BrunchHeart Log 12:15 am
Once in a great while, the BrunchHeart team meets their match. With a heavy heart and a full stomach I have to report that The BrunchHeart team was bested. BrunchHeart Battle #3 goes to the competitor: THE SMITH. It is a full 10 hours later after this bold blitzkreig we partook at THE SMITH …. and I am still stuffed.
We arrived at our bright and early normal brunch time (around 2:30 pm) with our OpenTable reservation. Quickly seated, a rarity for a popular Manhattan brunch spot, we should have taken this a warning that we were up against a stealthy opponent. In addition to the typical Brunch cocktails, THE SMITH has a nice array of wines by not just the glass, but the carafe. Perfect to just wet your whistle without shelling out for cocktail after cocktail. We opt for the House Rosé which is a pleasant Channing Daughter’s ’11 Syrah produced locally in the Hamptons.
I had my reservations, but my BrunchHeart team was keen on ordering some appetizers before settling up on mains. Therefore we started with Crispy Fried Calamari prepared “Brooklyn Style” and the Mac + Cheese. I am still confused on what makes the calamari “Brooklyn Style”, but it was tasty nevertheless. Lightly fried, not too chewy – but the real winner was the marinara it was smothered in. You could taste that this stuff was not canned or jarred. The tomatoes were fresh and left a bright flavor combined with just a hint of heat to give it a sufficient kick. Now as for the Mac + Cheese, I have to first put in a little disclaimer: we at BrunchHeart are no strangers to Mac & Cheese. For whatever reason Mac & Cheese is just about the trendiest dish since sliced bread. I’ve had it with one cheese, twelve cheeses, buffalo chicken, ranch, with curry, in a spring roll, on a pizza, and one particularly heavenly plate I still dream about… A $55 Mac & Cheese with a heap of fresh truffles shaved on top tableside at The Waverly Inn. So we can say with a particular degree of certainty that the Mac + Cheese at THE SMITH definitely can hold its own in the oversaturated New York Mac & Cheese scene. It’s so good Oprah approves, as she requested the recipe for her magazine. And if there is one thing we know, if Oprah says it’s good, then it’s good. You sure as hell do NOT argue with Oprah.
Next we move on to our main dishes, which come with a complementary Bloody Mary, Bellini, Strawberry Mimosa, Passion Punch, or fresh squeezed juice. Sure it’s not AYCD, but the cocktails were definitely a step above the usual watered down versions of brunch drinks. The Bloody Mary’s were excellent. Thick from fresh grated tomatoes with strands of equally fresh horseradish, and not too spicy. I just wish there was more room on the tables. For as good as food and drinks as we were ordering, this was my biggest complaint for THE SMITH … there was no where to put it all!
For our dishes we decided on Chicken Sausage + Eggs with Spicy Corn Bread, Gravy and Home Fries, the Potato Waffle Benedict with Spinach and Caramelized Onions, and the Ranchero Scramble with Chipotle Salsa, Black Beans, Tortillas, Cheddar, and Avocado. And of course in homage to the travesty to come that is the “unavoidable” WORLD WIDE BACON SHORTAGE (May the sweet Lord take me if this truly does come to pass) … an order of Candied Bacon. That’s right. I said Candied. Freaking. Bacon. And hot damn if it didn’t taste just as good as it sounds. Thick, crispy, cooked to perfection … with caramelized sugar on top. It’s a heart attack waiting to happen, but at least you will die happy.
Our dishes were all fairly substantial in taste and served in veeeeerry generous portions. And as we were already pretty full from our healthy sized apps … this is where things start going downhill. We decided our favorite was the Chicken Sausage + Eggs which we unanimously agreed kinda tasted like a McDonald’s McGriddle … just classier. And don’t you dare try to turn your nose up at the McGriddle, have you had one? They are great. But for those of you who still pretend like you don’t shop at Forever 21, you can come to THE SMITH and get your sweet, spicy, porky, eggy, brunch awesomeness fix.
The most beautiful presentation goes to the Potato Waffle Benedict with Spinach and Caramelized Onions. But while good, it was very rich. The potato pancake was crunchy and tasted pretty much like hashbrowns, but we decided the dish would have really benefited from a little bit of spicy heat to cut all the richness.
Lastly we have The Ranchero Scramble which we thought was good enough, but to sum up what was missing… when I asked my BH comrade what she thought of the dish overall she whined “it’s good… but it really needs some chorizo.” Surprised, I asked “wait, there is no pork in the dish at all?” and she replied “I know. It truly is a tough world out there.” …. Damn you pork shortage.
By the meals end …. the BrunchHeart team was truly struggling. We couldn’t even finish our entire dishes. Well, except for the candied bacon … clearly that went pretty fast. As we were discussing where to go post-brunch to watch our weekly Sunday football games, one of the team aptly commented “Well first I need to buy a baggy T-shirt somewhere… I’m sure there is a I ♥ NY store some somewhere on the way.” We calorie O.D.ed and we were fading fast.
We got to the bar post-meal and couldn’t even stay to finish watching our games. We were dead. In the prolific and meekly emitted words of BrunchHearter AH, “I feel like Thanksgiving….”. We were defeated. All we wanted to do was collapse on the couch and watch the Kartrashians on E!. So congratulations THE SMITH. You were the first to take us down. You won the battle. But no worries … I feel strongly that we will end up winning the BrunchWar. Next week we might have to ease up on the apps and possibly break out the stretchy pants. But nevertheless, let it be official:
THE SMITH -1 : BRUNCHHEART – 0
Bravo The Smith. Bravo.
RATINGS (out of 5):
If it’s good enough for Oprah…. it’s good enough for you. Here you go, the Mac and Cheese that brought us to our ruin:
THE SMITH’S MAC + CHEESE RECIPE
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 4 Tbsp. all purpose flour
- 12 ounces heavy cream
- 12 ounces whole milk
- ¾ cup cheddar, shredded
- ¾ cup Fontina, shredded
- ¾ cup Gruyère, shredded
- ¼ cup Parmigiano Reggiano, shredded
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano to finish
In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook pasta to al dente. Strain but do not rinse. Simultaneously, in 2-quart, heavy-bottomed stockpot, whisk butter and flour together over medium heat to make a blonde roux. Add milk and heavy cream; whisk until boiling. Add all the cheese, reserving ½ cup of Parmigiano Reggiano; stir until mixture is melted evenly throughout.
Add cooked pasta to cheese mixture, season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Remove hot baking dish from oven and butter it evenly while hot. Add entire contents to buttered baking dish, sprinkle top with reserved Parmigiano Reggiano. Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes, until top is browned. Serve immediately.