Thursday, 14 March 2013

"Brunching" Out

Brunch has always been one of my favourite meal times as it spells long lazy Sunday mornings idling away with good friends over mochas (extra hot please), indulging in hollandaise sauce, smoked salmon, bacon, maple syrup, digging into warm chocolate croissants oozing chocolate, you name it. My very good friends have recently moved into my neighbourhood and since we hadn’t seen each other for a while we decided to have brunch together. I suggested Tom’s Kitchen just for the convenience of it, unbeknown to them, my last visit had not been much of a success, admittedly that was over a year ago. Prior to that last visit, I think I’d almost become a permanent fixture there, you’d know exactly where to find me especially on Sunday mornings. I decided to give it a break when, I turned up at the Botanic (when it had just opened) and one of the waiters recognised me with the remarks, “what are you doing here!” I’m very good with faces and was shocked when I knew exactly where I remembered him from. Surely everyone knows that if either a shop assistant or waiter recognises you on the street, it’s time to change habits or just stop shopping!!!

During that particular visit, the food had been atrociously bad. I can’ remember the exact details, I’ve probably wiped it out of my memory as one does all painful experiences, but all I remember is that it was really bad! I realise that I may be a slightly “fussy” eater but trust me it was bad! One of the things that always took me there was the freshly baked bread and muffins they did every weekend, the latter of which one had to arrive indecently early for as they sold like hotcakes. To my disappointment, they’d actually stopped making fresh bread and I can’t even remember what I had to make do with instead!

There is nothing like freshly made bread. The smell alone instils such a warm fuzzy feeling in me that is almost romantic (did I mention that I am a hopeless romantic?) I remember a rather romantic experience recently in some foreign African country where I’d gone on a work trip. Being rather brave and adventurous, I’d agreed to be taken out dancing into the early hours of the morning by an acquaintance. As we were strolling back to the car for the drive back to my hotel, we must have passed by a bakery because suddenly this wonderful smell of baking bread hit us and I just stopped in my trucks and went on and on about my love for baking bluh, bluh, bluh. Suddenly all senses stopped working as I was given a thorough kiss, right in the middle of the street. How romantic, I must have cast quite a picture standing there waffling on about bread, then again he was French! Note to self, one must conjure food images more often in male company. Let’s just say I can never smell yeast in the same way again.
Some of my bread making attempts (it's that yeast smell you see)

Italian New Harvest Bread

Well, back to the present, we turned up without a booking, something you wouldn’t do in the old days (I guess at the back of my mind I didn’t really want to be there) but got a table anyway. Entering Tom’s Kitchen is like walking into a ware house conversion thingy, like those found in the trendy meat market in New York, which by the way I haven’t been to but have watched enough Sex in the City episodes to imagine what they look like. One’s met by heavy wooden tables and chairs and really “cool” looking people littering the place. There are even bar stools one can perch on and boy is the view from there interesting, you can see the chefs at work. I guess another silly romantic notion but isn’t there something so alluring about a man sweating over a stove, I suppose less of the sweating though.

We were shown to our table and a very lovely lady came over to take our drinks order. We decided to go for fresh juices and I asked for extra ginger in my CAG, not expecting to get it as I never do. When the waitress turned up with the drinks, the straw in one of the glasses was bent and she proceeded to let us know that that was the drink with the extra ginger, one sip of it and I knew I was in for a surprise, it was exactly as I would have made it myself!

 The one thing I never order out is eggs benedict/Florentine as I’m always very disappointed with it, either over poached eggs, soggy muffins etc. For some reason I decided to order it anyway and of course started by apologising to the waitress for the fact that I was going to complicate matters slightly. Her first answer was shoot, not the rolling of eyes or condescending attitude I’m always greeted with whenever I utter those words. Yes, I’m one of those people who always want something that isn’t on the menu... I proceeded to let her know that I wanted an eggs benedict with bacon and spinach and hollandaise on the side, oh and the bacon not too crispy! Her reply was, our eggs benedict is served with bacon anyway, so you want a half and half? Music to my ears. I then asked her if they had any muffins left and was told there was actually one left, which she quickly ran to grab for us before someone else whisked it away and then continued to take our orders. By this point, I was totally in love with her (of the sisterly type of course!). My friends ordered the burger and blueberry pancakes and hot chocolate drinks. We were told the hot chocolate was homemade which was rather curious but they couldn’t wait to try it.

Our food arrived and I exclaimed in horror when I realised I had only been given one streak of bacon,  my fault of course for having ordered a half and half, but no sooner had the words left my mouth than a side plate of bacon arrived at the table. Very gingerly I tucked into my half and half and boy, I was immediately transported back to my childhood. The bacon tasted like the bacon I had as a little girl or as my mum would call it, like “real bacon” I know that pork has to undergo some sort of curing process to create bacon but this was actually like eating the meat off the back of a pig. When I cut into my poached egg, I was greeted by a the most vivid of colours, saffron orange, again, took me back home where egg yolks are the colour the setting sun and it tasted heavenly.

I suspect the people at the next table weren’t looking at us because we cut a pretty picture but because of all the funny noises we were making, by now you know what I am like with food don’t you. I tried a bit of the burger and even though it was well done, one of my friends is pregnant, it was just out of this world. They even had a choice of chunky chips or fries and of course being French, they went for the fries with the homemade ketchup! The fries tasted like the ones I make at home another testimony that they were freshly cut on the premises. I’m told the hot chocolate was also incredible. When we mentioned all this to our waitress, eggs, bacon etc. she went ahead to tell us how the hens are interbred for the eggs and the pigs are a special breed left to roam the farm where they are bred. This was so refreshing as here was someone who actually had knowledge about what they were serving, which speaks very well for a restaurant.

My other battle with brunch places is finding the right mocha. Don’t laugh but you will be amazed at how wrong many places get it. But as things had gone very well so far, I decide to order one with the usual, extra hot please! Why one even has to say that beats me but I I’m told its part of the industry regulation, one can only heat milk to a certain temperature. Well, it arrived in a tall glass, as it should I hasten to add, and even thought it wasn’t as hot as I would have liked it to be (thank God as otherwise I would have burnt my fingers on the glass) it was just delicious, I guess it was something to do with the homemade hot chocolate.

We all left feeling very satisfied and I’m just so glad that my old grazing ground is back! The service was impeccable with food that put me in a good mood for the rest of the day. Can’t wait to go back.

Of course since my African adventure (yeast smell, kiss in the street….), I’ve taken every opportunity there is to bake bread, the smell brings back good memories you see ;-) Below are some more results:-


New England Rolls

Am still working at perfecting the Pantone as my last attempt wasn’t very successful but of course I blame the equipment.