Wait for brunch


When I first moved to Manhattan I made a point of having dinner at Prune, a French-style cafe in the East Viilage. My meal, striped bass and clams in saffron broth with collard greens was light yet hearty, with a richness that spoke of that blessed condiment we all know well: butter. I could imagine having it in someone's home, it was an unpretentious but delicious plate. Eating there back in July 2012, I had no idea where I was located in the city. You could have told me I was in New Jersey for all I knew of the streets I was walking. Ask me north and I would have pointed south. Dinner was excellent, probably in part because the restaurant was cozy and intimate, the lighting glowed and if you didn't know where you were (like me) you'd think you were in France.

Several months later a new friend lent me the memoir, Blood, Bones & Butter, by the chef of Prune, Gabrielle Hamilton. It was good, maybe just ok. The chapters about her childhood, of lying about her age to get her first waitress job and then finally, learning to cook, were wonderful. The chapters about her Italian husband (she's a lesbian), I could have done without. But, where am I going with this?

Brunch. In my book it's probably more all-American than baseball. My most favorite of meals, it was second only to a glass of wine at Tartine (a bakery in San Francisco) on a Friday. I had heard talk, whispers actually, of brunch at Prune. I had been told of long lines but deserved food. So a year later, well-versed on my norths and souths, I made a date to have brunch at Prune. The wait was long, but it was a sunny day and I had a book. My friend arrived, we gabbed outside on the sidewalk. I think we waited about an hour, and when finally we were ferried in by the extremely nice host, we were placed into a teeny two-top, close enough to our neighbors that we could easily fork a bite of their food.

I ordered simple, figuring it was the best way to test the kitchen: scrambled eggs, english muffin, bacon and sides of chickpeas and roasted tomatoes. My friend ordered a sour cream and rye omelet  with a side of their hearty brown bread and marmalade. My eggs were soft, a little wet, which is exactly what I want from eggs. The bread was crunchy and firm; it held up to my turning my plate into an open-faced sandwich. The roasted tomatoes had an intense flavor, charred but fresh. We ate, we chatted with our neighbors on both sides, I exclaimed at how many woman had ordered the steak and eggs (not normal, right?), and we had a fabulous time.

The brunch menu at Prune is dense, I say order as much as you can fit on your table. Try as much as you can muster. The cheap bill (no alcohol), a fifth the size of what I am used to for two people, came with two black licorice scottish doggies. A perfect last bite.