Friday, March 4, 2016

Beef and Barley or The Wind that Shakes the Brunch Menu

The Slow and Savory Review

Back before Christmas when Bunny was in town, Brandy got a bit jealous that her bosom companion was taking in some restaurants without her.  "None of them were brunch, I don't see what the kerfuffle is about!" Bunny exclaimed in exasperation.  "I'm not upset, all I'm saying is that an invitation would have been nice."  "They were spur of the moment stops, for goodness sake.  Also, you've been brunching up a storm since I've been gone from Chicago.  I thought it was only fair that I get a meal or two on my own."  "But I've got a reputation to keep up.  I'm supposed to be the one with all the dining knowledge.  What am I to do if someone asks me about one of the places you've visited?"  "Well, you could always go back to them and form your own opinions.  For instance, one of my new found favorites, Beef and Barley, just recently launched their brunch menu.  Perfect excuse to go back there, if you ask me."

Just as Bunny had been charmed by Beef and Barley's homey, neighborhood bar feel, Brandy too loved the dark woods and cozy layout.  The bar games in the back were a nice touch as well, really making Brandy feel like there was some fun to be had here.

The cocktail menu had lots of promising options.  There was a Make Your Own Mimosa bar with selections of fresh juices and fruit as well as a rather unique bacon infused house Bloody Mary that came with a never ending side of bacon ("Even though I don't like Bloody Mary's, the prospect of unlimited bacon is enough to make me want one," Brandy commented).  But the really unique thing about the cocktail menu was the selection of punch bowls that could be ordered for larger parties.  Brandy especially enjoyed the sweet and refreshing Devil's Doorknob with gin, orange, watermelon, and aromatic bitters.

To show Bunny what for, Brandy arranged a tasting of almost everything on the brunch menu so that she could be sure she was the real expert on this space.  The first section of the meal dealt with some of the more savory options.  The Lox plate was a colorful assortment of smoked salmon, rye bread, whole grain mustard, and assorted veggies that made a very classic breakfast more interactive and fun.  The Corned Beef Hash was another twisted classic with huge hunks of tender, well spiced beef, crispy potatoes, and a rather nice horseradish cream that rounded everything out quite nicely.  The Biscuits and Gravy added a little something extra with strips of fried chicken, making an indulgent dish even more so.  The biscuits were so tender that they fell apart in the rich gravy, while the good crunch of the chicken provided some much needed texture that biscuits and gravy often misses out on.  Last was the Baked Eggs, one of Brandy's favorites of the day.  The eggs rested on a bed of creamy spinach and came with toast points for scooping up all of the cheesy goodness.  "I'm always happy to see when the non-meat options on a menu are just as indulgent as the meaty options, so that even vegetarians aren't missing out on the fun."

The next selections of the menu came from the sandwich category.  The Steak and Egg sandwich came served on ciabatta with a creamy chimichurri sauce that Brandy really enjoyed, and the choice of flank steak meant she wasn't sawing through each bite.  The Mortadella Sandwich was another unforgiving combination of indulgent ingredients that would have a nutritionist throwing their hands in the air.  Though a little on the greasy side, this sandwich reminded Brandy of her first ever American style bologna sandwich, but more grown up, with a creamy and savory Worcestershire sauce and a melty cheddar spread on some thick Texas toast.  Lastly, there was the Paul Prudhomme, named after the king of indulgent food, which was an open faced sandwich with tomato jam, andouille gravy, and a big piece of cajun turkey shnitzel.  The turkey actually helped to lighten up this dish, but the savory gravy still provided plenty of fat for soaking up any alcohol in one's system.

Rounding out the day, Brandy sampled a couple of sweet dishes from the menu.  First up was the Dutch Baby, a different sort of pancake served in a cast iron skillet and topped with caramelized apples.  The texture of the pancake was very unique indeed, being dense and sort of spongy in a good way, making it feel more like a dessert or something to be enjoyed after a savory dish.  The absolute star of the day, however, was the PB&J French Toast.  This delicately layered confection consisted of brioche with strawberry jam, peanut butter, and toasted marshmallow and came served with orange marmalade and fresh whipped cream.  The combination of classic childhood flavors in this way, especially augmented by the delicate texture of the crunchy marshmallow in the middle and the soft fruit jam, was the ultimate in decadence in a menu full of decadent options.

"Well, I think I've proven my point and learned all I can about this place," said Brandy as she finished up her last bites.  The prices seemed extraordinarily low, considering the quality of the dishes, and the staff were not only knowledgeable about the menu, but passionate about it, which Brandy simply loves to see.  "My goodness, I don't know that I could manage another bite of food today, and that is not a feeling I'm used to," Brandy swooned, "This place knows full well that brunch is supposed to be fatty and creamy and greasy to fulfill it's original intention of soaking up the alcohol from a wild weekend night.  Say, I wonder if they frown upon people ordering a punch bowl for themselves, because at this point, I think I need more alcohol in my system for the food I've already eaten to suck up,"

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

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