Friday, January 23, 2015

The Peasantry or High on the Hog

The Slow and Savory Review


Mama Bee was still stuck on the idea of opening up a new version of her successful business, Honey Bee Bakery, but she was having trouble pinning down exactly how she wanted to go about it.  "I'm not so sure I want to go after the tourist trade any more," she told Brandy one day, "But I still want to revamp my brand, you know?  Make it younger, hipper, more edgy!"  "You make baked goods.  None of those words should ever be used to describe pastries," Brandy grumbled.  "But this is how you keep something relevant," Mama Bee explained, "One has to adapt to the times."  "Well, maybe it's just me, but I think a restaurant should find a personality and stick with it.  That's how you keep your audience.  If you start out edgy, young, and hip, then you stay that way."

To prove her point, Brandy took Mama Bee to The Peasantry, a restaurant that has recently undergone some changes in the background, transitioning from focusing on street food to comfort food, but still maintaining an eclectic identity.

The Peasantry had a sort of edgy street vibe to it with it's quasi-graffiti walls, but also a rather comfy feel with its heavy wood communal tables, dividing brick wall, and full fire place.  Brandy rather liked the eclectic feel, which, judging from the menu, reflected the food in a way that decor rarely does.

A couple of cocktails were ordered up: A Naughty Chai Latte for Mama Bee and a Kir Royal for Brandy.  The Kir Royal was pretty typical, though the sometimes tooth aching sweetness of the raspberry liqueur was balanced nicely by a dryer champagne.  On the first sip of the warm chai cocktail, a smile spread across Mama Bee's lips.  "Oh, this is just the perfect thing for a dreary day," she sighed.  She thought that the warmth of the spices was perfect, as was the level of alcohol, which didn't overwhelm, but enhanced the flavor.

The pair of ladies started by splitting an order of Dutch Apple French Toast.  This was a heavier French toast than Brandy was used to, as it had been made from Irish soda bread, studded with dried fruits, and covered in a tart apple cider gastrique.  Though it wasn't the typical eggy, sweet French toast, Brandy rather liked the dish.  "This is most certainly a wintery dish," she said, chewing over the last bit of bread, "It's rather hearty in a stick to your ribs sort of way, as you Americans would say."

Mama Bee picked the Vegetarian Hash as her entree, which consisted of onions, peppers and butternut squash with crispy potatoes and two fried eggs.  She felt the dish was a little on the salty side, but the veggies were nice and crisp, including the potatoes.  "I do like when breakfast potatoes aren't coated in grease," she commented, "And these are just perfect.  Light crunch on the outside and soft on the inside."  What surprised her about the dish was the poblano cream sauce, which she had expected would have a bit of heat to it, but was actually quite mild and smokey, which helped to liven up the eggs.

Though tempted to go for the Brunch Dog, which she had previously eaten at Franks 'N Dawgs (The Peasantry's sister restaurant), Brandy instead went for the Shrimp and Grits.  When she was presented with the head on prawns, laying on their bed of cheesy, corny goodness, Brandy was rather amazed and slightly horrified.  "I don't usually like my brunch to look back at me," she said, avoiding the gaze of the shrimps, "But today I'll make an exception."  She found the shrimps to be extremely tender, almost melt in the mouth soft, but a little on the bland side flavor wise.  Once Brandy tasted the grits, however, she could see why the shrimp had been a little more subdued; there were little chewy bits of bacon throughout the golden grits, which were on the denser, more polenta-like side texture wise, (this is how Brandy prefers her grits, as opposed to the more Southern creamy style).  The over all flavor of the dish was brilliantly smokey from the roasted corn salsa with just a little zing of lemon to brighten up the richness.

Brandy and Mama Bee were rather impressed with the edgy "comfort food" style of The Peasantry.  The food was unique, nicely presented, and priced around $10 per entree, which is par for the course at most Chicago bunches.  "I still sort of like the idea of giving my bakery an edgy twist, especially after seeing how well it worked for them," Mama Bee said.  "Or you could, you know, stick with what you've been doing," Brandy suggested.  "No, no.  I'm ready for a change.  What do you think of a croissant in the shape of a Mohawk?" Mama Bee mused.  "I don't think it's ever a good idea to make your food remind people of hair, dear," Brandy replied.

The Short and Sweet Review

The Peasantry on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 16, 2015

Unite Urban Grill or A Study in Contradictions

The Slow and Savory Review

"You have got to talk to Bailey for me!" Hawk cried to Brandy over the phone one day, "She spent all of the Christmas break watching food documentaries on Netflix and now she's terrified to eat anything but kale and quinoa!  You have to help me, Brandy.  A man cannot live without bacon!"  "Calm down!" Brandy said, "I'll have a chat with her, don't you worry.  If there's one thing I can't stand, it's someone with no sense of balance in their life, and I'll be damned if one of my friends is going to start lecturing others on what they should or should not be eating based on fad diets and unproven testimony."

Brandy decided to take Bailey out to Unite Urban Grill, a West Town hidden gem that recently launched their brunch service, which featured a lot of brunch classics with their own signature twists.  Brandy thought this choice was particularly apropo because of it's back story: opened by married couple Joe and Megan Krouse, the name itself came from the fact that Joe based the restaurant's concept on a combination of his love for grilling and meat with Megan's love of grains, vegetables, and semi-vegetarian cuisine.  "The two of them have come together to to create well balanced cuisine, which is what we should all be striving for," Brandy explained to Bailey.  "But is their food gluten free, organic, heirloom quality, fair trade, cold processed, and raw?" Bailey asked in a panic.  Brandy rolled her eyes.  "Now listen here.  You're going to order a cooked meat dish, you're going to eat it like regular food, and you're going to like it, just as you always have," she said, to which Bailey gave a frightened whimper.

Stepping inside Unite, Brandy was greeted with something she didn't quite expect: a bright and vibrant rather modern and chic looking lounge with comfy blue sofas, warm woods, and colorful pillows, with a sparkling bar area beyond and a dining area with high tables beyond that.  "Perhaps this is rather ignorant, but I was thinking a place with "grill" in the title would be a bit more...pub like," Bailey ventured.  "Exactly," agreed Brandy, mischievously.

Quickly after being seated at one of the tables near the bar, the ladies ordered a couple of drinks.  Bailey took advantage of the customizable Bloody Mary menu and ordered one made with scotch instead of vodka and a skewer with salami, mozzarella, and a pickle.  Bailey thought the Bloody Mary had a nice subtle kick of spice with an extra richness from the scotch.  Brandy went for a cocktail called the Noble Square, which consisted of vodka, lemon, port, and chocolate mole bitters, which she found to be positively enchanting with its bright flavor, warm spices, and sweet, zingy finish.  "Strangely, it makes me think of summer and winter all at once," Brandy commented, "Yet another harmonious contradiction."

As for food, the ladies started off with a shared plate of the Brioche French Toast, which came topped with roasted apples.  Though simply plated, the French toast was actually quite unique in texture: the outside of the thick cut bread was lightly crisp and caramelized as though it had been rolled in cinnamon and sugar before being put on the griddle, while the inside was airy, creamy, and rich like a bread pudding.  "I've had a lot of French toast in my day," Brandy said thoughtfully, "And this is probably one of the most unique and delicious ones yet!"  The roasted apples on the top were also a nice touch, adding a bit of tartness and spice to each bite, though Brandy and Bailey wished there had been just a little bit more of them, as they found themselves silently wrestling over the last two slices.

For her entree, Bailey ordered the Steak and Eggs, which consisted of a hanger steak with a Worcestershire glaze, crispy breakfast potatoes, a garlic Bearnaise sauce, and two eggs, which Bailey requested scrambled.  Bailey found the steak a little on the chewy side, but the flavor was spot on with the silky, umami rich glaze.  The Bearnaise sauce was beautifully buttery with a very light veil of garlic flavor that Bailey rather liked, as it didn't overwhelm the palate, and went extremely well with the lightly crisp potatoes.  "I especially like the fact that they used some herbs in the sauce because it adds not only a bit of flavor, but a nice little touch of greenery to the plate, so at least I can pretend I'm eating some vegetation" Bailey observed.

Brandy ordered the Unite Reuben with a side of fries.  The fries were much like a Belgian frite; thin and crispy.  Brandy found them very easy to munch on, enhancing them by dipping them into some sriracha aioli, which their server had strongly encouraged her to try (Brandy was at first terrified of the spicy aioli, but her fears were at once quashed when she tasted the smokey, creamy, and slightly tart sauce).  The main event, the sandwich, looked like a typical Reuben, with its succulent pastrami, melty Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and sauerkraut on marble rye ("I've never noticed how international a Reuben sandwich is!" Brandy exclaimed), but Brandy was pleased to see that, while fairly traditional, it had been done very well.  "It's not too vinegary or overly burdened with spice from the meat," Brandy mused, "Though I could do with a little more cheese."  "There's never enough cheese to satisfy you!" Bailey laughed.  Brandy began to rebuff her, but found her friend was probably speaking the truth, and so she just continued enjoying her sandwich.

To finish off the meal, the ladies enjoyed one last cocktail, the Bridgeport, which came beautifully presented with a purple orchid in it.  The cocktail itself was a little herbal and floral from some Petal and Thorn Vermouth, and quite citrusy from the use of lime and grapefruit juices.  "Really quite a nice finish to a meal," Brandy observed.  "It's such a feminine drink, yet its strong and bold," said Bailey, "Would you just listen to me!  I think I'm getting the hang of this critiquing thing!"

The well balanced food of Unite Urban Grill certainly did seem to calm a lot of Bailey's food fears with their well prepared versions of classic dishes, knowledgeable service, and bright, friendly atmosphere.  "Now do you understand how one can eat healthy and mindfully without sacrificing needless deliciousness?" Brandy asked her as they headed out of the restaurant.  "Yes," Bailey smiled, "But I still kind of like kale and quinoa."  "That's fine," Brandy sighed, "But for Hawk's sake, when just throw some bacon in there next time."

The writers of this blog were invited to dine by the restaurant free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

The Short and Sweet Review


Unite Urban Grill on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 9, 2015

Local Root or the Root of the Problem

The Slow and Savory Review

"I'm thinking of opening a new bakery on Navy Pier," Brandy's good friend Mama Bee (owner and operator of Honey Bee Bakery and all its subsidiaries) said one afternoon as the two were wandering about downtown.  "Navy Pier, eh?  Trying to cater to the tourist trade?" Brandy asked jokingly.  "Well... yes!  Imagine all those hungry people milling around, looking for something to nosh on while they... do whatever it is they do at Navy Pier.  It's an untapped goldmine, I tell you."  "I hardly think it's untapped," Brandy scoffed, "If anything, if might be a little over tapped.  There may not be a bakery right on the pier, but there are so many donut shops, coffee houses, and pubs up and down Streeterville, one can hardly move for some good to eat."  "Ah, yes, but what about somewhere fresh?  Somewhere that uses only local ingredients?  Somewhere that doesn't buy into the hype of the metropolis?" Mama Bee asked.  "Yeah, they've got that covered too," said Brandy, and walked Mama Bee across the street to Local Root.

The inside of Local Root was rather eclectic and homey, more of what you would expect from a neighborhood joint in Andersonville or Roscoe Village, not a piece of prime real estate minutes away from Navy Pier.  "See?  No glitz, no pomp, no overly contrived design, just a typical diner sort of place," Brandy mused, "Isn't it nice to see they aren't trying to snag the tourists with lots of flash?"  Mama Bee shrugged.  Brandy also noticed that at the very top of the menu, the restaurant had listed which farms all of their meat and produce had come from, solidifying their commitment to serving up only locally sourced ingredients.

The pair started off with a couple of hot cocktails to warm up on such a dreary, cold day: for Mama Bee the Hot Texas Toddy with tea flavored vodka, lemon, and organic honey ("This cocktail appeals to me for some reason," Mama Bee commented, to which Brandy rolled her eyes) and for Brandy, the Diving too Deep, with apple cider, cinnamon, and aged brandy ("This one appeals to me for some reason," Brandy commented sarcastically).  Both cocktails were pretty tasty and definitely nice just to hold in their cold hands as to sip.  "More places should push hot cocktails in the winter time," Brandy commented, "Now that's how you make supply match the demand!"

One of the specials of the day was fresh beignets with a rum cream sauce for dipping, so the two ladies decided to start off with that.  The large balls of fried dough were nicely crisp on the outside and wonderfully fluffy and light on the inside with a decent bit of chew.  The rum sauce actually packed more of a punch than either Brandy or Mama Bee were expecting, and they both wished they had been given much more of it, as it seemed to disappear completely halfway through the dish.

For her entree, Mama Bee ordered the Omelette of the Day, which came with broccoli, cheddar, and spinach as well as a aside of house potatoes.  The eggs were on the denser side, which Mama Bee actually enjoyed, and the vegetables were still nicely crisp and vibrant, though Mama Bee felt the seasoning was a little heavy handed and uneven.  The potatoes were nicely crispy on the outside with a soft interior, and had been seasoned with large granule salt, which provided a nice bit of added texture to them.  "They've followed your rule of adding a bit of greenery and fruit to the plate as well," Mama Bee commented to Brandy, "Though I would have liked a little pot of honey for my toast... No matter!" and she produced several small pots of her own honey from the depths of her purse.

Brandy ordered the Crab Cake Benedict ("A rather odd thing to see on a menu concentrated on being local," Brandy said, "I'm not aware of Chicago keeping crabs in Lake Michigan."), which also came with a side of the same potatoes.  The crab cakes had a nice crabby flavor, even slightly bordering on being too pungent, and boasted a decent hit of spice, just enough to warm up the inside of one's mouth.  The somewhat aggressive flavors of the crab cake were tamed by the addition of some sauted spinach, and the poach on the eggs was near to perfect.

Though the service was adequately friendly and the food reasonably good, though unexciting, the real surprise of the meal came along with the bill.  Because Brandy has a, perhaps, bad habit of ordering things based on curiosity rather than price, she was a little more than shocked that the total for a two cocktails, a shared appetizer, and two entrees came out to just over $80 after tax and tip.  "$11 for a cocktail I can sort of understand, but $9 for a few pieces of fried dough?  $15 for an omelette?  $21 for a Benedict?!?!  How can they charge prices like these for such un-gilded food?  I've had dishes topped with caviar that cost less!"  Brandy exclaimed.  "Perhaps it's the price you pay for eating locally," Mama Bee suggested.  "Nonsense," Brandy scoffed, "I've eaten at plenty of places that use local ingredients and have never seen this kind of markup.  My guess is these prices are a product of the restaurant's location."  This hypothesis seemed to ring true for Mama Bee.  "Maybe you're right," she said, "I would love open my little bakery on Navy Pier, but perhaps the tourist game is a little too rich for my blood if this is the kind of example I'm to follow."

The Short and Sweet Review


Local Root on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 19, 2014

Revival Social Club or Drinking Full Circle

The Slow and Savory Review
"I think I've figured out how to make a time machine," Brandy's good friend Brocco Leigh Binto (genius inventor and scientist) told her one day over tea.  "Oh?' was all Brandy could muster in response.  "It's all a matter of getting the wavelengths at the right frequency, you see?" Brocco tried to explain, "You just have to isolate the exterior timeline from the interior timeline so that you can have a living organism traveling through the fourth dimension without it effecting that organism's bio-molecular make up, you see?"  "Um... of course."  "Of course, I'll need to apply for some grants to develop the right kind of equipment, but I'm sure that won't be hard.  So, where would you want to travel to in time?" "Excuse me?" "You could be the first time tourist!  Name any era, any place, and I can send you there."  "Why wouldn't you want to be the first time tourist then?" "Well... someone has to operate the equipment, of course."  "Of course.  Well, if I must be your guinea pig, I suppose we'd better start off easy.  Why don't you send me back four years ago to Bunny and I's very first Chicago brunch?  I'd be interested to just how educated my palate has become since then."  "You've got it!  Where was your first brunch?"  "It was at M. Henrietta.  Oh... I still dream about the beautiful little baked egg and that delectable bread pudding..." Brandy trailed off.  "Stay with me," Brocco said, snapping his fingers in front of Brandy's face, "Can we go there to collect the exact coordinates?" "Sadly, the lovely place is no more.  However, I've heard there's a new restaurant there, and they do serve brunch..." "Then what are waiting for?  Let's go!"

The restaurant that had taken M. Henrietta's place just off the Granville Red Line stop was called Revival Social Club.  Though the outside was familiar to Brandy, the inside had had several changes from its predecessor; the once butter yellow walls had been painted a more sleek grey color, a bar had been constructed on the eastern wall that was not only stunning architecturally, but also utilizational for storage, and the whole dining space had been opened up and decorated with graphic canvases that lent the place the air of a speakeasy.  "I'm not sure if we've just traveled into the past of the future!" Brandy declared, stepping into the place.

The pair of friends started off with some drinks: the Southern Decadence for Brandy and the Kentucky Mule for Brocco.  Brandy loved seeing the original twists on classic cocktails that pervaded the menu, as well as some very original concoctions made with Dark Matter coffee (but we'll get to those later).  Brocco did like his Kentucky Mule, which was made with bourbon instead of the traditional vodka, thinking it had a nice effervescence to it while being simultaneously smokey and citrusy.  "That's not a flavor combination you see every day," he said, taking some sort of dodad out of his pocket and scanning the drink.  Brandy's drink, the Southern Decadence, was constructed from it's name sake tea from Rare Cellar Tea, some vodka, soda, and garnished with a grape and some fresh mint.  Brandy liked that it was nicely light, sweet, and refreshing, but still with a rather sophisticated herbaciousness from the mint.  "It's good, but probably more of a summer drink," she admitted.

The meal began with the Iron Skillet Monkey Bread (Brocco heard about half of the smiling waiter's description before he asked for an order of the confection).  The two bite sized balls of dough came warm to the table, a bourbon caramel glaze bubbling around the edges of the skillet.  The bread like spheres were light and airy on the inside, and while the glaze was sticky and sweet, it didn't overwhelm the dish.  "I might use my time machine to go back and eat this again," Brocco moaned, scooping up the last little dough ball.  "Or you could, you know, just order another..." Brandy suggested.

For his entree, Brocco ordered the Treehugger Omelette, which was loaded with roasted poblano peppers, onions, tomato, and spinach.  Brocco liked that the eggs were a little on the denser side of things, as it gave the omelet more substance, and the veggies were still a little crisp, adding texture to every bite.  The dish also came with a side of Fingerling Potato Hash, which was dressed in paprika and chives.  The potatoes were soft, not too salty, and had a lovely subtle flavor that made for a nice change from the typical kinds of breakfast potatoes found at other spots.  Brocco also ordered an additional side, a Double Chocolate Chunk Muffin, which also came warm.  Surprised by his first bite of the muffin, Brocco soon realized that the richness of the chocolate had actually been cut with a little cinnamon, giving the muffin an almost Mexican chocolate flavor.

Brandy went for the Short Rib Sandwich with a side of Candied Bacon and Popcorn Grits.  The short rib meat on the sandwich was unbelievably tender and juicy, and Brandy liked that the fried egg on top of it served to make the dish all the more richer, but she couldn't help wishing for a little slice of tomato or the crunch of some onions.  "I see this a lot," Brandy explained to Brocco, "A nice meaty breakfast sandwich is often served without veggies, but I usually find that even a little bit of greenery does wonders to brighten up an otherwise heavy dish."  Brandy was rather surprised by the grits, which really did taste of popcorn!  "I know this looser style of grit is more traditional," she said, scooping up a spoonful of the porridge like goodness, "I actually do like my grits a little more polenta like, usually, but these have such an unusual flavor that I'm willing over look that."  The grits had also been topped with a pad of maple butter, which didn't add as much sweetness as Brandy would have expected, but did provide a bit of guilding for the lily, so to speak.  The Candied Bacon was everything one could want from something of that name; thick slices of bacon coated in a thin layer of brown sugar to make the perfect kind of salty and sweet brunch snack that left one licking one's fingers for minutes after they were gone.

Closing out the meal, Brandy found herself intrigued by one section of the cocktail menu that mentioned house made coffee liqueurs, created using different blends of Dark Matter Coffee, and so she ordered up a little cordial sized glass of the Drunken Unicorn (so name because it utilized Dark Matter's Unicorn Blood blend).  The little glass of chocolate brown liquid was concentrated and thick, but smooth and luxurious, with all of the coffee's bitterness and acidity toned down with the rum it had been infused with.  Seeing the bliss of Brandy's face as she sipped the little coffee, the waiter insisted she also try the house made Limoncello, and he brought her another tiny glass of bright foggy yellow liquid.  This limoncello was also incredibly smooth with an almost creamy like flavor.  Though the drink was very sweet, it had somehow not taken on the syrupy quality other limoncellos can sometimes have.

Mightily impressed with the new occupants of one of her formerly favorite restaurants, Brandy had to be practically dragged away from the table by Brocco once he had collected all of the data he needed.  With most dishes priced around $10 and most cocktails around $12, Brandy thought the quality of ingredients and care put into their preparation was more than justified.  The subtle plating of the dishes as well as the perfect portion sizes showed that someone had really thought out not only the flavors, but the entire experience of eating at Revival Social Club, from the setting down of the plates all the way through the savoring of the last bite.  Even more impressed was she by the inventiveness of the bar, which not only paid homage to a by gone era of cocktail craftsmanship, but also showed originality in creating their own coffee liqueurs, a product not common even in the fanciest denizens of drink.  "Remember what you said about going back in time to eat that dish again?" Brandy asked Brocco.  He nodded.  "Maybe that's not such a bad idea after all," Brandy said, scratching her chin.

The Short and Sweet Review


Revival Social Club on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Food News: A Taste of Taiwan at Park Grill


Last week, Brandy had the privilege of attending a very special dinner at Park Gill in Millennium Park, hosted by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, because, as we all know, she is quite the bon vivant.  "Sadly, I've not had the chance to explore Taiwan, one of the few countries in this world that I've not been to," Brandy said about the experience, "So I will be quite interested to learn more about what I assume is a beautiful place.  After all, they do call it the heart of Asia!"




The goal of the Taste Taiwan campaign is to educate chefs, food industry professionals and travelers on the differences between Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine and to show that Taiwan has rich culinary traditions all its own.  To do this, hundreds of chefs nationwide applied to go on an epic culinary tour of Taiwan in order to help them design a dish that they could take back to their restaurants and give all of their diners a taste of Taiwan as well.  Only three chefs were chosen, one of which was Jared Case of Park Gill, and his adventures (along with Stuart Cameron from NAO Steakhouse in Toronto and Anthony Jacquet of Whisper Restaurant in Los Angeles) were captured in a vibrant documentary, for which a trailer can be watched via the campaign's YouTube channel and will air on CNBC on December 28th.  For eight days, the chefs were exposed to everything from fine dining to street food to rustic home cooking, all with the goal of showing the sort of techniques and unique ingredients Taiwan has to offer.

Returning to Chicago, Chef Jared prepared several Taiwanese inspired dishes for the crowd, like Grilled Shrimp with Pineapple Relish, Tuna Tartar Wontons with Black Sesame, and Peanut Satay Noodles.  His crowning glory was a dish he called Drunken Oysters, inspired by a journey the chefs took by boat down a river, where they harvested fresh oysters and ate them with sips of beer.  His dish featured warm grilled oysters on the half shell with diced cucumber, cilantro, a little Sriracha, and Taiwanese beer to make things nice and authentic.

You can experience Chef Case's Drunken Oysters for yourself now until February at Park Grill, and if you do, make sure to take a picture of yourself enjoying them and tag it with the hashtag #TasteTaiwan for a chance to win an all expenses paid culinary tour of Taiwan!  "Perhaps I shouldn't be telling people about the contest," Brandy contemplated, "After all, then I'll have a better chance of winning and seeing Taiwan for myself!"

The writers of this blog were invited to attend this event free of charge to facilitate the writing of this post.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Postcards from Bunny: Max's Wine Dive Saturday Cartoon Brunch


A few weeks ago when Bunny was gallivanting around town looking for great places for a drink, she noticed something she thought should be brought to Brandy's attention.  "I know you said you'd been to Max's Wine Dive, but did you ever go back for their Saturday Cartoon Brunch?" Bunny asked Brandy.  "You know, I haven't yet," Brandy mused, "But honestly, how special can a Saturday brunch be?  Everyone knows the good stuff is served on Sunday."  "I'm not so sure about that," said Bunny, "It looked to me like they had a bunch of special items that were only served on Saturdays.  Dishes I have definitely not seen anywhere else."  "Is that so?" Brandy responded, "Well then, I had better check it out."

Not having grown up in American (nor, indeed in the age of television), Brandy had to have some elements of the cartoon brunch explained to her by Max's General Manager Kate Bocson.  It seemed that the concept of all the Saturday morning specials originated from the idea of a child's fantasies come to life and made more adult.  To add to the theme, cartoons played throughout the restaurant and classic games like Hungry Hungry Hippos and Don't Break the Ice had been set out for the patrons to enjoy.  "Well, my idea of a nice Saturday morning usually involves some needle point and a nice cup of tea, but what do I know?" Brandy shrugged.


First off, there was the mind blowing Candy Mimosa Bar, which instantly brought out Brandy's inner child.  The idea behind the mimosa bar was that Max's, being wine focused, originally didn't plan on stocking other spirits, and therefore could not make the brunch staple cocktail that is the Bloody Mary.  Taking all the fun of a make-your-own-Bloody-Mary bar, Max's converted it to fit their signature mimosas and gave it a cartoony twist.  There were carafes of Kool-aid, containers of gummy bears, Swedish fish, and other rainbow colored confections, and a tall glass with bunches of red licorice whips.  At first, Brandy was a little skeptical of adding such sugary sweets to her fairly high quality mimosa, but after plopping in a couple of peach flavored gummy rings, she started to see the fun of it.

After delighting her senses with candy, Bunny dove into the special Saturday brunch menu.  First up was the Pizza Bagel; a Red Hen Bagel toasted and coated in gooey cheese and pepperoni.  Though unfamiliar with the American tradition of pizza bagels ("Why would you want a hole in your pizza?" Brandy kept asking), Brandy did like that the bagel was very tender and soft, making it easy to eat.  The slightly spicy pepperoni had a nice bit of chew to it, complimenting the brilliantly melty cheese.

Setting a foot on either side of the sweet and savory line were the Pancake Dippers; strips of bacon coated in pancake batter and served with a side of maple syrup for dipping, hence the name.  Brandy found herself wishing the bacon used was a little bit thicker, as the pancake element seemed to take over.  The pancake itself was firm enough to keep its structure as Brandy dipped it into the syrup, though it did have a slightly grainy texture that Brandy didn't enjoy as much as she would have liked to.

After that came the house French Toast, which Brandy had sampled during her previous visit, but had been revamped to account for the season.  Now, the French Toast came topped with lots of cinnamon, sugar, and macerated clementine segments, which Brandy thought was a very interesting choice.  She sort of liked how the acid of the oranges cut through the sweetness of the sugar and when combined with the cinnamon provided a very old fashioned flavor combination that definitely did remind her of Christmas.  The toast itself had the same great texture Brandy had enjoyed the first time around with a good bit of crispiness on the outside and a soft, custardy inside.

The Scooby Snack was the next dish to the table, and the mere sight of it had Brandy swooning with delight.  The plate was a mile high stack of chocolate chip pancakes smothered in fudge sauce and topped with graham cracker pieces and a toasted marshmallow fluff.  Not entirely understanding the cultural reference of the dish's name, the waitress kindly directed Brandy's attention to the classic cartoons playing on the televisions above the kitchen.  "But you couldn't give these pancakes to a dog!" Brandy exclaimed in horror, "They're not supposed to have chocolate!"  As expected, the dish was decadent and rich, though the pancakes were actual quite light in texture.  The glistening chocolate sauce had been finished with just a little hit of salt, which really elevated what could have been a tooth achingly sweet dish, and the bits of graham cracker kept everything lively with a bit of crunch.


Just when Brandy thought she couldn't take any more, Chef Jessica Brumleve emerged from the kitchen with a devilish grin on her face, carrying what looked to be a small mountain contained inside a punch bowl.  As it was set down in front of her, Brandy suddenly realized what it was: The Six Person Sundae.  Looking like something out of a movie, the monstrosity came topped with everything imaginable, including colorful cereal, crisp bacon, potato chips, brandied cherries, peanuts, more marshmallow fluff, chocolate sauce, and enough ice cream to satisfy a football team.  There was even what appeared to be a chocolate lava cake in the middle of the thing, possibly added for a little more wow factor or for structural stability.  Brandy could hardly believe her eyes.  "Am I supposed to eat this or swim in it?" she asked.  Had she not already been so stuffed full of deliciousness, she might have faired better, but Brandy did her level best to make a respectable dent in the colossal masterpiece, a thing truly born from the imagination of a child.


"Well, how was it?" Bunny asked the next time she was on the phone with Brandy.  "My dear, it simply needs to be eaten to be believed," Brandy said, shaking her head, "I may not have experienced the typical Saturday morning cartoon thing in my youth, but everything about that brunch made me feel like a child again, especially that magnificent sundae, mostly because the damn thing was so big that it made me feel about three feet high!"

The writers of this blog were invited to dine by the restaurant free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

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