After a long-ago waitressing stint at a very popular New York brunch spot, the idea and the practice of brunch has been a big turn-off for me. At this faux-cozy spot in a chic-cozy neighborhood, neither rain, nor sleet, nor gloom of weekend mornings would keep people from waiting in the brunch line for up to two hours.
Once seated at their teensy table, they would try in vain to read the newspaper and live out their vision of an urban Sunday morning. Brunch was a grueling shift for the staff. People don’t tip well at brunch (not enough booze) not to mention the groups of dressed-up twentysomethings playing Sex and the City and ordering egg white omelettes.
But the worst thing of all was the food! It’s hard to screw up breakfast, but why is it ok to spend $3 for an egg-and-cheese for a mid-week breakfast, but $10 for that same sandwich at brunch? The orange juice was Tropicana, pancakes were made from a mix, scrambled eggs were merely that, and the waffle iron was perpetually broken. (I imagined that it spoke in a testy French accent.)
Permit me one more rant: eggs Benedict are only poached eggs, an English muffin, and a very processed piece of ham, pressed into a circle in some Kansas factory and shipped frozen. Most people don’t eat the Hollandaise, which is a smart move. No, on Sunday mornings, you’ll find me at home, on the couch, enjoying that $3 egg-and-cheese with all the non-industrial grade coffee I want. Brunch just ain’t worth the wait and the stress of “seating only complete parties” unless you go to Prune.
There’s no need for little ol’ me to laud Prune. It’s beloved by many and its chef, Gabrielle Hamilton, has been heralded far and wide as a chef’s chef. Late to the party, I ate my very first meal at Prune shortly before the holidays and was surprised to find it hasn’t grown an ego.
It’s still small and unassuming and the menu is quite reasonable. I even noticed Gabrielle check in briefly before going her merry way into the late morning snow. Though the menu did include eggs Benedict, the menu was both creative and comforting. Spaghetti alla carbonara, which is basically bacon and eggs anyway, was a standout, along with the eggs “in cocotte” which tasted like a chicken pot-pie inside a coddled egg.
My favorite by far was the plate of spicy stewed chickpeas and warm, fluffy flatbread, topped with two delectable battered and fried soft-boiled eggs.
Their Bloody Mary menu is also playful and imaginative. I tried the “Danish” with Aquavit, a big piece of fennel and a white anchovy. I feel ok spending $9 for a drink so good it could be a meal. I can’t say that my faith in brunch has been restored, but I do know that the next time it’s suggested, I will immediately demand we go to Prune.
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