A passing of the plates is how I like my brunch to look: People I love, talking and laughing and sharing food.
By JENEÉ OSTERHELDT
The Kansas City Star
Brunch begs for community. The word itself is a fusion of breakfast and lunch, a coming together. I think thats why more and more you see brunch on Saturday menus. Its a party. Look at Roblé Ali, the celebrity chef and star of Bravo TVs Chef Roblé & Co., who has turned brunch into a social event. His Everyday People Brunch became such a big deal in New York that he now hosts them in Chicago, Atlanta and the like.
But who needs a celebrity chef when we have so many high-profile options of our own? Like Affäre, with James Beard nominee Martin Heuser. The German restaurant only recently introduced its Sunday brunch menu, and I hope it soon sees Saturdays. Fine dining couldnt get any finer or friendlier. Our dishes did laps around the table so we could taste one anothers meals from the kaiserschmarrn to the käsespätzle say that five times fast.
In English: We started with chopped pancakes and finished with the most savory macaroni and cheese. Thats what I adore about brunch. Anything goes. Be it Saturday or Sunday, brunch is a smorgasbord of delicious at my favorite places.
At Port Fonda, I can get doughnuts or chilaquiles or an omelet. At Magnolias, theres red velvet waffles, sweet potato biscuits, and shrimp and grits. But I always get the Nutter Butter French toast. And yes, you can have a bite. But just one, friends.
We have a lot of brunch staples in our city: Classic Cup, Lidias, First Watch, Bristol Seafood Grill and more. Here are a half-dozen more to add to your weekend rotation:
Everyone knows Country Club Plaza brunches are perfection. But did you know even the pizza place spins good brunch? Coal Vines, 616 Ward Parkway, is the Plazas best brunch secret. Before we even get into the food, lets talk about the mimosas. Im not talking about your grandmas mimosa either. Sure, you can order the traditional orange juice and champagne sparkler, but why do that with options like strawberry-orange-peach? Plus, you can get a carafe full of cheers for $12 thats almost six flutes worth.
About the food: As someone who savors the sweet, I was all over the bananas Foster pancake. Its more than caramelized bananas, whipped cream and strawberries. The pancakes crispier texture reminds me of good funnel cakes. Theres also an M&M pancake, but you must try the Captain Crunch French toast. Its crispy, sweet crunch makes me want to find some old-school cartoons and wear pajamas all day.
But for those of you who like your eggs, Grumpy Diva says the Coal Vines Benedict is a win. Oh yeah, theres pizza too. Brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday. CoalVinesKC.com
Westport is big on brunch: Port Fonda, Beer Kitchen, Bluestem. You cant go wrong. But Westport Cafe & Bar, 419 Westport Road, stands out in the crowd because you get a complimentary mimosa, bellini or bloody mary with your brunch on Saturday and Sunday.
The WCB is bustling with midday crowds, and I usually get the crispy fried chicken with brioche French toast when Im with friends. But the restaurant recently rolled out a new brunch menu so intriguing (shrimp and polenta, apple fritters, terrine of liver and foie gras) that I went solo.
I usually dont dine by myself. Especially not at brunch time. But in a nook by the window, with a book and my bellini, I didnt feel alone. I enjoyed myself. Frankly, Im glad no one was there to see the way I devoured the new lemon ricotta pancakes with lemon butter and blueberries.
Say it with me: lemon ricotta pancakes. I did not pace myself. I neglected the side of bacon I asked for. I got syrup on my fingers. I ate every last morsel of those light and fluffy pancakes with the perfect balance of lemon and blueberries, and I considered ordering another. In fact, I didnt even read my book. WestportCafeAndBar.com
When I told you we passed the plates at Affäre, it was no understatement. It was like Thanksgiving at the German-inspired eatery at 1911 Main St. Seriously, there is no shortage of delectable options.
Even the bloody mary ($6) can be dressed up with bacon powder, celery, blue cheese, ham or shrimp skewer. If you opt for bacon powder, your mary is topped off with a pork rind. No joke, it still looks classy. Swag. And if youre going to pay $10 for a traditional mimosa, at the very least it should be never-ending. Thats how they do it at Affäre.
But lets dig into these dishes. Like the arme ritter: German brioche bread baked in cinnamon egg goodness with vanilla sauce. One of my favorite foodies, the Connoisseur, said it could be the best French toast variation he has ever had. And this man knows food like very few.
The bacon pancake is exactly as genius as it sounds. A pancake with bacon in the middle. The mixed greens it comes with set things off. And I cant remember ever wanting to eat a salad at brunch.
Then there was the seared Iowa trout, with sauteed arugula and roasted potatoes. Everyone kept reaching over for more of those perfectly seasoned potatoes and the flaky fish.
And we all shared a serving of käsespätzle, a macaroni and cheese so flavorful that it danced across our taste buds and tempted us to eat beyond our bellys allowance. It was all too hard to walk away from.
That being said, there was a different star of the show. Kansas City, get to know kaiserschmarrn. Its chopped up fluffy pancakes with almonds and rum raisins tossed with caramelized apples. After eating it, nothing was the same. Dear Affäre, please add Saturday. AffareKC.com
As we pulled into the driveway at Renee Kellys Harvest, 12401 Johnson Drive, in Shawnee, we felt we werent in Kansas anymore. Theres something magical about the farm-to-table restaurant at Caenen Castle. The high ceilings, the regal tables and chairs, the dramatic spiraling staircase and fireplaces all make you feel like a Disney princess. You know, without all the talking animals and random musical numbers.
It really is dreamy, and for that reason, I am glad the brunch is only on Sunday. It should be special.
The beauty doesnt stop at the restaurant; the food is just as lovely. Instead of bread, they brought us complimentary beignets and jam. And our BLT wasnt a sandwich at all. It had a Benedict quality about it, mixed greens on the side, with two carefully curated bacon, tomato and shirred egg stacks.
And the RK French toast? Honey, its two slices of pound cake dipped in custard and topped with fruit and cinnamon sweet cream. I could barely look at the hash and bacon.
It gets better. The extensive brunch cocktail menu goes well beyond your bloody mary and mimosa. And these are the kind of drinks worth $9 and $10. We suggest the Cinderella, a mix of Brut bubbles with Grand Marnier, orange and pineapple juice. Or the Hawaiian Princess: Malibu mango and pineapple juice, shaken with mint and topped off with Brut bubbles.
Yes, at Renee Kellys, everyone is royal. ReneeKellysHarvest.com
One of my favorite Kansas City memories will forever be Sundays in the City Market eating brunch at Succotash with my beautiful boxer, Charli Brown. As a pup, she sat with us, drinking water out of her Hello Kitty bowl and eating bits of bacon from our plates. And then she grew up.
Purse pooches are welcome at a lot of restaurants around town, but a 65-pound dog isnt always practical. Unless were talking about Aixois, 251 E. 55th St. This bistro has a coffee bar and a patio next to a posh pocket park. Joggers and dog walkers pass by, and you see every kind of pup, Chihuahuas and German shepherds alike.
Its perfect for crisp fall days when the jean jacket weather is just right. I ordered a pumpkin spice latte and gave Charli Brown some of my crepe au jambon de Paris, with ham, Gruyere and a fried egg on top. My 8-year-old boxer baby is going gray. Shes a little slower than she used to be, but she still knows how to enjoy brunch and charm the waitresses.
Even if you dont have a dog, the patio is a great place to read and relax. And when it gets too cold, head inside for the bistro experience. Aixois offers brunch on Sundays and breakfast only at the counter on Saturdays.
Another dish worth trying: the guaffre. This waffle comes with berries, but you can order it with Nutella. Aixois.com
If Im going to drive to Mission Farms, its usually for Rye and those make-you-want-to-holler fritters, but Tavern at Mission Farms (10681 Mission Road in Leawood) and Tavern in the Village in Prairie Village just introduced Saturday brunches, and I had to check out the scene.
And there was a party at the bar. A group of 20-somethings told us Tavern was where its at for weekend brunch and making new friends. Kevin swears by the huevos rancheros. But we left him to the ladies and grabbed a table, only to realize the dining room is a little buttoned up for Saturday fun.
Until you hear the music. Can we say 80s? I almost wished I had a Guitar Hero band so I could sing along to Billy Idols Dancing With Myself and Burning Down the House by the Talking Heads. They should go ahead and call it the John Hughes brunch and invite customers to dress in theme. That might make the $9 mimosas worth the price. Just saying.
So, we never tried the huevos rancheros, but I can say that the creme brûlée French toast was so perfect I almost took some home. But French toast was not meant for leftovers. And the crabcake Benedict is a nice take on the breakfast standard: two crabcakes, asparagus, poached eggs and hollandaise with potatoes. Note: Do not ask for the hollandaise on the side. It makes the dish.
P.S. Sit at the bar. TavernAtMissionFarms.com