Freemans

There is a type of magic to hidden nooks and crannies, when an unassuming entrance-way leads to a beautiful little corner that you would’ve otherwise missed. It reminds me of Narnia. Freemans capitalizes on that inner child in people, where we’d all like to discover secret treasure. You walk down a sketchy alleyway, and at the end you’ll find an adorable, charming restaurant complete with fairy lights and turquoise doors. Although, it really is an illusion of stumbling up hidden treasure because let’s be real here: we all came because we already saw on instagram, facebook, or the blogosphere exactly what Freemans looks like. Ah well, it’s a nice illusion to hold on to regardless.

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We came on the earlier side of brunch, and there was no wait at all. The inside goes for a rustic, farmhouse look, complete with beaten-up tables, rickety stairs, and lots of taxidermy. The stuffed bird next to our table definitely freaked me out.

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The hot artichoke dip is a must-order. If you get nothing else, get the artichoke dip. It comes out hot and gooey, perfect to slather on some toasted bread.

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We shared a savory and a sweet dish. The skillet eggs sit on a bed of spinach, topped with cheddar grits and bacon. A decent dish owed mainly to the grits and bacon.

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I was far less impressed with the lemon buttermilk pancakes. They were standard pancakes, not particularly fluffy or soft. For my favorite pancakes, head over to Friend of a Farmer in Gramercy. Those pancakes are somehow crispy on the edges and soft in the middle and have big, fat blueberries in the batter. The different textures between the outside and inside of the pancake make it sing. These Freemans pancakes fell flat though, so stick to the artichoke dip and the savory dishes here.

Freemans Restaurant
191 Chrystie Street #2F btw Delancey & Rivington, New York, NY 10002

The Dutch

I came for the brunch, and unexpectedly I fell in love with the ambiance: old school booths, large windows, and I’m ashamed to admit, a young, attractive, see-and-be-seen kind of crowd. The Dutch is the kind of place where you’ll run into both celebrities and hipsters, all seeking that trendy, casual watering hole. Awkwardly, on this particular morning, I think I may have also witnessed a co-worker on a date (I promptly averted my eyes and walked by pretending like I didn’t see anything because I am…just…so smooth).

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I loved that we got the corner table here. Sometimes, when sitting across the table from people when dining out, the table feels so enormously big, and I am always straining to hear the conversation. I like corner tables. Restaurants should make more of them.

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Biscuits are my downfall, so of course, I had to try the honey butter biscuits. Glazed with a thin swish of honey, these biscuits were flaky and delightful.

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Barrio tripe is one of the more exotic dishes on the menu with tripe, beans, avocado, pico de gallo, sunny side up eggs, and a handful of Fritos.The first bite was bursting with flavor with a touch of heat. I do have to say though that it got to be too much to finish the entire entree. Too much of one taste.

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Cheddar biscuits with poached eggs, ham, and tomatoes, which I tried a bite of, and it was really good, better than my barrio tripe. Maybe I should’ve ordered the fried chicken that everyone talks about. I’ll save that for next time.

The Dutch
131 Sullivan St (btw Prince and Houston) New York, NY 10012

The Marrow

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 2014 annual letter came out in January, and I’ve had it in my to-read folder for a long time. In this letter, Bill and Melinda Gates address 3 common myths about global poverty and aid:

1. Poor countries are doomed to stay poor.
2. Foreign aid is a big waste.
3. Saving lives leads to overpopulation.

I think this is a very well-written and inspirational document that should be circulated to as many people as possible. I know through my small experiences in fundraising for charities and volunteering, that working towards a charitable goal can be frustrating. The question in the back of my mind has always been “Am I actually making a difference?” What I love about this letter is that it is both incriminating in pointing out our shortsightedness and yet encouraging in showing us the life-giving impact that global aid can and does make. Give it a read and send it to all your friends.

Now onto the food part!

The Marrow brings us German and Italian food, representing the two sides of Chef and Owner Harold Dieterle’s heritage. For a restaurant in this price range, they serve a really affordable brunch. If you are not down for spending $40+ on a dinner, brunch is the perfect meal to come and try the food.

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Brioche pain perdu is basically french toast, and it is paired with duck liver mousse, plum compote, and vermont maple syrup. Duck liver mousse and french toast?! Surprisingly, it works! The combination was interesting and yummy. I would say though that the duck liver still had a bit of iron taste to it, which I would prefer it not to have at all. Also, this is a very sweet plate, so for someone like me, it was too much sugar to finish.

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My friend’s choice was steamed eggs with cauliflower creamed kale, gravlax, and grilled bread, and she really liked this dish. The portion size is just the right amount so you don’t feel unbearably full afterwards.

At the end of the meal, they bring out a little dish of homemade cookies, which is a lovely touch evoking all kinds of warm and fuzzies. I wish all restaurants did this.

The Marrow
99 Bank St (btw Hudson St & Greenwich St) New York, NY 10014

Chicago/Evanston: Beatrix

I love light. In my future home, I want big windows and flowy floor to ceiling curtains that will keep the rooms bright and airy. Combine that with clean, neutral colors, and that would be my perfect space.

I have the same preferences in restaurant ambiance, where the dining room is flooded with breezy sunlight on a weekend morning. That’s what I really enjoyed at Beatrix. The space is beautiful and sleek without losing out on coziness and comfort. I loved that we were sitting on couches at our table. This place just screams ladies brunch.

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And just as I suspected, Beatrix is filled with ladies who brunch.

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It’s interesting what type of people you become friends with. You’d think that similar people tend to hang out together, but beyond some very on-the-surface similarities, each of my friends possesses a completely different personality. You can tell just from our beverage choices. For those who know us, can you tell who is who? On the left is a glass of ginger snap juice made of carrots, apples, and ginger. Then we have a glass of sangria. Lastly, a pot of green tea.

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We shared a starter of potato salad deviled eggs, which were puny but delicious with the capers and celery.

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I chose quinoa cakes with poached eggs, sitting in tomato-basil sauce. It’s like a different take on eggs benedict, and I really enjoyed it. The sauce was tangy and excellent as were the quinoa cakes. The components all worked well together. Once again, I wish the portion sizes weren’t so delicate.

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Sadly, we can’t say the same for this spicy chicken tinga. Chicken, avocado, and chili topped with sunny-side up eggs and corn tortillas were a good portion size but not that tasty. I tried some and was disappointed. The name made the dish sound super hearty, but the flavors were flat and one-dimensional.

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Finally, we have eggs, hash browns, bacon, and toast. It was an unremarkable plate of the usual breakfast staples. Got the job done, but nothing to write home about.

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On my way out, I was lured over to the coffee/pastry bar and grabbed a chocolate chip cookie for the road. I can’t ever resist, especially when the bar is so cute.

Beatrix
519 N Clark St. Chicago, IL 60654

Bareburger

One of my New Year resolutions is to blog consistently over this next year. Writing and blogging has been really rewarding. This started out as a way for myself to better remember meals with family and friends. From there, it’s turned into more of a creative outlet, and I love seeing the comments and feedback.

However, I still find blogging incredibly hard. It’s hard to be consistent. Each post takes time to put together, and sometimes when I’m tired after work, I just want to watch mindless TV. Consistency is the tripping stone to most self-improvement aspirations whether it’s going to the gym more or reading more books. This blog will be my personal consistency challenge this year.

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Bison burgers from Bareburger and lots of fries. Ohhh I love french fries!

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Since it was brunch time, I had the crab cake sandwich with sunny side up eggs, bacon, and fried goat cheese. The sweet potato fries were really good too.

Happy lazy Sunday all!

Bareburger
514 3rd Ave (btw 35th & 34th) New York, NY 10016

Resto

It’s brunch time! I didn’t realize that Resto was so close to me until I was searching around for a brunch spot that didn’t require me to leave the neighborhood. I’ve heard great things about Resto’s food, so I was really disappointed that brunch turned out to be a so-so affair. Maybe they fare better at traditional dinner entrees rather than brunch dishes?

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The steak frites is much more frites than steak, which makes the whole plate look very sad. The steak is topped with a salsa verde and chili and was nicely cooked.

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Eggs benedict is a run-of-the-mill brunch item, with country ham, grilled filone, and home fries. I love eggs benedict, but what really bothers me is when the eggs aren’t poached. If the yolk isn’t runny, it’s not poached properly. Plus this dish was bland and needed salt, so I was not that enthusiastic about this whole meal.

Resto
111 E 29th St (btw Park & Lex) New York, NY 10016

The General

My friend Julia was recently telling me about how she doesn’t like Asian Fusion restaurants – she thinks they try too hard to be more sophisticated than straight-up ethnic food. While they may amp up the aesthetics of the dishes and the restaurant environment, they will often fall short on bringing that soul-satisfying flavor and punch of Asian food. I can definitely see where she is coming from. It’s hard to get Asian Fusion right. What exactly are you fusing? And what did you have to cut out to create this fusion?

Our meal at The General is a great example. The General started serving brunch not long ago, so we trotted on over to see what Chef Hung (of Top Chef!) has to offer.

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First up is the Chicken & Waffles – highly recommended to us by our waiter. Crispy fried chicken sits on a layer of bacon and a waffle circle, served with truffle honey on the side. I loved the crispy parts of the chicken, but the inside of the chicken wasn’t as juicy or flavorful. The bacon also felt out of place – adding bacon to everything doesn’t always make it better.

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The crab and asparagus benedict also fell flat. At first, I thought using quail eggs in an eggs benedict variation was such a cute concept, until I realized what teeny tiny portions that would mean. You can swallow this in one bite. Plus, my favorite part of any eggs benedict is when the egg yolk oozes out and covers everything in eggy goodness. Quail eggs are so small that you can’t get that effect.

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Thankfully, one dish left us wanting more. The duck hash and egg was unanimously everyone’s favorite. Hash browns with peking duck, plum sauce, chili peppers, and a poached egg. It’s a really creative combination and worked so well. This is Asian Fusion done right. If only the whole meal was also so…

What are your thoughts on Asian Fusion? A fan or a skeptic?

The General
199 Bowery (btw Spring & Rivington) New York, NY 10002