though this stretch of Park Slope is full of excellent places to shop, dine, and drink yourself silly it still all looks like . . . well, Brooklyn. But Moutarde is a gleaming, bejeweled European bistro, with shiny copper fixtures and mirrors in all the right places. I walked past it dozens of times thinking I couldn’t afford it before I actually looked at the menu. It turns out that, not only can I afford it, but in a way I need it.

I don’t think we New Yorkers are particular enough about the quality of life in our city, the simple aesthetic value of our living spaces that’s so often overlooked. We live in drafty, windowless, leaky dives in order to keep our rents below $1,000 per month. We allow our refined cityscapes to be marred by garish modern high-rise condos, parking garages, and anything else the non-residents who build this place dream up. We flock to every new Dunkin’ Donuts or American Apparel or Starbucks rather than boycott them out of the neighborhood so regular, less fluorescent establishments can open in their place. In our constant search for the deal and the trend we forget the importance of beauty and a slow comfortable pace, how those things can stimulate our emotions and thoughts and make us feel less automated. We lose that certain . . . je ne sais quoi that they capture so well in Europe. I think of Moutarde as a little way to regain it, even if only for a few hours over breakfast.

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Beast
638 Bergen St.
(at Vanderbilt Ave.)
Prospect Heights
(718) 399-6855

 

 

In Brooklyn, we treat brunch as if it were a high holiday. In other parts of the country (even other parts of the city) brunch is kind of a novelty — maybe something to do on Mother’s Day or a pre- or post-birthday party. But here in America’s fourth-largest city it’s a birthright.

The basic tenets of the meal are just — sleep late, eat a big meal, maybe get a little tipsy, certainly work up a good caffeine buzz, read the paper slowly, talk loudly. It’s an elaborate and secular way to worship something we highly value: our day of rest.

But the execution of the meal fails often, probably because of the overkill. Though they shall remain nameless here, I’ve been burned by bad Brooklyn bruncheries who rush you along, skimp on the coffee, over-poach the eggs to the point where they fall off the plate and bounce, and generally treat the food like a no frills Restaurant Week version of their regular offerings.

This is all why I’m so attracted to Beast on the weekends. Not only do they offer up great food during brunch but they understand why we like brunch to begin with.

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FOAF-Omelettes2Friend of a Farmer
77 Irving Place
(betw’n 18th and 19th Streets)
Gramercy Park
(212) 477-2188

 

 

The city is as brutal as it is beautiful.

They say that New Yorkers are resilient but they rarely describe what it is that we withstand; New York’s friendliness, camaraderie, and excitement are countered by its hard edges, the paradoxical isolation, the struggle to keep our heads above water. It’s easy, and common, to imagine an easier pace of life elsewhere, either in our memories or our imagination.

The battle weariness that comes from life in this odd and thrilling and ridiculous place is offset by the fun and the daily chores, but on that particular day the cold just made it all impossible to ignore. Eating breakfast is a great way to answer that, so there we were, in the back of Friend of a Farmer near the fireplace, where life slows to a manageable crawl.

Friend of a Farmer is designed to recall what a country inn is supposed to look like, which accounts for the long lines outside. It also accounts for a common refrain among the restaurant’s many detractors: that the décor is kitschy faux-cozy. But those people are wrong, and probably not from New England. [Full Disclosure: I am.] The dining room with its bell jars and dark wood is actually right on, contrary to popular belief, and could easily be in Portsmouth or Bangor or Brattleboro. This makes for a unique experience in its simplicity; and the fact that they also bring you dependable, perfectly made food while you slough off your day sure helps.

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ABistro-JennaA Bistro
154 Carlton Avenue
(btw’n Myrtle and Willoughby Avenues)
Fort Greene
(718) 855-9455

 

 

As old as New York is, it refreshes itself every day. No matter how long you’ve lived on that street, something will surprise you today — that’s a promise. And that’s why perfect, cool, sunny New York afternoons are made for walking.

Fort Greene was abuzz with discovery a few weeks ago when construction workers digging a new sewer line on Vanderbilt Avenue pulled a remarkable boulder out of the ground. Not only was it huge but it was somehow otherwise alluring — enough to inspire a local resident to call the Environmental Protection Agency to see if they could prevent it from being hauled off to the dump.

When a geologist arrived on the scene to chip off a small piece, he confirmed the neighborhood’s suspicions: their rock was awesome, a 400,000,000-year-old gift from Wyoming via the last glacier to crash through this area.

So new discoveries are often simply old yet previously invisible, which is just fine, especially if it involves something to eat. While the rock was certainly inedible we still had plenty more neighborhood to explore.

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