Rise of Brunch

by Natalie Shmulik

Boston Brunchers began their mission on September 2010 thanks to social media mastermind, Renee Hirschberg. While many local dining groups have either lost interest or simply gone their separate ways, the Brunchers remain a strong force in the Boston food scene. What is most fascinating is that these bloggers focus their attention on an “in-between” meal. The concept of breakfast and lunch shacking up together is not new, but baby brunch, who typically borrows traits from mom and dad’s menus, is starting to grow up and take on a new and exciting personality, completely independent of the parent meals. No longer is brunch the provider of leftover dinners and stale coffee. Restaurants are now designing intricate dishes at their brunch tables, distinct from their usual offerings. Top chefs are hired for their innovative ideas and brunch-oriented culinary skills. Even luxury ingredients such as truffle, duck, and bourbon vanilla bean are gradually making their way into this increasingly popular mid-day meal. The weekend line-ups are growing, more fine-dining establishments are opening their doors to early morning crowds, and each of these restaurants are anxiously vying for the “Best of Boston: Brunch” title. It seems there is no slowing down this uprising trend, and the Boston Brunchers will be right there, getting a taste of what’s to come.

I accompanied the Boston Brunchers this past weekend to Catalyst in Cambridge. I couldn’t wait to dive into the modern, ever changing menu at this food-nerd hotspot. With free food flowing from the open kitchen, the 10 beaming Brunchees made a toast with refreshingly clever glasses of apple cider mimosas. We nibbled on in-house baked treats including buttery and irresistible chocolate scones, a slightly underwhelming skillet coffee cake, and maple syrup mini wings with a nice little kick.

I am a strong believer that eggs must in some form be part of a morning meal. Cracking open a pale shell to reveal a creamy, yellow yolk is the essential “break” in breakfast. I never thought it necessary to include a protein in addition to eggs, but Catalyst thinks otherwise. Egg-centered choices included; an egg sandwich with fennel sausage, a mushroom and mozzarella “omeletto”, a pulled chicken frittata, and a poached farm egg with beef tournedo and parmesan cheese grits.

I took a chance on the beef and grits, though a large slab of meat in the morning is not usually my idea of a good meal. Steak for breakfast sounds like a rough start to the day. The last thing I want to do is tug at a chewy cut of meat while my eyes are still adjusting to daylight. Breakfast is meant to be delicate, relaxing and satisfying. Surprisingly, all these qualities were featured in this meaty dish.

The plate was beautifully put together. An eye-catching edible tower complete with a perfectly poached egg perched on an unintimidating slice of juicy beef nestled in a bed of pillowy grits. The meat was outstanding–a petite tournedo with a caramelized and slightly smoky exterior and a tender, carefully seasoned interior. All this was made even more remarkable once my fork sliced through the soft egg allowing the velvety yolk to spill over the delightful dish.

So, while eggs still reign supreme in my book of breakfast, this experience was just the catalyst needed for me to put a little quality meat on my plate every now and then.

Natalie is a current Gastronomy student and leads the Gastronomy Students Association. Boston Brunchers is featured in Foodies of New England Fall 2012 issue.

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