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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.