Brunch it up Portland-style

Wow we should have gotten up earlier. With a 2 hour wait, Tasty n Alder better be worth it. After Blue Star Donuts to tide us over, we finally slip in for a table after an hour and a half. Portlandians apparently love their brunching, so with a plethora of locally-sourced quality ingredients, we should be in for a treat.

The menu has about 40 distinct dishes, not to mention sides. Everything is served family-style, so come with a group to take advantage of the variety.

The place is a pretty impressive cocktail bar with a distinguished selection of spirits, so go for a breakfast libation n. Here we have a classic Bloody Mary with house-made pickled vegetables, and a unique “Dim Somemore” with hoisin, siracha, and ginger garnish.

The Bim Bop Bowl – a super hot stone bowl filled with rice. Stir it up for those delicious crunchy bits, gooey eggs, kim chi, and galbi bacon. What’s not to love?
Follow it up with the Cowboy Breakfast. Slices of perfectly seared flank steak sit on top of an amazing tortilla with an over-easy egg, delicious red beans, and a perfectly-spiced fresh salsa.

I’m not going to be able to eat for days after this. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely!

Brunch Basics

Tiramisu Pancakes

An overcast Saturday morning in San Diego led us to Cafe 21 in the Gaslamp District for brunch. Filled with people and bustle, very personable wait staff (the maitre de remembered our name after the meal) and walls covered with eclectic glass vessels filled with liquors infusing in various spices and herbs. We started of with some Bloody Mary’s; even the basic one was stacked high with produce and prosciutto. Pearl replaced her prosciutto with a fresh oyster on the half shell for only a few bucks more. They were delicious, but we both found the spiciness a bit lacking.

bloody Mary

bloody Mary with an oyster

On to the main dishes! I couldn’t decide as there were so many that looked amazing. I settled for French toast stuffed with ruhbarb, strawberries, and cream cheese. Topping it was a homemade raspberry compote that had a wonderful fresh balance of tart and sweet.

strawberry rhubarb stuffed toast

Pearl chose the Tiramisu Pancakes. Starting with small cinnamon-cocoa pancakes with a lovely slight crispy exterior and amazingly fluffy interiors. Stacked 5 high, they were drowned in about a pint of an espresso mascarpone sauce. Topping off that was chocolate syrup and an espresso maple glaze, with a light dusting of powdered sugar on the plate. This was an absolutely amazing dish with lots of complexity and rich, intense flavors. A must-try. I thought it even better than actual tiramisu!

tiramisu pancakes

Sunday Brunch off Bourbon Street

The French quarter is a strange dichotomy. You have Bourbon Street, famous for racy strip clubs and gutters full of alcohol. But it also hosts some fantastic restaurants. On a quiet, rainy Sunday morning, we made our way from St. Luis Cathedral to Bourbon Street and Arnaud’s Dining Room for a four-course brunch.

Mimosa from fresh-squeezed orange juice

Arnaud’s exemplifies how I’ve come to see the city of New Orleans, a rich, patina of glory in decay. While clean and tidy, the restaurant is really showing its age. Wood paneling is fading, as decades of beeswax polish is undone by chemical cleaners. The beautifully patterned hexagonal floor tiles have lost their shine, and the waitstaff seem grizzled and tired in their worn tuxedos. The glory this place clearly once held is slowly diminishing, much like an ancient plantation manor being overrun by kudzu.

The food was certainly better than the decor. For the first course, I began with a cream cheese Evangeline. Fresh grapes, honeydew, cantaloupe, and strawberries were at perfect ripeness. Covering them was a wonderfully light sauce made by whisking together cream cheese and fruit juices, a refreshing way to start the meal.

Following this was a small salad, butter leaf lettuce, watercress, and Arnaud’s unique house dressing garnished with juiliened celery root and thinly shaved beets. The celery root was a surprise, but like the rest of the salads I’ve had here, the ingredients were at the decidedly warm room temperature, and not chilled as I had hoped.

For the main course, I went for a simple omelet, three cheeses, pancetta, and tomato. Exquisitely prepared, the eggs were very light and fluffy. The tartness of the tomato perfectly offset the saltiness brought by the pancetta. The mozzarella, parmesian-reggiano, and chévre nicely blended together in a perfect mix of sharp, creamy, and gooey. With a side of the thinnest fries I have ever seen, this was easily one of the best omelets I have ever had. I had to stop myself to leave room for desert.

And what a desert it was. A phenomenal bread pudding in a brandy sauce. Using their house bread, a French white with a unique top crust, the pudding is baked into a rich custard for that perfect balance between dry and gooey.

Add this to your New Orleans itinerary. The decor is nice, and the food more than makes up for the aging atmosphere.