Chefs Chat About Brunch, Thursday, May 8 at 11 AM
In the spirit of Mother’s Day—one of the biggest brunch days of the year—we’re bringing in three chefs who offer stellar late-morning menus to chat about all things brunchy and breakfasty on Thursday at 11 AM. Ask them about their own favorite brunches, h

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Published May 5, 2008
Ahhh, brunch. That lazy weekend repast fueled by Bloody Marys and mimosas that bridges breakfast and lunch and, after a long week at work, passes as a full-day activity. In the spirit of Mother’s Day—one of the biggest brunch days of the year—we’re bringing in three chefs who offer stellar late-morning menus to chat about all things brunchy and breakfasty on Thursday at 11 AM. Ask them about their own favorite brunches, how they riff on the traditional to set their menus apart from the often-boring pack, or for ideas on what to make for Mom on Sunday morning. Because, of all people, she certainly deserves a delicious, lazy brunch. Submit your questions in advance here.

The restaurants that Barbara Black owns with her husband, Jeff, boast excellent brunch fare—we love the Louisiana-style Benedict at BlackSalt in DC and the potato pancakes with house-made applesauce at Garrett Park’s Black Market Bistro. Addie’s in Rockville and Black’s Bar and Kitchen in Bethesda don’t normally serve brunch, but the Blacks have special menus up their sleeves for Mother’s Day.

At U Street’s haute soul-food spot, Creme, Chris Williams helps turn out a weekend brunch menu full of comforting fare, from fluffy stacks of pancakes to a creamy bowl of shrimp and grits. There’s lots to tempt you, but it’s hard to pass up the super-satisfying plate of chicken and waffles, dusted with powdered sugar.

At Vermilion in Old Town, Anthony Chittum made a brunch believer out of Washingtonian food and wine editor Todd Kliman with his eggs Benedict—served with spiced hollandaise on toasted brioche—and a refined version of scrapple made from ground pork shoulder and sausage.

Submit a question below!

Alexandria, VA
Can you speculate at all why people are so obsessed with brunch? It's nice, but...

Anthony: Nobody likes to cook on Sunday morning.  You go out the night before you just want to relax on Sunday. 

Barbara: There are so many variations on brunch--it can be very fancy or simple. I'm always about a meal that revolves around coffee.

Chris: It just seems to be the in thing to do with your friends.

 

Arlington, VA
I have a number of friends in town this Sunday, and am looking to do a late brunch -- 1:30ish -- with all of them. Where is the best place (in DC) to take them? Somewhere that'll take reservations and have a decent variety of fare, preferably. Danke'!

Anthony: I don't come into the city much, but I used to go to Leftbank. Most of the places I used to go to are all closed now.

Barbara: The Ritz-Carlton does a good job. Citronelle as well. They've got some good food.

Chris: Zaytinya does a good job. I'm usually working brunch, so I don't know of too many spots. 

Woodley Park
What's the secret of a great pancake? What's the best way to make them super fluffy? And do you ever make griddle cakes? I haven't found any good ones in Washington yet.

Chris: I like to use a generic brand, a nice quix mix and take the regular proportions and just cut it down a little bit. Cut the water a little bit and try to get more air in--the more air the fluffier it is.

Anthony: We do cornmeal griddle cakes.

Barbara: My favorite recipe is the old Joy of Cooking. it's the buttermilk pancake. Use cake flour that is sifted and when you add your ingredients, don't overwork it once it comes together.

Washington DC
Who has the best sausage in Washington? Too many places I go offer just the little shriveled up pencils that you could get right out of the freezer case.

Anthony: Washington is limited in terms of sausage. We make our breakfast sausage. If we get it we get it wholesale, but we try to make it.

Barbara: We get our sent from Edward Wallace Sausage. You can Google it and they will ship it to you.

Washington, DC
How much is brunch a part of the culture here in DC? I've been to NYC and it seems to be a must for Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Chris: I've been here for two years and it's huge. it just keeps growing more and more. I lived in Europe for four years and I never saw brunch like it's done here.

Barbara: I think it's a huge part of people's Sunday routine--some want to socialize and others just want to read their papers

Washington, DC
Got a good french toast recipe? Mine always ends up too soggy or dry.

Anthony: To me it's about the bread and how long you soak it for. i like it more custardy.

Barbara: During the holidays, it's really nice to take panettone and use them. You don't even need syrup.

Chris: Texas toast. Given the thickness of the bread - the thicker the bread, the more time you soak. 

 

DC
Name the best brunches in town, besides yours!

Chris: Zaytinya does a good job. B.Smith does a great job. They have a buffet and you can order a la carte.

Anthony: I like Tallula in Arlington. It's a sister restaurant but they do a good Job. In the city, Leftbank does a good job, too.

Barbara: Kinkead's has a good brunch. For a more casual vibe, I also like Teaism.

Alexandria, VA
I'm making 4 people brunch on Sunday. They're a pretty traditional group, but I'd like to jazz it up a bit. Any good recipes?

Anthony: Jazzed up, huh? If I cook at home I like to make smoked salmon and everything bagels.

Chris: English muffins with a regular Benedict, but maybe with spicy sausage, spicy pepperoni, shrimp, poached eggs and hollandaise.

Barbara: We absolutely have ton of them! I would just say table presentation. Poached eggs, any classic, whatever is in season. Mimosas and Bellinis make it a little bit more fun. You can also get some fruit purees and make some boutique Mimosas. Oatmeal brulee! Have you ever made it? So good. Take your oatmeal, top it with brown sugar, then brulee it in a traditional way. You don't want to burn the sugar. Then it cracks when you go to eat it. You  could do it under a broiler, I guess, at home, if you don't have a torch.

WDC
Clue us in on the best bloody mary(s) in town.

Anthony: I like any place where it's spicy and it's got good acidity. I like Old Bay around the rim. I go to Tallula's on Sunday, they have great Bloody Marys.

Chris: A good bloody Mary should be like a meal. Maybe the Saloon on U Street. I'm from Texas. I have to point down to Texas for a good Bloody Mary.

Barbara: Our places of course! Restaurant Eve makes great drinks. 

Drinker DC
What's your favorite brunch drink other than the staples of mimosas and bloody marys? I'd love to find something new to serve.

Anthony: Coffee. I can drink Stella anytime.

Chris: That's not a bad idea. Stella with a little bit of Peach Schnapps is tasty and does not feel like a beer.

Barbara :Mojitos, but it depends on the time. Maybe at 1 PM. You can put some sparkling soda to ease it up.

bethesda
What do you think is the best brand of bacon you can buy (From a supermarket, farmer's market, online purveyor...). What brand/kind do you use at your restaurants? How do you prepare it?

Anthony: Premade, I really like Niman Ranch. You can but it online. We make our own bacon, pancetta and guanciale. At the restaurant we do so much we cook it on a rack, with a tray under it. Try their applewood smoked bacon.

Barbara: I think we all agree about Niman Ranch. As far as cooking it, you want to do it thoroughly.

Chris: Niman Ranch, for sure.

 

Washington, DC
I've tried a lot of different brunch places in DC (not your fabulous restaurants yet but they are also on my list!) and haven't been able to find 'true' scrambled eggs and cheese omelets, like mom makes. I just don't think DC knows how to properly scramble eggs! Where can I go to find those and how come it's so difficult to scramble an egg properly? Thanks!

Barbara: People are very particular about their eggs as they are about their coffee, in terms of the degree of doneness to texture. It's also about technique. I think Citronelle does a nice job.

Anthony: It's a little easier to make a scrambled egg at home than it is at a restaurant. it's a balancing act to make the egg and brink them out at just the right time.

Chris: It also has to do with how specific you are when ordering. Make sure you are ordering exactly what you want, and we should be able to accomodate. 

Silver Spring Md
help! I want to do a brunch that's easy and can be taken out of an oven or whipped up fast. Any recipes for an oven french toast and a one-pan egg combo dish? thanks

Anthony: Do a frittata. I don't know an exact recipe. I like potatoes and onion and bacon. Dice potatoes and caramelize the bacon in a cast iron pan, add the potatoes and caramelize those and the onion and then add your eggs topped with a little cheese and bacon in the oven.

Barbara: I would do quiche. And if you want to make it more unique you can do individual ones.

Chris: They both got me. I was thinking the same thing. 

Washington, DC
Do you happen to know how brunch originated?

Barbara:Come on, can't you just Google that, so we don't look like a bunch of dummies?! it's an interesting question. I know that Mother's Day was started about 100 years ago, so it might have something to do with that.

Anthony: Yeah, I think you should Google it. 

 

Alexandria, VA
I've read Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential and know that there are some menu items that are recycled come Sunday brunch. Are there any brunch items that you would definitely stay away from if you didn't know the chef?

Barbara: We don't recycle butter and things like that. But I would be very aware of where I go. You should go to restaurants where you are aware of who's running them as a rule. Generally, the busier restaurants will have a higher quality of food. I think the dining public in DC is very educated and there's so much information out there, so you can find out the best places and get the word on what's good.

Anthony: 99 percent of restaurants can not get seafood deliveries on Sundays. But one day of seafood in a fridge...it's not going to be that big of a problem. The level of seafood that most restaurants you want to go to receive, it's pretty good, it won't be a problem. And I've never worked in a restaurant that recycled bread from the table or the butter or anything. I think Anthony Bourdain grew up in a generation where it was a little more common, then. Our breakfast muffins go to the shelter down the street. I'd agree with his comments on mussels, though. I'd not eat mussels in a restaurant where you don't eat the chef. I've seen how those sit.

Chris: The busier the restaurant, the higher the turnover of the products will be, and the fresher they'll be. So that's a good indicator. 

 

DC
When buying maple syrup, does Grade A or B matter? Is there a brand that you like?

Anthony: We get ours from an Amish Coop in Pennsylvania. I like the darker syrup. The darker the better.

Barbara: We flavor our syrup. We do a reduction of orange juice and zest.

Chris: I use Aunt Jemima. I grew up with Aunt Jemima. That's my brand. Use it at home, use it at the restaurant.

Falls Church, VA
Good morning all. I recently was presented with a challenge to find a hearty weekend brunch spot in Falls Church but had some difficulty locating anything past the Original Pancake House or the Silver Diner. Are you aware of any good places in the Falls Church area?

Anthony: Try Tallula in Arlington, it's great. Is that close to Falls Church? I'm new to Virginia. Old Town's not far, right? So just come to Vermilion.

Barbara: What about 2941? I don't know if they do brunch, though. That's almost Tyson's though. 

Chris: I have never been to Falls Church.
 

Rosslyn. VA
What's your favorite up-and-coming trend in brunch these days?
Anthony: Making your own charcuterie, I think. I mean, we make our own scrapple. We did a Benedict with grilled terrine, poached egg, I think, yeah, making your own sausages and things like that.

Barbara: I like reinventing traditional recipes. Twists on Benedicts, also like the croque monsieur and madame.

Chris: My experience is pretty much limited to DC with brunch, but I like how people here are succinct about it and just come on in and come on out and get some nice food and go on with their day.
This isn't exactly brunch related, but I'm hoping you can help. My mom is a really passionate cook, and for mother's day this year, I'd like to get her a really cool new ingredient or cook's tool. Not something pretentious like truffle oil, but something really good quality that she'd actually use. Is there a great olive oil or vinegar or salt or sugar or something quirky (but actually usable) that you would recommend? Or maybe a great cheese or jam? Any suggestions would be much, much appreciated? Thank you!!
Anthony: Immersion blender. Or an electric griddle if you want to make pancakes and French toast at home and are serious about that.

Barbara
: I like to do theme gifts..because I'm a girl. I would say, any of the products Le Creuset makes - they are excellent. Expensive, but you have it forever.

Chris: A nice cast-iron skillet. You can do everything with it.
cvh
What's the most original dish you've ever put on your menu for brunch (doesn't matter if it sold well or not)? I get bored with restaurants that offer boring old Benedicts, omelettes, pancakes and the like and am always looking for creativity.
Barbara: Well, to me, brunch is about being classic. It's like that Sunday dinner, something that makes you feel homey, it's comforting. But we do a poached-egg Pontchartrain. House-made tasso, crab meat, corn, like 800 ingredients, it's crazy good. English muffin and ham and egg, and the sauce is light and fluffy with a little bit of bourbon in it.

Anthony
: I think we tend it to keep it pretty traditional when it comes to brunch. Just try to take traditional dishes and make as much of the dish in-house as possible and change it with the season. We change five to six thing a week, usually, and the whole menu every three weeks or so.

Chris: Either our shrimp and grits, served with Andouille sausage, creamy grits, jumbo sausage, and a nice clam- sherry sauce. Or the crab cake, a spring-rolled crab cake.
Dupont, DC
Hi chefs! Do you tend to lean towards breakfasty or lunchy entrees at brunch? Your menus seem to have a good mix - I go for the sweet stuff like french toast or pancakes, but my boyfriend loves something like shrimp n grits for brunch.

Anthony: If I go to brunch, I eat for the whole day, basically. So I'll have some of each! We tend to stay for a while so it's all of it. If you're ready for dessert, though, french toast is always good for dessert instead of actual dessert.

Barbara: I would just say I think it depends on my mood but in general that's why brunch is so approachable because you have both sweet and savory. 

Washington DC
What are your favorite breakfast and brunch inspiration-spurring cookbooks?
Anthony: Pork and Sons and the Complete Pork Cookbook. It's a cookbook with a brown cover and a sketch of a pig on the front. It's not fancy...simple sausages, etc.

Barbara
: The All-American Breakfast. Or Baking With Julia. Great muffin recipe, I think it is. Brioche, all that stuff.

Chris: My great-grand-mother's cookbook. Lucille's Fine Foods. Homemade rolls, biscuits, pies. Some things may be a little out of date, but it's an excellent book. 
DC
I'm going up to NYC in a couple of weekends. Any must-try brunch recommendations for up there?
Barbara: The last brunch I had in NYC was Union Pacific. And if Eleven Madison Park does brunch, you should go there. Try Once Upon a Tart if you want just baked goods. Bouley Bakery, also! It is so good. I forgot about that.

Anthony
: I'd say, just walk down the street, any bagel place...I tell you the best bagel I've had in this area is a bagel we get frozen from this company. Soft Stuff. It's a wholesale, though. You just defrost them and they're awesome. Also try Silver Spring, Parkway Deli. Great bagels, and a really good brunch. Forgot about that place. Sorry, got off the NYC topic a bit but wanted to mention them. Scrambled eggs with red onion, latkes, serve applesauce and coleslaw with it, and matzo ball soup...that place is not healthy.
DC
I need to be able to make reservations for a large group of about 12 for brunch - somewhere preferably not too loud, as my hard-of-hearing grandparents will be there. Any ideas?

Barbara
: Try Blue Duck Tavern, the Jefferson Hotel, the Hay Adams.

Anthony: Try Left Bank, they have that back room.

Chris: B Smith's.

That's all the time the brunch chefs have for us today. Thanks for all the questions! To read all of Washingtonian.com's online chats, head here.

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