Friday, January 28, 2011

Brunch Worth Waiting For

Dear World, I know I've been MIA lately, and I have some really good reasons.  First of all, I sprained my ankle last weekend.  No, I didn't slip on ice (which would make the most sense considering the weather we've been having in the Northeast).  I fell down the stairs and came crashing down with all my weight on my ankle, twisting it completely in the wrong direction.  Ouch is right.  As the incident occurred, sadly the only thought going through my head (amidst the screams of pain) was that my leg better not be broken because I don't have health insurance.  Yes, folks, only in America can an individual be screaming in pain and yet only be concerned about the crazy debt they will accumulate if the injury requires serious medical attention.  FML.  Fortunately, my leg didn't appear to be broken, and so I've been limping away and icing, wrapping, and resting it throughout the week.

I didn't really cook anything this week either because I didn't want to stand around the kitchen, putting pressure on my ankle.  Also, we had a bit of a blizzard here in NYC this week, you may have seen it on the news or experienced it yourself.  Since I'm not currently working, I didn't leave the house for days, also because of my ankle, so there wasn't a lot of food exploration going on to write about.  At times I felt like James Caan in Misery, obviously less injured than he was, but already going stir-crazy, and just waiting for Kathy Bates to show up and smash my legs with a sledgehammer, permanently crippling me.  When I'm bored my imagination goes wild.  Fortunately, I made myself leave the house today and convinced my friend Sydney to join me for a late lunch at the über-popular Clinton St. Baking Company.

Clinton St. Baking Company
4 Clinton St
(between Stanton St & Houston St)
New York, NY 10002
(646) 602-6263

Clinton St. Baking Company is notorious for having exceptionally long waits for weekend brunch.  It's also considered to have the best pancakes in the city.  I had wanted to try it out for a while, but had held off due to its reputation for impossibly long lines.  I figured going for a late lunch on a weekday may be the best option, since the same menu is offered.  When we arrived at 2:30 this afternoon, we still had to wait about 15 minutes to be seated.  That's obviously not as bad as prime weekend brunch time, but you get the picture.  This place is small (only 32 seats) and mad popular.  They also sell baked goods to go, from a variety of muffins and scones to cupcakes, cakes, pies, and more.  The entire menu is also available for take-out.

Sydney and I both opted for iced lattes with our meal.  Pretty standard and offered in a tall glass.  I had been eying the Southern Breakfast for months, and although it's clearly not green tomato season anymore, I had to order it.  The plate consists of two eggs any style (I chose poached), sugar-cured bacon, cheese grits, and fried green tomatoes.  Let's go backwards (just to keep things interesting).  The fried "green" tomatoes were more like fried "pink" tomatoes, which I imagine is the best one can do in January in New York City, but for what it's worth, they were delicious, perfectly seasoned, great crust, nice and juicy on the inside.  The cheese grits were flavorful, creamy and super cheesy!  Even as they cooled, their texture remained soft and pleasant.  I couldn't stop eating them.  The sugar-cured bacon was perfectly crispy with a touch of sweetness, and for a girl who usually drenches her breakfast sausage and bacon in maple syrup, this combination of sweet and salty was delightful.  The poached eggs may be an unusual choice for "eggs any style."  I think most commonly people go with fried or scrambled, but I'm a poached eggs girl.  These were poached perfectly.  And I mean it.  I was actually able to peel away the white which was completely cooked through (not slimy whatsoever) to reveal the soft, unblemished yolk, a perfect yellow orb, barely kissed by the heat of the simmering water just enough to warm it, but not cook it.  For those of us who love our yolks runny, but our whites not, this is what it's all about.  In retrospect, since I ordered poached eggs, it would have been smart to get a side of toast to sop up the yolk, but I used some of my fried green tomatoes instead, and those worked pretty great too :)

Southern Breakfast - Two Eggs Any Style, Sugar-Cured Bacon, Cheese Grits, Fried Green Tomatoes $14

While I went savory, Sydney ordered something sweet, one of the specials on the menu, the Vanilla Buttermilk Waffle.  Although this single Belgian-style waffle cost $15, it was thick and fluffy, and the amount of fresh berries over the top almost made up for the price.  A combination of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries were enhanced with some raspberry sauce and whipped cream.  The obligatory warm maple butter was served in a small ramekin alongside.  This warm maple butter is a pretty big attraction in these parts.  The pancakes are not only famous in their own right, but this sweet and rich accompanying sauce doesn't hurt either.  They serve it with all their sweet breakfast staples, from pancakes, to French toast and beyond.  We both loved this waffle, and could really taste the vanilla inside.  The warm maple butter was as good as we had expected, a perfect alternative to the typical combination of maple syrup and butter pat that generally finds its way onto these breakfast sweets.

Vanilla Buttermilk Waffle - Mixed Berries, Whipped Cream, Raspberry Sauce, and Warm Maple Butter $15

We both agreed that our entrées were perfectly filling, without the keel-over-in-pain-because-you-ate-so-much after effects.  Neither was cheap, but the quality of food and ingredients, along with the attentive service (it better be after waiting in line!) really makes a visit to Clinton St. Baking Company worth it.  Keep in mind that this restaurant is CASH ONLY, so come prepared.  They also have recently released a cookbook, which I am hoping to review in the near future, so keep your eyes peeled for that!

For anyone planning to dine here on weekdays during the month of February, it's apparently Pancake Month.  Clinton St. Baking Company will be featuring special pancake flavors day and night during the week.  Did I mention their pancakes are considered to be the best in the city?!  Here is the schedule!


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