“When you wake up in the morning Pooh,
what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast.. What do you say Piglet?”
“I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?”
Pooh nodded thoughtfully.
“It’s the same thing.”
Whimsical as it is, Pooh couldn’t have better summed up my sentiment for my favorite meal in the week. Sunday brunch. A late breakfast of sorts, where indulgence is forgiven and where sin and simplicity blend in vicarious pleasure. And I came face to face with a menu that exposed the word sinful in its lickable glory, evidently contributing to food lust for 30 years.
And yes, Ganesha strolled in with me to go bonkers over brunch.
The audibility of the whimsical name made me roll out of a barely slept night courtesy of Chicago nightlife, and skip the line of a sweltering day for brunch at the epicurious Bongo Room, tucked in the artistic modernism of West Loop in Chicago.
And ah Chicago, a relatively newer addition to my culinary map, and growing with alarming infatuation.
While a quiet place at the onset, it was evident that this was one of those hotspots that attracted lines, luring people in with plates smacked with hefty portions of foods in divine flavors and textures. Being my indecisive self, and a little wary of the alarming rise in bustle, I asked the hospitable host if I could get a single sampling of three dishes versus a trio of whopping pancakes or hotbreads or toasts with a monotone flavor. Having swallowed triple desserts in New York before, I didn’t see this as an issue, forgetting that it was still bird-chirping early morning with a whole day to go.
To my surprise he agreed, and quite merrily gave me an extra cup of water for my digestive trip. For little did I know, it wasn’t just superior Midwestern hospitality, it was a growing balloon of excitement shared by us all for a three course, densely packed, bustling brunch. Of 3XL proportions.
The first breakfast course was a brown sugar and ginger snap crusted pancake with fresh blueberries and blueberry honey butter. I have consumed gallons of flavored butters before, but the blueberry one cut the – well – buttery-ness of butter, with its tartness, making for a spread that I could layer my tongue with daily. The pancake was fairly ordinary, fluffy but lacking the snap that one expects from a ginger snap prefix.
The second breakfast course consisted of graham cracker crusted hotcakes with warm Meyer lemon cream and blackberry coulis, with fresh blackberries. I like it when cooking artists balance fresh with cooked, citrus with sweet, and these juxtapositions were exactly what made these Midwestern hotcakes a success. I would’ve never though hot lemon cream was possible without sourness, but maybe it was the lightness of the cake and the freshness of the coulis that made this unlikely combination of flavors, temperatures and textures work.
3: French Toast
Getting better course by course, as is the case with tasting menus but often inexplicable with breakfasts, was my third inhalation. A bittersweet chocolate French toast, better described as a chocolate chunk bread stuffed with maple mascarpone, banana crème brûlée sauce, fresh bananas and shaved coconut. The flavors alone made a trip to Hawaii via San Francisco (for its chocolate!) seemingly possible in a spoonful. For while the bread left a lot to be desired out of dryness, the much maligned and nutritious banana was given a new life with the brûlée. I tasted undertones of cinnamon and nutmeg, perfect comfort food flavors that were in contrast with the freshness of the coconut, but a marriage that worked. A twisted green and white chocolate floret seemed at odd ease in this indulgent mess, but not for long before I gobbled it up.
Needless to say, the last course was making my tanktop bulge in the very non muscular type of ways, and I got a local coffee brewed cappuccino to survive the last bites of my so called true love: chocolate.
And thus ended a three course, dream evoking saga through an exciting meal of the week: Sunday Brunch. And yes, it truly is part of many of my daydreams… for I do often dream of food.
But as they say, its not a daydream if you make it your life.