Sunday, May 31, 2009
I can make complex meringues, reduce a delicate sauce, and cut a pie crust together until the exact moment when it is mixed and not a moment after. I can't paint, sing, pretend I care about things I don't, choose flattering makeup, run 10 miles, or any number of other talents that the young yuppie often has, but I can cook. I don't know how or why, but I get it. Which is why the seeming miracle of a poached egg is so perplexing to me. Every time I try this, I end up with some nasty form of flavorless egg drop soup, crunchy with egg shells that got away and littered with bits of egg that are more boiled to death than poached. I have some sort of neuro-block it would seem against paying attention to a cooking egg. I can't soft-boil either, for much the same reason. My inflated sense of self importance almost makes me believe that there is some sort of cosmic conspiracy that will insert something shiny into my field of vision within 3 minutes of touching an egg. And I do so ever love shiny things :-)
All of this is quite tragic given the delicious uses of half-cooked eggs. Soft cooked eggs are delicious in salads, with vegetables, and even as a meal themselves. Of course their most common incarnation amongst DC food lovers is as the critical component of Eggs Benedict. At summer brunches throughout DC, deals are cut, relationships blossom, marriages falter, houses hypothetically decorated, clothing evaluated, hippies scorned, and babies longed for. Brunch is where the young yuppie cuts their teeth on the DC restaurant scene. Is the food often second-rate to that of normal meals? You betcha. Does that make it any less appealing to linger for a long meal with friends with nothing else to do all day after sleeping off the previous night? Not a bit.
With an old friend in from out of town and a new one just arrived for her first big-kid DC job, brunch was calling. Thanks to the recommendations of DC Concierge, I chose Creme in U Street to inaugurate the season. I couldn't believe that despite a good friend living across the street, I had never noticed the place! It was tiny, and didn't take reservations for brunch, so our group of 6 had to wait about a half hour for a table, which isn't bad, especially since the same cosmic forces that interfere with my egg preparation seem to affect the ability of anyone I care about to be on time to anything, while driving my own paranoia about being late to such a degree that I am chronically 15 min early. All in all, this means that no matter what, there is a half-hour wait, so no problem.
I saw two things on the menu that intrigued- Chicken and Waffles, that Clydes favorite that is oh so good after a night of beer tasting (and facilitates the brunch attendance of any self-respecting dude who is not trying to sleep with you), and the Eggs Benedict with wild mushrooms. Our table had both. The Mushroom Bene, as the Eggs Benedict was called, was fabulous. The mushrooms were fresh and tasty, the Hollandaise rich and not too salty, and the poached egg in that perfect miraculous form that so eludes me, with a runny yolk and firm solid white that requires rapt attention by a chef who is swamped with a brunch crowd. So simple, but in may of the brunch factories of DC, the details are lost, and you get either a protein shake of raw eggs fit for a dude trying to 'get huge' or chewy hard-boiled eggs reminiscent of the less delicious parts of a polish deli. The chicken (white and dark) was proclaimed better than Clydes (bonus, since Clydes doesn't even offer white meat with their Chicken and Waffles- well, they do, but its sans the spices which make the chicken worth eating). The waffles were thick and fresh and the salad a little salty though better than your average garnish. I also had the bacon which was thicker than I like, but I imagine perfect for most people's preference. Roasted potatoes and an Eggs Benedict with crab rounded out our selections, and all was delicious. Portions were sizable without being ridiculous, and all were happy.
I also sprung for the expensive Hibiscus Mimosa. While too expensive at $12 for a flute, it was just delicious enough that I will probably continue to be annoyed at the price, but order it anyway.
The atmosphere was loud, but conversation wasn't too hard, as the tables were small and intimate. Hard to hear the servers, but tolerable. The interior is tidy and modern.
The best part? The prices were super affordable- $10-14 for most mains, with an option for a $16 unlimited mimosa (not the hibiscus kind however). This makes a $20 brunch a real option.
What do I take away from all of this? Poached eggs and mushrooms are inspired. And I now have a source of them for a reasonable price that will keep me from initiating any more egg disasters, and do wonders for my self-esteem :-) Yea Creme!