On Brunch

There was an op ed recently in the New York Times Sunday Review maligning the brunch craze in Greenwich Village, Brooklyn and beyond, as well as its spread from a Sunday occasion to a Saturday habit. The article concluded brunch, the delicious combo of breakfast and lunch, was by nature adolescent, a contrivance of young urbanites attempting to bring the fantasy of Sex and The City to life.

I object to looking down one’s nose at any meal, frankly. In fact, I find brunch to be a delightful repast, a chance to enjoy the kind of fellowship once found only at holiday gatherings and church services, escaping the potential familial controversies or religious implications. This hybrid meal provides an opportunity for a different type of communion, between you and the loved ones with whom you choose to dine, and it just so happens to come built in with food that brings the best of sweet and savory to the table.

But while our metropolises and tourist villages in Upstate NY have embraced brunch culture, Northern New York and the Southern Tier have seemingly missed the memo. Yes, we have a few good choices – Tin Pan Galley, in Sackets Harbor, has held court as the grand dame in that region for years, more recently joined by upstarts The Hops Spot and Skewed Brewing, Gram’s Diner, and Tug Hill Vineyards. In Ithaca, Booker's Backyard, Agava, and a few others offer tomato juice and pork-laden jollies. But both Syracuse and Binghamton are wanting. In Salt City, Empire Brewing has a jazz brunch, and here in Binghamton, Loft at 99 and Tranquil do brunch. But that's about all, folks. So again, I'm left wondering at our lack of ability to get our brunch on.

As if the limited selections weren’t enough of an afront to the sensibilities of would-be brunch enthusiasts, some of New York’s rather archaic on-site consumption laws prohibit the serving of alcohol before noon on Sundays, curtailing the bruncheon joy of mimosas and bloody marys for early risers, the truly festive way to kick off any proper Sunday funday.

I’ve blogged before on my breakfast and brunch favorites in NNY, which include Clayton’s venerable Koffee Kove Restaurant, Gram’sDiner in Adams and humble stalwart The Clubhouse, on Outer Washington Street in Watertown. Of these, Gram’s is the only one offering a special brunch menu on the weekends to augment its more typical diner-style day starters.

At Gram’s, you’ll find some inventive options such as pumpkin pancakes, butternut squash casserole, macaroni and cheese omelets and buffalo chicken eggs benedict, as well as those most coveted brunch time cocktails, mimosa and mary, both. I wouldn’t dare mask my bald affection for this warm, casual cafĂ© nor its hearty, adventurous food. I just wish there were more like it!

I know most folks are happy enough with our ordinary breakfast choices – the diners, hotels and chains serving up eggs, pancakes, bacon and the like –  but I can’t help but wish we could import a bit more of that brunch savoir fare to our communities. To be sure, Upstate New Yorkers are hardworking, salt of the Earth folk, likely to spend a Sunday morning hunting or a Saturday mid-day escorting the kids to various sporting events. But I suggest that creating a brunch tradition here can work. The meal serves as an invitation to linger with friends and family over many mugs of steaming coffee, savoring a hearty feast and repartee – couldn’t we use a little more of that in our community?

While Manhattan may already be pronouncing the craze of brunch a has-been, I wouldn’t mind us picking up the trend a bit late. If I were an Upstate restaurateur, you better believe I’d be coming up with a creative benedict, a savory waffle, a dynamite seasonal pancake and fruit stack, sourcing a great New York State pork purveyor for bacon, sausage and ham, and starting a brunch service.

The nice thing about brunch, from a business standpoint, is that you can probably charge double what you would your standard breakfast dishes, because your customers are combing two meals out into one. So chill the Prosecco, grate the horseradish, and watch the brunch hordes roll in! What New York City may consider passĂ© will pass just fine for us, thanks. Let’s embrace brunch! It’s not just for Easter anymore!

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