Sunday is my favorite day of the week. Most people find that odd as it usually means the end of the weekend is near and the beginning of the work week is even nearer, but to me, it’s always been a day of relaxation, lazy afternoons and gluttony. In some form or another, we’re all partaking in a last minute get-it-all-in chill/party/booze/nap/eat frenzy, and one or all of the aforementioned comes either before, after or during THE Sunday activity: Brunch. It’s a time-honored NYC tradition that, in its most basic form, involves bloody Mary’s and eggs Benedict.
While I was in London, it became obvious real quick that the English either have breakfast, lunch, dinner or a Roast — with a capital R — The Roast being a replacement for Brunch on Sundays. Not that some Brits don’t enjoy a good eggs benny or “toastie” with egg and meat in those middle hours between breakie and lunch, but in my experience, the preferred middle-of-the-road meal for Sunday in Blighty seemed to be The Roast, which features some sort of roast meat (chicken, pork or beef), potatoes or carrots and Yorkshire pudding with a side of wine. Preferably an entire bottle. Or two.
Call it “Linner” if you like a portmanteau. (Didn’t know there was an actual term for the combination of two words to form another one? Me neither!)
Brunch, on the other hand, tends to feature bread baskets of corn muffins and sticky buns, entrees of the egg variety that require syrup and libations of the juice assortment. (Spiked, of course.)
The menu choices for both The Roast and the Brunch may differ, but the meal types have one thing in common: good old laziness. They provide New Yorkers and Londoners with an enjoyable way of prolonging the weekend by indulging in delicious food and drink.
While the average Roast and Brunch can last up to at least four hours, brunches typically start earlier — say, between noon and 2p.m. — with a Roast first getting going around 2p.m. and lasting up until 6p.m, at which point you’re in a complete food coma and oblivious to the fact that Monday is just around the corner. That is, until your alarm goes off at 8a.m. and you wake up fully clothed on your couch, the TV still tuned to AMC from attempting to watch Mad Men the night before.
I went for my first brunch since being back yesterday, and it more than lived up to its reputation. My friend Saryn chose the spot — she has a list of places she’s been wanting to try. Since my list is so January 2013, and, well, I sort of lost the desire to crosscheck and add, I told her to pick. All I had to do was show up. Fantastic for someone still trying to pursue the No-Plan Plan.
When arriving at Clarkson, a bright, airy new spot on the cusp of SoHo and the West Vill, I found Saryn, cute as ever, sitting at the bar drinking a Pimm’s. As much as I wanted to pay hommage to my London days where a Pimm’s is often the bevvy of choice when not doing wine or beer, I hadn’t had a good Bloody in a while. While the tomato mixture could’ve been a bit thicker and spicier, I appreciated the fact that I got both an olive and a piece of celery, even thought I despise the latter any other way. But oh how I love the tasteless green crunchy stick dipped in tomato juice and Tabasco!
The place wasn’t busy when we arrived at noon-thirty, but there was a Brazilian band!
It’d been a while since we last saw each other, so the poor waiter had to come by at least five times before we were ready to order. We eventually settled on a starter of shaved Brussels sprouts, duck confit with sweet potato hash with sunny-side-up-egg for Saryn, and the ricotta-herb pancakes with heritage bacon, thyme and a sunny-side-up egg for me. Sunday food-snobbery at its best.
I don’t usually order pancakes, but I had been craving the round, fluffy flappers. (Often times, if with a group, I’ll suggest we order pancakes or French toast for the table as a starter — or dessert — so that we can satisfy our sweet teeth while also gorging on the salty.)
And then there were the drinks. While sipping our first ones, representatives from Leblon cachaca roamed the room with samples of the day’s specialty cocktail: a refreshing mix of vodka, grape juice, something fizzy and this cachaca.
After indulging in two shot-sized gulps (and snagging a cachaca-flavored SPF lip balm that I proceeded to leave at the table; teardrop), I suggested that we splurge and share a pitcher. I promised that we’d get good returns on this delicious investment. (Likely in the form of us being wobbly and slurry, but all good!)
“I have work to do,” she said, “but fuck it.”
That’s my girl!
I think the pair of us could’ve sat there all day — and nearly did. By the time we paid the bill, we had a different waiter. Since the sun was still out, though, and we ourselves were nice and toasty from the pitcher, we decided to roam elsewhere. We stopped into this really awesome, high-ceilinged beer garage called Houston Hall for a peek and a pee. Despite its bright interior, we wanted to sit outside, so we kept moving and wandered over to the nearby Ear Inn, a drinking establishment since 1871. (That may be young for the UK, but for the US, that’s pretty ancient times.) It actually had a London vibe to it — and not just inside with all its knick-knacks and historial tchotkes.
But also in the way boozehounds were casually drinking outside on the sidewalk. There’s no set area for seating, but rather a few scattered benches and miscellaneous chairs. It seemed real spontaneous and laissez faire — very British. Drinking on the streets is illegal here (unless you’re at a place designated with an outdoor liquor license), whereas over there, you can pretty much roam with an open container or bottle as you see fit. Every pub on every corner — especially in summer — always seems like the most happening place because of all the people imbibing outside on the sidewalks and cobblestone street. If only I had gotten to experience more summertime hours there.
Yesterday’s outdoor scene at the Ear Inn was equally casual and cool. We had a beer and a half while people-watching, before we soon realized we were a) hungry again and b) in immediate need of a couch.
So, which of these two gluttonous Sunday meals do I prefer? While I do love me some bone-in meat, it sometimes felt really heavy to have in the middle of the day. Plus, and this is going to get me into trouble (especially with Ellie!), I never quite got the Yorkshire pudding fascination. The consistency can be lovely, yes, but it doesn’t seem to have much taste on its own. Dip it in the juice of the roast (perhaps the point?), and that’s another story. Still, it ain’t no cinnamon sticky bun.
I commend the motivation behind both meal-types, but Brunch, you win.