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All You Can Eat

Trend-setting restaurants, Northwest cookbooks, local food news and the people who make them happen.

April 1, 2010 at 8:11 PM

Hail Bloody Mary: weekend brunch, a global perspective

Going out for Easter brunch on Sunday? Here’s hoping you’ve made reservations. If not, try this list for openings. I’m staying home, having already done my share of brunching in anticipation of my April restaurant roundup, in which I put a global spin on that year-round lazy day-repast: weekend brunch.

And no, I’m not talking about the fill-up-at-a-groaning-buffet places (like the ones we discussed here in January), or the open-daily-for-breakfast joints like The Original Pancake House (which I adore, now with three locations around the Sound). Instead, I was determined to put a finer point on the usual brunch-time Benedict-ion by taking a wider egg-centric world view.

That itinerary took me on a tasting tour of Mexico, Italy, France and Vietnam. It also had me paying homage to the Bloody Mary, as well as the notion that when all’s said and done, there’s no place like home — so long as that home is the beautiful evergreen Northwest. Here’s my tour, in pictures:

Eat globally, brunch locally.

‘Tis the season — for eggs — and you can rest assured that while out on the brunch beat, I ate a lot of them. At La Casa Azul, up north near the border where Seattle meets Shoreline, I was hot for picaditas con huevos — housemade Oaxacan-style tortillas with eggs my way. My Bloody Mary needed a dash of something. Fortunately, that something was close at hand.

At La Casa Azul, I helped myself to a hit of Cholula Hot Sauce. “Mary, say `hola’ to Maria.”

It had been too long since I’d been to Volterra, in Ballard, where my brunch money’s on the “Milano! Milano!” — a hefty hunk of herbed bread-pudding topped with fresh uova (my call: over easy), spring asparagus and a slice of ham (a $3 add-on). As if that wasn’t rich enough, the whole of it wore a generous amount of smoked Gouda cream sauce. Good thing I had something “healthy” to wash it down with.

Herbs in the bread pudding, herbs on the uova, herbs in the Bloody Mary. Fortunately, I got to walk it off after brunch — where I bought some fresh herbs down the street at the Ballard Sunday Farmers Market.

It’s tough trying to figure out where to eat weekend brunch at Pike Place Market, since the opportunities are endless, beginning — but hardly ending with — Steelhead Diner, Etta’s and (on Sundays only) Maximillien. Brunch has been an on again-off again affair at Matt’s in the Market, where rumor has it, it will be on again in time for Mother’s Day. That doesn’t keep my favorite bartender, Robbie McGrath, from making his justly famous Bloody Marys at lunch — served with a snit, as advertised.

If you’ve got to ask “What’s a snit?” you’re probably not from Minnesota, like Robbie, who will gladly pour you one. (Pssst: it’s a complimentary shorty of cheap beer, served alongside your Mary. Robbie’s partial to Miller High Life, the “Champagne of Beers!”)

And who can resist brunch at Cafe Campagne? Not my friend Lucy, a regular who swears by the poached oeufs en meurette and its bacon- and foie gras-infused sauce. That sauce is a delectable dip for the accompanying pommes frites. If you don’t do foie, ask for a side of aioli for your fries, which also come alongside the lamb burger — another brunch-menu staple.

Those oeufs en meurette, with pommes frites served in a basket, are hiding behind the lamb burger. Service at Cafe Campagne (whose sister-restaurant, Campagne serves brunch twice yearly — Easter and Mother’s Day) is as charming as the setting.

If you think pho is the No. 1 answer to a filling Vietnamese-accented morning repast, you’re right! Especially if you’re eating at Monsoon, now with bruncheries on both sides of Lake Washington: on Capitol Hill and in Bellevue. That filling noodle soup is made with Wagyu beef (ditto for the steak and eggs). I’ve had both, and have this to say about that: Order up! But save room for dessert!

Monsoon’s pho, built with oxtail and Wagyu beef, is served on both sides of the lake. These five-spiced beignets blew me away in Bellevue.

That’s a delicious disk of pressed duck under that panko-fried poached egg at Monsoon East (some trick, huh?), and ground la lot rimming the Bloody Mary I sipped there (it’s beer and wine only on Capitol Hill).

In the “There’s no place like home”-department, there are few places I’d rather do brunch-with-a-Northwest-nod than at Tilth, in Wallingford, where organics and sustainability are the name of the game and local sourcing is a house imperative.

An organic apple a day (cooked sous-vide, as “salad”), and caramelized with pork sausage and apple gastrique — over a Dutch Baby, at Tilth.

At Tilth, it’s little bit country (cheddar biscuits and smoked pulled-chicken gravy with eggs), and a little bit rock and roll (yee-ha! that’s some hit ‘o horseradish in the Mary).

So, did I skip your favorite brunch spot — the one that makes you say, “It’s a wonderful world, indeed!”? Tell me where you go and what you like to eat there. And if you’re inclined to say, “Wait a minute! What about dim sum?” you must have missed my December dim sum roundup.

Dim sum — my favorite brunch-date — at Imperial Garden Seafood Restaurant in Kent.

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