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Sep 13, 2000 12:00 PM

brunch on sunday in midtown

  • p

where is a good, friendly atmosphere to have a 2-21/2 hour brunch sunday in manhattan. i am not looking for a cafe des artists type of place. something a little more casual but great food. would prefer from the 40's to the 60's street wise. thanks

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  1. My husband and I just met our nephew for Sunday brunch at the newly-revised and re-opened Brasserie (53rd Street between Lexington and Park Avenues). It's nothing at all like Cafe des Artistes, so don't bother reading on if you're looking for a romantic kind of place. The Brasserie is quite open and brightly lit; the table tops are a kind of light neon green resin and very interesting. The booths are separated by a floor-to-ceiling barrier, which adds a nice touch. The bar has a fascinating backdrop of frosted glass, up to the ceiling, behind which you can see rows of wine and liquor bottles.

    Service was efficient and surprisingly friendly. In fact, our waiter shared one of the dessert recipes with me -- chocolate beignets -- when he overheard my husband asking me if I could try to duplicate it at home.

    The menu still has some of the old standards: French onion soup, steak frites, eggs benedict. Nice to see some things haven't changed.

    For appetizers, we had: salade frisee, dressed perfectly, with lots of little morsels of bacon; a decent-sized slice of foie gras, accompanied by quince compote; and a neat little mound of tuna tartare (can't remember the dressing, but I know it was good).

    Our main courses were all satisfying and tasty: an omelette fines herbes, with more salad; Provencal fish soup; and -- the big winner -- half a cold lobster with (I think) tarragon mayonnaise and the tastiest "cole slaw" I can remember eating in ages. It was shreds of cabbage and other vegetables in an Asian-style vinaigrette with toasted sesame oil. We couldn't stop eating it and I was tempted to order a side-dish of it instead of dessert.

    But I didn't. We shared two desserts between the three of us: mixed berries with the most delicious grapefruit sorbet I've ever tasted; and the afore-mentioned yummy chocolate beignets with caramel ice cream. I'm going to attempt this over the weekend.

    With a couple of glasses of wine, this was not the cheapest brunch we've ever eaten, but it was certainly reasonable and I would definitely recommend it. And I look forward to going back.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Dena

      those chocolate beignets sound intriguing -- could you describe them? and possibly share the recipe and how your attempt turned out? thanks.

      1. re: emily

        Emily, they were really terrific. There were five on the plate, with two scoops of caramel ice cream, and I had to fight to get two of them for myself.

        The beignets were simple-looking rounds of pastry, about an inch to an inch-and-a half in diameter, filled with chocolate and sprinkled with powdered sugar. The waiter told me to roll out some ready-made puff pastry (thawed, natch) and, as though I were making hand-made ravioli, place small balls of semi-sweet chocolate ganache on it, evenly spaced. Then lay another sheet of puff pastry over the first and use a cookie-cutter or whatever to cut out the little chocolate-filled pillows. Deep fry them in peanut oil, drain on paper towels, then sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar (not really necessary, but a nice nod to Cafe du Monde, I suppose).

        The chocolate ganache should be made of two parts semi-sweet chocolate to one part heavy cream -- melt the chocolate in a double boiler, blend in the cream and chill the mixture until you get a texture you can manipulate. I've never made a ganache, but it doesn't sound too difficult. Sounds like the basis for chocolate truffles, I think. If anybody has any advice on the subject, it would be appreciated.

        I'll try it out this weekend and report back. You, too?

        1. re: Dena


          _fascinating_. i love the beignets you can get at any old patisserie in france, sill warm in the morning. like a jelly donut only french. but i've never seen chocolate beignets and am intrigued.

          so they used puff pastry? somehow i would have thought a shortcrust or even some kind of risen dough. puff pastry is certainly easier.

          if i make them i think i'll roll them in granulated sugar; i like that grainy texture.

          ganache is really easy as long as you use an unfussy chocolate; i like ghiradelli double chocolate chips. they have a good fruity flavor and are cheap enough to be sturdy. i tried making a ganache tonight with a bar of cluizel amer and it separated on me. curses! but yeah, ganache is the basis for chocolate truffles and it's the most versatile thing in the world. frost a cake with it; make beignets; fold in whipped cream and chill (i did this once and discovered i had inadvertantly made a kind of mousse; i've been wanting to fill a cake with it ever since); i saw ole' jacques pepin make a chocolate roulade by folding beaten egg whites into ganache and baking it on a jelly roll pan.

          i've seen different methods than the one you describe, for example heating the cream and then pouring it over the chocolate. and i've seen it made with equal parts chocolate and cream. it's one of those things you can't really go too wrong with. unless you're out of your chocolate-quality depth, like i was tonight. (that's why i'm up so late, BTW.)

          1. re: emily

            Ganache is really easy and as versatile as Emily notes. I think the easiest way to prepare it is to heat the cream to scalding and then either pour it over or add fairly finely chopped chocolate (off the heat) and whisk until the chocolate melts. Heating cream is easier and takes less attention than melting chocolate. Callebaut makes pretty good semisweet and bitterweet chocolates that work well in ganache.

            The cream-to-chocolate ratio depends partly on what it's being used for; more cream makes a runnier ganache, which is easier for icing/glazing cakes. Sometimes a couple of tablespoons of butter are called for. You can also stir in a couple tablespoons of liqueur (to taste), for truffle (or beignet!) filling; the more strongly flavored ones, e.g., Grand Marnier and Kahlua, are more discernible than subtly flavored ones like Frangelico.

            Should you have extra ganache, make truffles! Truffles are so easy for what you get. Rolling chilled ganache into balls is a messy business. I usually cheat and pour the hot ganache into an 8x8-inch pan, chill it until it's solid, and then cut it into little squares. Roll in a bit of cocoa, et voila, truffles! If you become more ambitious and want to dip them in chocolate, freeze the formed centers first, so they won't start to melt when the warm melted chocolate hits them.

            Should you decide you want to totally recreate your Brasserie experience, the link below is to a recipe for burnt-caramel ice cream that's supposed to be not-to-difficult (haven't tried it yet).


            1. re: Caitlin

              Thanks, Caitlin. I'm going to put your advice to work and will report back.
              - - Dena

      2. re: Dena

        dear Peanut-I hear theres a really great brunch restaurant just outside of New York--it's a place calle Cafe Aaron-and I believe its'in Easton Pa. Guess Who??