My favorite meal bar none. I blame Momma. Every Saturday we’d go to Bob’s Big Boy. I’d get my comic book and the sweetest pancakes I could find, slathered in whipped cream and chocolate chips, and maybe eat half because the portion was mountainous. Then we’d head off to The Imp Peddler to shop. My younger sister and I would hide in the circular clothes carrels playing “Fort” while Mom “Shingged!” her way through the racks. “Shing!” is the sound a hangar makes scraping along a metal rack when you speed shop for bargains. This was our routine for YEARS. Every Saturday like clockwork.
In my 20’s brunch became the place you stumbled to hungover, to review the events of the night before, remember embarrassing moments you’d rather forget, and probably have a “hair of the dog” mimosa to make the pain go away before doing it all over again. Places like Trio’s in DC or 3rd Street Diner in Richmond were our second homes. Brunch was a place to reconvene, recoup, review, and plan.
Sometimes we couldn’t wait, and brunch was eaten at 2am after the bars closed. McLean’s on Broad Street in Richmond was a godsend for their redeye gravy and Aunt Sarah’s was wonderful despite the slower than gravy service and the one time I was served a SOUR sausage waffle. Blech! Late night brunch. Eaten when you realized you’d probably hurt too much to go out that morning.
Fast forward a few years and I’m shacking up with my college boyfriend. I remember waking early every weekend having the insane wish the Shoney’s All You Can Eat Breakfast Bar would somehow be magically set up in our kitchen. Please purdy please God all you can eat bacon and pancakes with syrup? Gallons of coffee? It wasn’t of course so we’d stumble down the street and stuff our faces. I’ll never forget the time I witnessed a guy in a 3-piece suit who’d lined his pockets with foil and was stuffing them with bacon when he thought no one was looking. My kinda people that guy.
Flying ahead many more years and we’re living in Pittsburgh, a MECCA for brunch because there are a ton of diners, and most restaurants serve it Saturday AND Sunday. I’ll never forget our first weekend shopping for produce down in The Strip District. We stopped into Lucca’s for brunch and I ordered an omelet with a side of sausage. “What kind of sausage would you like? We have three kinds.” My mouth dropped. Open. I was in brunch heaven.
Yep brunch is pretty damn wonderful. Which is why I can’t understand why restaurants don’t just offer it all the time. Maybe it’s why I love diners so much, because no matter when it is, you can get coffee, and bacon, and eggs. It’s the ONE serious beef I have with Charlottesville. That you can’t get brunch many places on a Saturday. After perusing the City Market, I want brunch! And I can count on one hand the places that offer it. Sure, there are places offering it up on Sundays. . . IN SEASON mind you. . . but it’s usually something resembling lunch or dinner. Um, sorry folks, but brunch must include these items: Eggs Benedict, some sort of fancy schmancy waffles or pancakes, bacon, sausage, omelets, and Bloody Marys and Mimosas. Biscuits are a plus. Red eye gravy a big plus. That’s it.
In any case it’s pretty hard to get out of the house on a Sunday. Cause I have church. The New York Times Sunday Paper. Four hours straight through cover to cover. Which is why I’ve taken it upon myself to create brunch at home. One of my favorite things to make is French Toast. Nothing healthy, just straight forward, custardy, slightly sweet French toast. With challah. Because using any other kind of bread is just silly.
After experimenting with lots of recipes, I’ve found the best is from Cook’s Illustrated.* I omit the confectioner’s sugar, add almond extract, and sprinkle some berries over the top. A few slices of this stuff and I’m properly rejuvenated and recouped from whatever my weekend has thrown at me. And in need of a big ol’ nap. Which is what Sunday afternoons are for.
*Email me for the recipe, I bought a membership, don’t wanna get in trouble Mr. Kimball :0)