How the unholy amalgam of hangovers, soggy toast and overpriced eggs became a city-wide ritual of belt-loosening hedonism
Brunch always seemed to me a silly invention, the Hallmark holiday of meals. We have this fantasy of idle gossip over mimosas with Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha, but more often than not it’s spoiled by lineups, slowpoke service and $5 thimbles of orange juice. The menu options are eggs Benedict with gloopy hollandaise or bone-dry pancakes decorated with waxy, unripe strawberries. No serious chef would open at that in-between hour, except to make quick cash on piles of potatoes and toast.
Then, in the past year or so, restaurants started opening at a breakneck speed, and, to remain competitive, chefs began offering increasingly decadent brunches. The most talked about are the Trimalchios who raise the bar with epic breakfast feasts that leave you so terrifically bloated you cancel dinner plans. At Origin Liberty, Claudio Aprile’s west-end place, the French toast is loaded with blueberries and duck confit, and the bartender shakes cocktails like it’s 11 p.m., not a.m. At Edulis, the homey oasis in the middle of King West’s condos, brunch involves half-price wine, velvety pâtés, slow-roasted pork belly and a slice of Black Forest cake, a leisurely gout-fest that stretches over three hours. And, after 23 years, the upscale institution Splendido launched its first brunch service, a $35 prix fixe that includes freshly baked brioche with lobster.