The other day, a friend asked the Bitches to recommend a spot for a business brunch. Now, we give tips and brunch advice via Twitter and e-mail on the reg, but for a business brunch? I was stumped.
I had plenty of ideas for locales, the majority of them being upscale stuffier spots in Foggy Bottom, but I hadn’t brunched at any of them in order to provide my Cori Sue seal of approval.
Why? Well, if you haven’t noticed, we Bitches tend to prefer our brunches a bit rowdier, with as much alcohol and hangover-curing cuisine as possible. Pour the hair of the dog that bit us, and if that doesn’t work, pile on the pancakes. Additionally, we like to avoid tourist locations due to our aversion to anyone in an “I heart DC” T-shirt.
Coincidentally, that next day, beau, who failed to get out of bed to watch me cross the National Half finish line, was trying to win (read: buy) back my love by way of an extravagant brunch. So, where do you go when you want an absurdly over-priced and stuffy meal? Blue Duck Tavern, of course.
An upscale American tavern, Blue Duck’s cuisine is “prepared through simple, time-honored cooking methods such as roasting, braising, preserving and smoking.” Upon entering, you’re greeted by a suited hostess and immediately impressed by the stunning design of the space—high ceilings, marble flooring, wood paneling, with an open kitchen and pantry.
The service is impeccable—you have a waiter for your drink orders, a waiter for your food orders and a busboy for your table. They provided a little stand for my purse (yeah, the Louie had its own seat), and a black napkin for my black sweater dress.
Mid-way through brunch, the blinds on the 20-foot tall windows miraculously lowered (the wonders of technology!) so diners didn’t get sun in their eyes. Yep, this is definitely where you take a foreign dignitary or your hoighty-toighty future mother-in-law.
For drinks, beau opted for a seven-dollar cup of coffee while I had a spring cocktail variation of a mojito that was excessively strong and tasted half as good as it looked. Le sigh.
We began brunch with a lemon ricotta soufflé pancake with poppy seed gastrique. Served in a cast iron pan, the enormous fluffy pancake had a soft soufflé center and was topped with a dollop of sweet creamy lemon ricotta. The gastrique (a reduction of vinegar and sugar brought to carmelization) was sticky sweet like honey and loaded with poppy seeds and lemon flavors, and you poured it over the pancake to add sweetness. It was unique, decadent, light-yet-rich and full of flavors.
For my entrée, I selected the sunnyside eggs with cod cakes and a spicy buttermilk sauce—a fishy, salty, sunny-instead-of-poached take on a Benedict. Of course, it was prepared and presented in a perfect fashion, crafted of delicious, fresh ingredients. The buttermilk sauce was divine, but I quickly grew tired of all the cod. I wish they had used a tastier fish or a crab cake. It seemed the dish was all cod and not enough muffin, sauce, or egg. While it looked pretty, it quickly became a plate of salty fish covered in runny yellow yolk.
Beau felt similarly blasé about his dish, a croque madame, a sandwich with country bacon, sauce Momay and topped with a fried egg. He says:
“The croque madame was OK. The bread was really good, the ham was decent, the stinky cheese was perfect, and the egg was runny. I approve of all of those things except the runny egg, but I didn’t make any requests regarding the egg, so I can’t complain. The cup of mixed greens was fresh and delicious—I loved the dressing.”
While I appreciate the niceties and necessity of restaurants like Blue Duck in Washington, for us, it just wasn’t worth it—at least not for brunch. Brunch, in total, for beau and me—with one cocktail and inclusive of tax and tip—was $95. Worst of all, I left unsatisfied. Despite having raced 13 miles that morning and being rather hungry, I didn’t eat all of my cod cakes as I grew bored with them rather quickly. I didn’t enjoy or finish my cocktail, either, as it was so strong it was unpleasant.
When you’ve paid 95 bucks for breakfast, you’d expect to leave with a strong sense of satisfaction, thinking “Wow that was amazing!” or “Man I’m stuffed and/or drunk.” But I didn’t. And, I’d rather be stuffed and happy—even if my Louis Vuitton doesn’t get its own seat somewhere else.
The Bitch (and beau) say: B+. While Blue Duck’s design, service and quality of cuisine are impressive, there’s something off that made it fail to hit the spot. The fluffy pancake concoction saved the day, but the rest of the food was blasé.
Blue Duck Tavern
1201 24th St. N.W.