Bravo For Brunch!

Brunch used to mean eggs and hash browns and not much else. How times have changed! With dishes ranging from lobster risotto to lamb tart with hummus, these local restaurants put a distinctive stamp on your favorite weekend meal.



Bravo For Brunch

 

Ah, brunch: The very word conjures up the image of a sun-drenched room filled with groups of relaxed diners, all of whom are tucking into plates of omelettes or French toast or waffles. With free time stretched to the limit, it’s the only meal of the week that demands to be eaten at a leisurely pace. In keeping with the laid-back mood, many folks make going to brunch part of a day trip by seeking out interesting nearby activities to pass the balance of the afternoon. Here, we profile nine Valley restaurants where brunch lives up to our fantasy. At each, you’ll find traditional fare, and more than a few dishes that will surprise your palate. And we’ve listed some suggestions of fun places to visit post-feast. All in all, it’s just another reason to look forward to the weekend.

 

By Rachel Ellner, Jennifer Leba, Polly Sparling, and Elizabeth Stein

Photographs by Ken Gabrielsen, Donald Holmes, Jennifer May, and Michael Nelson

 

 

 

Tradition with a twist: New World Home Cooking pairs eggs with plantains and grilled tofu

 

New World Home Cooking Saugerties

845-246-0900; www.ricorlando.com

Saturday & Sunday Lunch ’n Brunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

À la carte menu; entrée prices range from $7.95-$12.95

 

Right from the get-go, Ric Orlando knew the type of atmosphere he wanted to create for his patrons at New World Home Cooking. “When I started cooking in the 1980s, I thought, if I want to go out to church to eat, then I will. But I wanted this to be a fun place,” says the owner and head chef of this quirky, down-to-earth Saugerties hot spot. Orlando and his staff cook up a unique, global-heritage cuisine that fuses tastes from the Far East and the American South, Tex-Mex and South America.

 

The restaurant is housed in an old, funky converted barn. It has three large rooms (including a front room with an open kitchen and a back space with a view of their herb garden) which are decorated with the works of local artists. “Even though it’s so big, it’s still cozy,” reassures Orlando. “We have the tables sectioned off into little clusters. And the music has enough energy so that you’re not shouting or whispering.” Much like the food, the music features tunes from around the world.

 

As for the brunch, it’s a melting pot of healthy and hearty fare. “In general, brunch is not what is used to be 20 years ago,” says Orlando. “It used to be a hangover remedy. But now people aren’t just sitting around and smoking all day. They’re doing things; hiking, biking, running. They don’t really want to spend the weekend drinking and eating fatty food.” So, New World offers up the best of both worlds: One half of their eclectic menu is light dishes (think salmon and salads), the other features more-traditional brunch items (think omelettes and bacon).

 

“We have some really good takes on brunch,” says Orlando. The most popular dish, eggs Benedict, is served three different ways: atop Cuban pot roast, Adobo grilled salmon, or a bed of mushrooms. Other favorites include the hot and spicy pan-blackened string beans (one of the restaurant’s signature dishes); jumbo gulf shrimp sautéed with their notorious habañero and pineapple Purple Haze sauce; and macaroni and eggs, a frittata baked with pan-fried penne, organic tomatoes, squash, and Fontinella cheese. From the bar, diners clamor for the Bloody Mary (made from Orlando’s own personal recipe); blood orange Mimosas with organic oranges and Spanish cava; and mango Margaritas, a year-round crowd-pleaser.

 

Although the menu changes from time to time — there are about eight specials each weekend — the core offerings remain the same. “We’ve been known since we opened for serving global fare. We’ve always leaned toward rustic, peasant flavors,” says Orlando.

 

Day Trip Alert: After your meal, work off some of those calories while enjoying the last moments of winter at the Kiwanis Ice Arena on Washington Avenue in Saugerties. Sunday skating sessions run from 2:30-4 p.m.; admission is $5.

 

 Violette Woodstock

845-679-5300; www.violettewoodstock.com

Sunday brunch 12-4 p.m.; À la carte menu; entrées range from $9-$14

 

Many of the brunch items at Violette may sound ordinary, but don’t be fooled. There is always a little extra something — that je ne sais quoi — to spice things up. First are the scones, baked fresh on Sunday morning, with their orange zest fondant. The eggs Benedict are enveloped with melted Black Diamond cheddar cheese and béchamel sauce. Potato pancakes are a hearty mix of potato purée and caramelized onions baked in the oven. Even the omelettes aren’t the standard flap-over kind. The eggs are first spread out on a crêpe pan, filled with your chosen ingredients, and then rolled right onto your plate. Challah French toast is layered with strawberry preserves and cream cheese, and served with fresh strawberries. Ooh la la, we’re hungry already.

 

“It’s French cuisine in the basic sense of how we get the seasonings and sauces. It’s not high-tech or ultra-fancy,” says chef and co-owner Daniel Rabiner. Nor is it haute cuisine.

“It’s homey and hearty. We’re going for the country provençale bistro feel. It’s a family restaurant.” He’s not kidding: Rabiner is a Culinary Institute of America grad, his mother a French Culinary Institute-trained chef and instructor, and his great-grandmother (for whom the restaurant is named) was a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu. “My mother is my muse. She can make anything happen out of any ingredient,” says Rabiner.

 

The building — a 100-year-old former carriage house — has rough-hewn chestnut beams, maple wood floors, and a bluestone hearth. There’s a double-sided fireplace separating the bar and dining room, the latter decorated with cozy warm yellow walls and orange light shades — all of which enhances the lazy afternoon brunch feel throughout the restaurant. So take your time and linger — brunch is served all day and Lazzava coffee refills are free.

 

“Some people hear French and they get this idea, ‘small portions and expensive.’ That’s not us,” says Rabiner. Many French items are on the regular menu, including trout amandine, escargot, and salmon en papillote (this favorite has the fish cooked in parchment paper to keep it moist). Of course, you can get a hamburger too, made with beef from Woodstock Meats, an old-fashioned butcher. Brunch comes with a sparkling wine Mimosa, but the Bloody Mary packs a greater punch. Made with Tabasco instead of horseradish, it’s served with olives and lemon wedges in a generous 16-ounce glass featuring a couple of jiggers of vodka.

 

Day Trip Alert: Spend the day pampering yourself: Visit River Rock Health Spa on Ricks Road. Massages, facials, and other treatments are available weekends by appointment.

 

 

McKinney & Doyle Pawling

Bakery, 845-855-3707; Café, 845-855-3875; www.mckinneyanddoyle.com

Saturday & Sunday brunch 9 a.m.-3 p.m. À la carte menu; entrées range from $7-$16

 

If the notion of an old-fashioned village eatery where everybody knows your name is appealing, then don’t miss brunch at McKinney & Doyle. Housed in a 120-year-old brick building with original tin ceilings and oversized wooden booths, this charming spot serves up an interesting mix of classic favorites and inventive new treats (hello strawberry cream cheese pancakes). And of course, they might not really know your name, but if you let them know you’re on the way, they’ll happily put you on the waiting list. “Sometimes people give us their name and go to the bookstore down the street,” says owner Shannon McKinney. “When their table is ready, we call our friends at the bookstore and they send them over. This is a small town.”

 

Of course, you’ll need to be on that waiting list —  this place is packed for weekend brunch, especially on Sunday. It’s been that way since McKinney and Brian Doyle, both CIA grads, arrived in 1986. “We serve in excess of 300 brunches every Sunday. For a 50-seat restaurant, that’s pretty busy,” says McKinney. Doyle retired in 1998, but both the restaurant and the attached bakery are still going strong.

 

So what is everyone clamoring for? Judge Malone’s Corned Beef Hash, for one thing. Served with eggs in a cast-iron skillet, it’s made by “slow-simmering the corned beef brisket for at least five hours,” says McKinney. “A lot of places take it out of the can, because it’s a lot of work to make.” The strawberry cream cheese pancakes were adapted from a similar danish that is served in the bakery. “It started off as a special, but so many people raved about it, we added it to the menu,” says McKinney. And the Bananas Foster on toast — smothered in bananas, brown sugar, and walnuts — is “something that people don’t see that often,” he says. Many of the egg dishes (including a variety of omelettes as well as steak and eggs) are served with giant slabs of fresh bread. “We bake a four-pound pullman loaf every day, and the waitstaff cuts it by hand,” says McKinney.

 

Drinks-wise, you can indulge in a top-notch Bloody Mary. (“Fresh horseradish is the key,” says McKinney of this traditional brunch cocktail. “And we only serve premium spirits. Our regular vodka is Smirnoff, and we go up from there.”) Or linger over a cup of joe (roasted in Orange County by a family-owned business) along with one of the bakery’s famous desserts. All the while you can watch kids running up and down the street and imagine the good ol’ days gone by. Or, you can simply plan your next trip to McKinney & Doyle.

 

Day Trip Alert: If the weather is accommodating, take a trip over to the Pawling Nature Reserve on Quaker Lake Road. Bring your hiking boots and explore over 1,000 acres of beautiful trails and terrain.

 

New World Bloody Mary

(Ric Orlando’s personal recipe):

2 cups tomato juice  2 tsp Tabasco Sauce 2 tsp Worchestershire Sauce  2 tsp Pickapeppa Sauce (available at Adams Fairacre Farms)  1⁄2 tsp celery salt  1⁄2 tsp black pepper  2 Tbsp packed horseradish  dash bitters  Vodka to taste

 

Mix all ingredients. Serve with celery, a wedge of lemon, and giant Spanish olives in a pint-sized glass.

 

Spice it up: The Bloody Mary, as served at New World Home Cooking, Violette, and McKinney & Doyle

 

  

The Thayer Hotel at West Point

845-446-4731; www.thethayerhotel.com/dining.html

Sunday brunch buffet 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Prix fixe: $27.95

 

Brunch at the Thayer deserves a formal salute. Perched high on a craggy hill overlooking the Hudson, this 1926 Gothic-style hotel on the campus of the United States Military Academy inspires both pride in country, and gratitude for heeding the call to brunch (along with the slew of parents visiting their cadets).

 

The formal elegance of the main dining room, with 20-foot-high pillars and wrought-iron chandeliers, is enhanced by portraits of past West Point leaders. With the grand piano playing throughout your meal, you can’t help but imagine yourself back in time, eating alongside Dwight D. Eisenhower or other famous alumni.

 

It seems fitting that the brunch buffet features traditionally American fare — scrambled eggs, bacon, smoked ham, sausage, hash browns — as well as offerings from the omelette, waffle, and carving stations (the roast sirloin is the highlight of the latter). A variety of quiches makes the rounds, and a sampling of chicken and fish dishes (either salmon, red sea bass, or snapper, depending on the time of year) is always available. Smoked salmon is a mainstay. Then there’s the shrimp. Apparently, 100 pounds of it move at every brunch. Let’s do the math: With attendance hovering around 200, and 16 to 20 shrimp to the pound, that’s as many as 10 succulent jumbo crustaceans per person. A drink is offered with the meal, your choice of Bloody Mary, Champagne Mimosa, or Champagne.

 

The offerings are plentiful here, but do try to pace yourself: You’ll want to maneuver around the famous dessert table with military precision. Seasonal fresh fruits (including the expertly carved watermelon) are always on display. But the real draw is the output of the hotel’s full-time baker, who creates everything from chocolate mousse, tarts, and éclairs to cream puffs, cannoli, and a wide variety of pies. Apparently the competition for sweets sometimes rivals that of an Army-Navy football game. “Sometimes someone will see a piece of cake they like and take that first, before the rest of the meal,” says Executive Chef Peter Calchera. It’s likely to be the Thayer layer cake, six inches high and loaded with raspberry filling.

 

Remember, the Thayer Hotel is on the West Point campus, so you’ll need a photo ID to get past the checkpoint on the way to brunch.

 

Day Trip Alert: While on campus, stop by the West Point Museum, which features special exhibits and military weaponry dating from the Stone Age to the Gulf War.

 

 

Jaipore Royal Indian Cuisine Brewster

845-277-3549; www.fineindiandining.com/jaipore.htm

Maharaja Weekend Brunch Buffet Saturday & Sunday 12-3 p.m.

Prix fixe: $12.95 Saturday, $14.95 Sunday

 

Located in a graciously appointed 19th-century mansion (which, at various times, housed the wife of abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher, the Charlie Chaplin Studios, and a topless bar), Jaipore is one of a tiny handful of authentic Indian restaurants in the mid-Hudson region (and, in this diner’s eyes at least, it’s far and away the best of the lot). Their all-you-can-eat Maharaja Weekend Brunch buffet is a wonderful change of pace from the French-toast-and-omelette-style spreads at many restaurants.

 

More than two dozen serving dishes line Jaipore’s buffet tables, and the variety of offerings — which changes each week — is impressive, even overwhelming. Familiar Indian favorites like chicken tikka masala, tandoori chicken, and naan are always available. But you’ll also find several vegetarian entreés, lamb dishes, and even seafood (a spiced shrimp dish served in a coconut-tomato sauce was available when we visited).

Masala dosa, the subcontinent’s version of a crêpe, is popular: stuffed with a savory combination of spiced potatoes and green peas, it’s prepared before your eyes by the chef manning the dosa station. Other dishes often on the menu include Lasoni Gobi (batter-fried cauliflower tossed with garlic, chilies, and sweet-and-sour sauce) and lamb vindaloo — a particularly spicy concoction that “people like very much,” says Manager Vikas Sadasivan. “Men especially seem to eat a lot of it, sometimes too much.” And the variety doesn’t end when the main dishes are removed. Even for dessert, Jaipore offers more than just the usual rice pudding; we sampled carrot halwa, grated carrots and raisins gently cooked in milk and sugar. Together with a steaming hot cup of ginger masala chai, it made for a sweet but light ending to our meal.

 

Jaipore does a better-than-brisk business for brunch, especially on Sundays. “Many Indian people come with their families for lunch, some from as far away as New York City, Albany, and Hartford,” says Sadasivan — proof-positive that this is real-deal Indian fare (and that reservations are a must). The buffet’s layout — the ingredients of each dish are clearly identified — also makes things easy for those of us who can’t tell a samosa from a dal. “Many people don’t know much about Indian food,” says Sadasivan. “It’s easy to choose from the buffet — they can see the food, and they can try it.” Try it — and like it.

 

Day Trip Alert: If you don’t mind taking a short ride north to Patterson, why not get in one last run this season at Thunder Ridge Ski Area? Weekend adult lift tickets are $48 for a full day.

 

 

Crabtree Kittle House, Chappaqua

914-666-8044; www.kittlehouse.com

Sunday Brunch Buffet 12-2:30 p.m. Prix fixe: $29.50

 

If you’re searching for a romantic Sunday brunch, it would be hard to do better than the Crabtree Kittle House. We don’t mean romance in the usual way (although “there are sometimes a few romantic couples hiding out in the corner,” says owner John Crabtree). But rather in the traditional, Old World sense, squiring oneself away in a picture-perfect, circa-1790 mansion surrounded by lavish English gardens. As far as atmosphere goes, it’s tough to beat.

 

And then there’s the food. Laid out in a U-shaped series of tables, the buffet begins on one side with traditional breakfast items (like muffins, Belgian waffles, and French toast made from Challah bread) and progresses through lunch and dinner dishes. “Some people actually pace themselves and eat all three meals while they are here,” says Crabtree. They can choose from salads, smoked fish, artisanal cheeses, and a seafood bar “where someone is standing around opening oysters and clams,” says Crabtree. “We have a plank of cedar-roasted salmon, roasted duck, glazed ham, and a charcuterie station with four or five different cured meats like prosciutto.” Omelettes are made to order. Fresh berries with Chantilly cream top things off, but order one of the five dessert offerings also. The warm Valrhona Chocolate “Gift,” served with Crème Anglaise Sauce, is a repeat favorite, says Crabtree.

 

Food is not the only thing you have to choose — you can pick which room to enjoy it in. The main dining room, with dark wooden pillars and tan walls, holds 90 people; the garden room seats up to 40; and the tap room, with its glorious stone fireplace, has only four tables — four oft-requested tables. “It’s very cozy in there,” says Crabtree. In the summer, it’s possible to dine outside in the garden.

 

All types of people indulge in the Kittle House brunch. “There are a lot of families, just here to spend time together, or for special occasions, like graduations or bridal showers,” says Crabtree. “Or people come up from the city for the weekend [the Kittle House is also an inn with 12 guest rooms]. They take a nice leisurely drive, have a relaxed dinner, and the next day enjoy the brunch before checking out.” Even their most famous neighbors, the Clintons, like to stop by. “Bill likes the brunch, Hillary prefers the sit-down,” says Crabtree. “So they’ll come toward the end of brunch so Bill can have the buffet and Hillary can wait for dinner.”

 

Day Trip Alert: Relax after the meal with a movie at the Jacob Burns Film Center. Just a short drive south in Pleasantville, the center showcases independent and limited release flicks; admission is $10.

 

Serevan Amenia

845-373-9800; www.serevan.com

Sunday brunch 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. À la carte menu; entrées range from $8-$17

 

Well, nobody expected master chef Serge Madikians to rest on his laurels. Since opening Serevan, his upscale Mediterranean restaurant in Amenia, in 2006, the Armenian-born chef has been luring delighted diners (and reviewers) to
the eastern corner of Dutchess County with his inventive, downright delicious cuisine. He introduced brunch last fall. As expected, his menu — while featuring a large selection of salads, panini, and omelettes — also offers many oh-so-unique options. “The wild mushroom omelette is very, very popular,” says Madikians. “And the brioche French toast with the Grand Marnier butter certainly has its followers. And another thing that people really enjoy is our fingerling potato hash. We cook the potatoes, smash them with the skin on, and cook them over clarified butter. One side turns out very moist and soft, and the other is nice and crunchy. It’s a nice texture.”

 

But, notes Madikians, “people are very, very curious.” That’s why the Middle Eastern-influenced menu items, like lamb tart with hummus, are also selling well. “The marinated herring is very popular here. It’s served with black pumpernickel bread, butter, marinated onions, and a salad of tomatoes and onions. It’s a very Eastern European way of having breakfast,” he says. Other interesting choices include the smoked salmon plate (“I make an herb salad from the leaves of parsley, dill, and mint,” he says), lamb sausage, and the use of preserved lemon as a condiment.

 

Try washing down all these new flavors with one of five Prosecco Mimosas. Madikians likes “the dryness and light flavor” of the Italian sparkling wine (instead of the traditional Champagne). “It allows the flavor of the nectar to come forward,” he says, adding that sour cherry, Concord grape, and apricot are the most in-demand flavors. And while the restaurant’s one-of-a-kind farmhouse setting offers a peaceful backdrop at any time of year, “in the spring and summer, when you sit on the patio surrounded by my flower and herb gardens, it is really a beautiful place to have brunch,” says Madikians.

 

Day Trip Alert: If you haven’t already had your fill of Madikian’s Mimosas, stop by the Cascade Mountain Winery in Amenia. They are open for wine tastings from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekends, perfect for an after-brunch treat.

 

 

Tosca Troy

518-272-3013; www.toscagrille.com

Sunday brunch 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Prix fixe: $22.95, $12 children 5-12, under 5 free

 

Brunch at Tosca? Picture a decadent imperial feast where portion control is not encouraged — but exploration is. Executive Chef Larry Schepici’s lush imagination, as well as his insistence on fresh and organic produce, meats, and seafood, means an abundance of new dishes and featured ingredients each week.

 

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