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Edible South Florida Spring 2013 : Page26

U uncommon [] brunch BRUNCH. IT’S THE JOY OF WEEKEND FOOD WARRIORS , the salvation of gluttons, the refuge of the hungover along with their close relatives, the daytime drinkers … and typically the bane of adventurous eaters everywhere. Why? Because no matter the restaurant, high end or low, traditional or modern, brunch always seems to be the same thing – an endless procession of omelet stations, tepid waffles, limp bacon, soggy steam-table home fries and watered-down mimosas. But it doesn’t have to be that way. And at several South Florida restaurants, it’s not. Lately, many local places have started serving brunches that actually reflect the personality of the restaurant instead of the typical Buffet of Boredom. Here are several spots where you can find the “Uncommon Brunch.” [] Story by David Rosendorf Principal Photography by Robert Parente +/ ∙ spring 2013 ∙ edible SouthFlorida.com

The Uncommon Brunch

BRUNCH. IT'S THE JOY OF WEEKEND FOOD WARRIORS, the salvation of gluttons, the refuge of the hungover along with their close relatives, the daytime drinkers . . . and typically the bane of adventurous eaters everywhere. Why? Because no matter the restaurant, high end or low, traditional or modern, brunch always seems to be the same thing – an endless procession of omelet stations, tepid waffles, limp bacon, soggy steam-table home fries and watered-down mimosas.

But it doesn't have to be that way. And at several South Florida restaurants, it's not. Lately, many local places have started serving brunches that actually reflect the personality of the restaurant instead of the typical Buffet of Boredom. Here are several spots where you can find the "Uncommon Brunch."

Wakin' & Bacon Brunch at Eating House

"This is a very complicated case. You know, a lotta ins, a lotta outs, a lotta what-have-yous. And, uh, a lotta strands to keep in my head, man. Lotta strands in old Duder's head." – The Dude (The Big Lebowski)

Eating House started as a temporary pop-up in a sleepy Coral Gables café. It was so successful that chef Giorgio Rapicavoli took over the lease and now has the space all to himself. The conversion from pop-up impresario to full-time restaurateur hasn't slowed things down: On a recent Sunday, the queue for their brunch was longer than the line for the marionberry pancakes at the Fisherman's Porch. This may be the most unusual brunch menu in town: the mimosas are made with Tang, and the pancakes get topped with candied Cap'n Crunch cereal and doused in condensed milk "syrup" and vanilla butter.

But it's not all just childhood nostalgia at Eating House. The classic combination of guava and cream cheese found in pastelitos all over town is reinvented here as Cuban bread "torrejas," the fluffy custard-soaked bread topped with whipped cream cheese, a drizzle of guava and Ironbeer syrup, and a sprinkling of Maria Cookie sugar. Eggs Benedict gets remixed in a mashup with pasta carbonara, the soft-cooked eggs buried in a shower of bacon, parmesan and truffle.

Elegant rings of local beets, festooned with a colorful and flavorful assortment of herbs and flowers "from our garden," show that Rapicavoli knows Slow Food as well as fast food. Plus, some of the most popular items from the initial Eating House pop-up incarnation – colorful heirloom tomatoes with Thai flavors and frozen coconut "ice," fried chicken and "foie-ffles" with hot ranch sauce and smoked maple syrup – also show up on the brunch menu.

There's a lot of strands in Giorgio's head, man. Lotta strands.

Thai Brunch at Khong River House

"Fish sauce wings and harsh Mekong whiskey. You could get used to that."

– Jonathan Gold

When John Kunkel (Yardbird, Lime Fresh and the newly opened Swine) decided to open a Thai restaurant with chef Piyarat Arreeratn (aka "Chef Bee"), he didn't stick with the same tired list of curries that so many local places offer. Instead, Khong River House draws inspiration from the cuisine of Chef Bee's Northern Thailand homeland and its neighbors along the Mekong River. You won't see "Volcano Chicken," but you can get house-made Chiang Rai sausage, served with a spicy "nam prik num" chile paste dip; there's no Pad Thai, but there is Bahmi Sua, a Burmese-style egg noodle dish with local vegetables.

The brunch menu at Khong is equally exotic. Instead of oatmeal, there's Hang Laey Joke, the hearty rice porridge found in various forms throughout Asia ("joke" or "chok" in Thailand, "jook" or "congee" in China, "okayu" in Japan), made even heartier with the addition of simmered pork belly. Yes, you can get an omelet, but wouldn't you rather try the Hoi Tod, a Thai-style crepe wrapped around mussels, eggs, bean sprouts and cilantro?

These bright Thai flavors will wake you up as effectively as a good cup of coffee. The Yam Khai Dao, a salad of crispy wok-fried egg and thin-sliced vegetables, flavored with kaffir lime leaf, lemongrass, fresh chiles and fish sauce, is bursting with sweet, sour, salt, spice and funk all at once. If that's too much culinary stimulation too early in the day, try instead the "Thai French Toast," tugged gently in a Thai direction with crystallized ginger, a scatter of toasted peanuts and spiceinfused "Mekong syrup." Or the "G.I. Breakfast" may be a good choice: a couple of sunny-side-up Lake Meadows Farm eggs nestled over a potato and taro root hash, along with sweet Chinese lap cheong sausage and steamed minced pork.

Sticking with the theme, you can wash it all down with a "Very Thai Bloody Mary," spiked with sriracha, lime and Thai oyster sauce, or instead try Ernest Hemingway's supposed hangover cure, the absinthe-laced champagne cocktail dubbed "Death in the Afternoon."

Blue Collar Brunch at Blue Collar

"The meal is not over when I'm full. The meal is over when I hate myself." – Louis C.K.

Daniel Serfer, the chef and owner of Blue Collar, doesn't want you to leave hungry. And trust me, you won't. Before opening Blue Collar, Serfer put in his time at the now-closed high-end institution Chef Allen's; but when he opened up his own place, he aimed for something more modest. Blue Collar is, like the name suggests, a humble, neighborhood place for straightforward, robust food: an old-fashioned diner for the 21st century. Every weekend, you'll find lines out the door of this compact little space tucked into a motel in Miami's MiMo District along Biscayne Boulevard.

Serfer's goofball humor (he has an encyclopedic command of every 1980s-era comedy movie) shows up in a brunch menu divided into "Eggy Things," "Syrupy Stuff," "Sandwichy Stuff," "Salady Stuff," and "Othery Stuff." And his eagerness to feed and satisfy his customers shows in just about every item on that menu.

Among the best of them are his "Pork and Beans," a hearty stew of pork sausage, bacon and beans, topped with a fried egg and served with crusty toasted country bread. Maybe even better is the "Duck McMuffin," a decadent combination of cured duck "bacon," sunny side up duck eggs, rich duck jus, silky lemon aioli and a sprinkling of smoked gouda cheese, all mounted on top of a toasted Portuguese muffin, a soft but sturdy bread that's like the love child of an English muffin and brioche.

Speaking of brioche, Blue Collar's french toast looks like it was made from an entire loaf of the stuff, which gets smothered in a rich, sweet "bananas foster" sauce. And if you can't choose, then don't. Just get the "Brandon's Breakfast" (named for a fellow Chef Allen alumnus and apparently a very good eater), which includes just about everything on the menu – eggs, french toast, pancakes, bacon, sausage, hash, toast and fresh fruit.

Come hungry. Leave happy. Don't hate yourself.

Steakhouse Brunch at PB Steak

"My favorite animal is steak." – Fran Lebowitz

Pubbelly, South Beach's pork-centric gastropub with a menu equally inspired by Spanish tapas and Japanese izakayas, and a dining room full of rough plywood and loud music, was an instant hit from the moment it opened a couple years ago. Since then, chef/partners Jose Mendin and Sergio Navarro and managing partner Andreas Schreiner have worked the same magic with a sushi bar (Pubbelly Sushi), tapas bar (Barceloneta), Italian restaurant (Macchialina), and most recently, steakhouse (PB Steak). I've joked that if they open a burger joint, they'll win Miami Restaurant Bingo.

Though the sushi, small plates, Italian and steakhouse genres are more than adequately represented in South Florida already, what makes these places work is the unique contemporary spins the Pubbelly Boys put on them. At PB Steak, that means high-quality 1855 Black Angus steaks share space on the menu with yellowtail ceviche tacos and Buffalo-style sweetbreads. It also means that PB Steak is one of the few steakhouses I can think of that offers a Sunday brunch.

Yes, there is steak and eggs. And not just any steak: a choice of several, ranging from a 10-ounce butcher steak to a 20-ounce Wagyu cowboy steak from Jackman Ranch in upstate Florida. But there is also an intriguing selection of other items. The over-the-top bacon "confit" – fat slabs of house-cured pork belly rendered in its own fat – gets paired up with poached eggs, home fries and a rich bourbon jus studded with wild mushrooms. There's also a dish of softscrambled eggs garnished with smoked salmon, caviar and crème fraîche that's all silky sophistication.

Satisfy your sweet tooth with dulce de leche-filled brioche donut holes, or you can be reasonably healthy and get the house-made granola with Greek yogurt, dried fruits and orange marmalade. Then, you can feel less compunction over ordering the fried sweetbreads and waffles your next visit.

PB Steak
1787 Purdy Avenue, Miami Beach
305-695-9550
pbsteak.com
Brunch served Sunday noon – 4pm

Pizza Brunch at Harry's Pizzeria

"You better cut the pizza in four slices, I don't think I can eat eight." – Yogi Berra

As is often the case with South Florida dining, much credit for the brunch revolution is due to chef Michael Schwartz. His Design District flagship, Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, has found great success with its "small plates + local ingredients" formula. When he started serving brunch at MGF&D, he revitalized the genre by applying the same formula, eschewing the typical overloaded fixed-price buffet. More recently he's done it again on a smaller scale at the more casual Harry's Pizzeria around the block.

Brunch at Harry's is a modest but tasty affair, highlighted by – yes – pizza. Sure, we've all probably had pizza for breakfast before: last night's leftovers, eaten cold while standing in front of the open refrigerator door. That's not what they're serving at Harry's. This is pizza fresh out of the wood-burning oven, topped with an always-changing combination of ingredients – maybe duck confit, gruyere cheese and gremolata, or bacon, potatoes, manchego cheese and scallions – that will also invariably include a rich, runny Lake Meadows Farm egg.

If pizza for breakfast isn't your thing, we'll probably never be friends, but you can still eat well at Harry's. Have a nice frittata made with local vegetables, or a Mexican-inspired casserole of pulled short rib, egg, rice, black beans, cilantro and scallions, served in a cast iron skillet. Crostini topped with creamy egg salad and shards of crispy bacon are a "small plate" repackaging of a traditional breakfast combination. Whipped house-made ricotta cheese, drizzled with honey and dotted with spiced cashews, goes great with plump grapes quickly roasted in the wood-burning oven. And for those who prefer sweet to savory in the morning, pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith has contributed anise-spiced sticky buns, topped with fresh cheese and a brown-sugar glaze.

Harry's gets its coffee from local roaster Panther Coffee, which can be had in all the customary forms, as well as in an excellent house-made espresso soda – it goes especially well with those breakfast pizzas, no matter how you slice them.

Read the full article at http://onlinedigeditions.com/article/The+Uncommon+Brunch/1374478/154827/article.html.

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