April 2, 2014 at 1:33 PM

April is the Month for Brunch

Brunch is a wonderful way to celebrate all that's good in life

By Lynn Cline

Gourmet Girl

Lynn Cline is a former food editor and the author of two books – Romantic Days and Nights in Santa Fe and Literary Pilgrims: The Santa Fe and Taos Writers' Colonies, 1915-1950. She also loves to cook, when not dining out.

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Cafe Pasqual's huevos barbacoa. (Photo: Yelp)

For me, April is the month of brunch. I don't know why, maybe because Easter typically falls in April and usually features a brunch. Or maybe because it's finally spring, and we're willing to drag ourselves outside and wander into the morning in search of things like Eggs Benedict, omelets, pancakes, waffles, and—here in New Mexico—the ultimate breakfast burrito.

Brunch is more than just breakfast. Brunch includes multiple courses both savory and sweet, and requires libations like Bloody Marys and mimosas. Brunch takes time, more time than it takes to eat a bowl of cereal or fry an egg. It begins with rich, steaming coffee and ends with the feeling of being stuffed, the way you feel after a Thanksgiving feast. A good brunch makes you happy and brings you together with family and friends.

When I serve brunch, it usually includes a hot artichoke dip with a baguette; a California Egg Puff (recipe below), baked with eggs, cheese and diced green chile; chocolate croissants made with a package of prepared dough and filled with dark chocolate squares (two per croissant); and rosemary roasted potatoes, hot out of the oven. Sometimes we'll make Bloody Marys, sometimes we'll make mimosas with the rim of the glass dipped in sugar; it all depends upon the season.

Brunch in Santa Fe covers the gamut, from greasy spoons slinging up eggs and hash to high end restaurants with carving stations for meat, chefs preparing omelets to order, seafood, cheese piled high, pastries galore and more. You can dine on on crepes filled with fruit and topped with fresh whipped cream; migas with scrambled eggs and tortilla strips; blue corn pancakes drenched in maple syrup; huevos rancheros; and the beloved breakfast burrito.

A few of my favorite brunch dishes served up in Santa Fe restaurants include the huevos motulenos at Cafe Fina, a rich and hearty brew of black beans, New Mexico feta, peas, sauteed bananas and red or green chile, topped with over easy organic eggs on a corn tortilla. I also love Cafe Pasqual's huevos barbacoa, slow-cooked shredded marinated beef with eggs, corn tortillas and chile d’arbol salsa.

I also love the Lemon Ricotta Waffles and homemade scrapple from Harry's Roadhouse, or the biscuits and creamy gravy at The Pantry. And the Menage a Trois, the  Chocolate Maven's combo of Egg's Benedict, Florentine and Madison, served with skillet potatoes. Oh, and I also love the blue corn piñon pancakes at The Plaza Cafe, Santa Fe's oldest restaurant. And don't forget the corned beef hash at the San Marcos Cafe & Feed Store and the Huevos el Salvadorenos at the  Tune Up Cafe, a satisfying dish of eggs with refried beans, scallions, tomatoes, fried bananas, crème and tortillas.

Did I mention the house waffles and crepes at Clafoutis? Or the savory chicken mushroom crepe at The French Pastry House? How about Tecolote's Carne y Huevos, a heaping serving of red-chile marinated lean pork with two eggs and potatoes? I know I've left out a few favorites...

The early residents of the region must have eaten very different foods to start their day, from blue cornbread and cakes to beans, squash and turkey eggs. Later, the Spanish colonists brought new foods here, including sheep for milk and cheese. Early pioneers survived on powdered biscuits and dried beef, strong coffee and grits. The railroad brought new ingredients like oysters, fresh fish and meats that were incorporated into brunches served at fancy hotels, including the popular Harvey House chains. Starting in 1926, Route 66 brought neon-lit diner serving up steak and eggs, corned beef hash, chicken fried steak and other classic, comfort food favorites. Today, restaurants along the old Mother Road, you can brunch on everything from dim sum and all-you-can-eat buffets to French crepes, Belgian waffles, Louisiana shrimp and grits, Pennsylvania scrapple, New York bagels and lox and other dishes from around the globe.

Brunch is a wonderful way to celebrate all that's good in life. Feasting on fresh, healthy foods, taking a break from the fast pace to spend time with people you cherish, sharing stories and re-connecting—brunch is a good thing.

I'd love to hear about your favorite brunch dishes in the comment box below. Here's a recipe for a dish that I always turn to when I'm looking for the best food to serve for brunch. It's from a bed & breakfast in Cape May, N.J., where I once spent a week exploring the beach and the restaurants and it never fails to please a crowd.

California Egg Puff (From “Breakfast at Nine, Tea at Four;” serves 8-10)
10 eggs
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 pound shredded Monterey Jack cheese
½ cup melted butter
1 cup diced green chile
1 pint cottage cheese

Beat eggs until light. Add remaining ingredients and stir until well blended. Pour into buttered 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan.

Bake for 25-30 minutes. Cut in squares and serve.

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