Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Brunch at Brique

Traveling down 301 on Sunday, headed for brunch at brique, the new Courthouse Square dining venue in downtown Centreville,  we talked about how glad we were not to be open on Sundays for brunch or any other meal.  Been there, done that, never again.  That being said however, it sure is nice that other chefs  choose to ply their trade on Sunday, especially for the meal which serves as a late breakfast and early lunch for those of us who are lollygagging around on their day off.

We have heard some mixed reviews about the replacement for revered Julia's, but we still needed to check it out for ourselves, plus we couldn't think of a better place for an early lunch on Sunday, when we were on our way to Kent Island, an equally early dinner planned with friends at Cafe Rustico in Stevensville.  It was close to noon on the first day back on Standard Time, and we were one of three parties in the restaurant when we first sat down.  The dining room has been much improved, decor wise, with the addition of larger, more comfortable chairs, and the tables covered with double tablecloths set an upscale tone.  It was chilly as all get-out though, and stayed that way throughout.  (When  a three-top arrived just as we were finishing and the young man laid his jacket over the young lady's shoulder I thought maybe that would be the head's-up the manager needed to raise the thermo-stat a bit!)

Our server arrived shortly and greeted us with, "You don't know me, do you?"  Oh man, don't you hate it when this happens?  Turns out we did know her; we just hadn't recognized her yet - Jamie Taylor had worked with us at lunch at BT, for two consecutive summers.  It was a pleasant surprise to have her be our server at brique, and she did a very good job describing the food and anticipating our needs.

The brunch menu at brique is very tantalizing, especially with the variations on the eggs-Benedict theme - one of my favorite breakfast meals.  Problem for me was - early dinner.  No way could I eat a big lunch and be hungry for a 5PM dinner - I'd have to keep it light.  I ordered the house salad with their blue cheese vinaigrette and a half dozen oysters, which Jamie told us were from the Choptank and which I hoped were Choptank Sweets.  (Earlier in the week, Kevin had taken delivery of a half bushel of Chincoteague oysters, and their briny sweetness was still on my mind.)

Kevin on the other hand has no problems with his metabolism: he was going to have the biscuits and sausage gravy, with a side of sausage, followed by the  Croque Monsieur. 

We were very happy with everything we ordered.  The dressing on the mostly oakleaf mixed greens was really good, plenty of blue cheese in a light vinaigrette. Kevin was in heaven with the two halved biscuits, definitely smothered in sausage flecked white sauce.  We couldn't tell if the accompanying sausage links were homemade, but they were good enough, and the fried potatoes and onions were very tasty, which I know because I ate most of them.

The oysters, which followed my green salad, were freshly shucked, and while nice and cold, were not as salty or flavorful as  I had hoped - which is the risk you sometimes take with oysters on the half shell.  They were accompanied by cocktail sauce, an unfortunate choice in my mind for mild oysters like these - a tangy mignonette would have suited me better.  I stuck with juice from the lemon slices garnishing the platter.

Kevin's sandwich was delicious.  They used fresh, crusty french-type bread, split length wise, and nicely grilled.  The thinly sliced ham and cheese were piled on the bottom slice, the second slice place top-side down over the first,  with a poached up poised on top.  The egg melted into the bread and offered additional richness of flavor to every bite of what could have been a relatively mundane ham and cheese sandwich.  The fresh fried potato chips alongside were also good, although somewhat inconsistent in their crispness.

No salt or pepper on the table, and, except for a grind on my salad - which Jamie provided - none was needed.

Of course we are going to at least hear about the desserts, and ended up ordering the orange ginger creme brulee.  When it arrived, we knew without tasting that something was sort of weird about it - you could not see the tiniest sparkle of sugar glaze on the top.  We dipped in our spoons, took a taste to our lips and looked at each other.  Not only was there no crunchy sugar crust, the custard was liquid.  Just at that moment, Jamie reappeared and asked us how we liked it.  We looked at her sort of dumbly, not sure whether we should say anything or just let it go...well, you know the answer to that.  We told her it was undercooked, and she could see for herself that the custard in our dish was more sauce than pudding.  She took it away with grace.   Too bad, as I was eager for that ginger -flavored custard...

Overall, we had a very positive experience at brique.  They were not very busy for a blustery November afternoon; there was only one other couple eating with us.  They had arrived just before us, and for the most part were our sole companions in the quiet room until just before we left.   They were quite happy with their meal, telling the waiter that they had never had better eggs Benedict and vowed to return again soon.  That will be my meal too, next time.

Three cheers to Chefs who work on Sundays!

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