I don’t know whom to thank for the weekend phenomenon we call brunch—a simple Google search points at different times to the French Quarter of New Orleans (or really, the “Fench” quarter, which doesn’t engender confidence); Britain in 1896 thanks to some publication called Hunter’s Weekly; reporter Frank Ward O’Malley, who looked for a new term to define his journalist-on-the-go eating habits; and Britain in the 19th/20th century, when the convention demonstrated the leisured privilege of the rich.
What I do know is this: there is nothing quite as nice as late-morning meals, especially at new places and especially with people you love. To prove my point, here are three reasons I love brunch (i.e., three Chicago-area restaurants that make nice ones):
1. HARNER’S 10 W State Street, North Aurora, IL
A few Saturdays ago, my mom and my brother and I tried this new-to-me restaurant/bakery that I’d read rave reviews about online, where the menu is reasonably priced, the bakery is packed with made-from-scratch coffee cakes (and doughnuts and bread and cookies) and, at least if the wait is any indication of popularity, everyone loves to go.
Between the three of us, we ordered omelettes, ham, sausage, toast, breakfast potatoes and slices of the famous coffee cake to go, and amidst the leisured hour or so we spent there, we discovered a marvelous surprise: that the suburbs can do brunch well (and cheap!) and, best of all, I managed to take the first photo of my mom approved for posting here.
The first time I used a waffle iron, I was a freshman in college. The dorm dining hall at my school had a designated table with an iron and a bowl of batter with a ladle in it, and one night when the tacos or chicken surprise on the menu didn’t particularly appeal to me, I walked over to it and, using that adult independence I had newly acquired, made myself buttermilk breakfast for dinner.
In the years between then and now, I’ve eaten homemade waffles in my friend Sue’s kitchen at a different college in a different state, telling her what a good mom she’d make someday as she handed me a plate (by the way, turns out I was right); I’ve had blueberry waffles and pecan waffles and waffles covered with berries and whipped cream and chocolate syrup; in October, my brother and I split a waffle at Sola that was topped with goat cheese and strawberry-rhubarb compote; but it wasn’t until recently that I had the kind of waffle I bring you today, one that defied any preconceptions or previous taste experiences, which works to combine what we know as the waffle with something else entirely, the moist, dense sweetness of a banana bread.
Happy December! To inaugurate the last month of this year, the one in which we celebrate Advent and Christmas and Hanukkah and all the other holidays, I’ve brought you a present. And if the above photo didn’t tip you off to what it is, this will: it’s a free calendar download, 12 months of cookies.
The way I see it, this is the next best thing to monthly homemade baked goods at your doorstep, which I really wish I could give each and every one of you, I sincerely do, but this is what I’m offering until I figure out a way to make that happen. Simply download the pdf, print it out on quality paper, cut out the months and voila:
I punched little holes in the top of each one and have January up at my bulletin board at work, with the other months behind it, but you could do something different: hang them all at once along a wire with clothespins, tape the current month to the side of your computer monitor… I don’t know. If you find a cool way to use yours, e-mail me a photo so I can show everybody else.