I think I found the next generation of savvy, sophisticated palates to carry on Bitches Who Brunch. Surprisingly, these are Bros Who Brunch, and are waiting to continue the tradition of brunching and judging as soon as they hit the proper mimosa-imbibing age.
Conrad and Jensen, two dapper young lads aged 9 and 11 respectively, arrived dressed in their Sunday best—blue Polos and comb-overs—for brunch with yours truly on a summer Sunday. The boys are foodies through-and-through: Jensen cooks scrambled eggs, garnished with salmon and chives, for his mother when she’s sick. Meanwhile, Conrad prefers traditional French cuisine for his birthday parties, like pate and a really good French loaf.
These wee gents wanted to brunch with the Bitches, and who was I to deny them the opportunity? So, after scheduling with their executive assistant, i.e. Mom, we settled in for brunch at Béarnaise, a charming French bistro in Capitol Hill.
The boys were escorted by Tracy and Gary, a pair that is equal parts all-American enthusiasm and laid-back British cool.
Our waiter was, appropriately, French, and incredibly playful with the boys. “The ratatouille is very fresh,” he explained as he went over the menu. “We just caught the rats in the alley to make the dish this morning.” His gregarious, cheeky service was a highlight throughout the meal.
Béarnaise offers an entire page of cocktails on its appropriately large French menu. There are several traditional craft cocktails, champagne cocktails, Bloody Marys, and also coffee libations, a welcome addition. Gary’s eyes seized upon the Gentlemen’s Julep, made with Bourbon, mint, rhubarb bitters, and crushed ice.
Not one to let a gentleman drink alone, I selected the Coco Chanel coffee cocktail. The Coco was made with crème de cacao, crème de framboise, coffee, and cream—“served cold and neat.” I loved it. It tasted like I was drinking a slightly sweetened coffee—I could hardly taste the alcohol.
Béarnaise serves La Colombe coffee, and Tracy enjoyed her latte.
The brave patriarch, Gary selected the hangover cure, a crispy pigs feet hash topped with a poached egg. A tall chap who had biked that morning, Gary was left quite hungry after the dish and happily ate the French bread that was served with my steak frites. It was beautifully presented, but petite.
Tracy selected the Mussels Dijon, served in the traditional style, arriving at the table in a large covered pot with a side of frites. The mussels were prepared in a rich, creamy Dijon whole grain mustard sauce, loaded with bacon and crispy onion straws, and topped with a poached egg. I’ve eaten moules frites across town, and these knocked my socks off—well-presented, well-prepared, well-flavored, and memorable.
A sucker for salmon and lox, Jensen selected the Montreal Special, a Montreal sesame seed bagel, Norwegian smoked salmon, cream cheese, red onion, and ruby tomato. Jensen had quite a few things to say about his dish. While the salmon was fresh, the bagel was overly toasted, which hurt the dish. He also wished the menu had properly explained he would be building his own bagel and lox, as he had expected it to come prepared. Regardless, he did a great job assembling the bagels himself and polishing off his entrée.
Jensen’s younger brother, Conrad, was more pleased with his brunch dish, the croissant sandwich. Served with scrambled eggs, bacon, and Gruyere cheese, the croissant sandwich was moist, cheesy, flaky, and delicious. He polished off the sandwich, which was served with a lovely helping of fresh mixed greens.
Lastly, the resident Bitch selected the L’American breakfast, with two farm-fresh eggs any style (fried), applewood bacon, frites, and grilled country bed. It was a simple, fresh, beautifully prepared breakfast that I thoroughly enjoyed. Though I rarely repeat a brunch, I will be back to have this dish again.
Last but not least, the restaurant’s infamous crème brulee French toast arrived at the table. Soaked overnight, the French toast was crispy on the outside and moist and squishy in the center. It tasted rich, yet was still light and fluffy. This is a great signature brunch dish for the restaurant and worth the trip to the french café.
The boys dug in with reckless abandon, ignoring their perfect table manners once they set eyes on the dessert.
The Bitches say: A-. A French bistro with charming service and delicious cuisine. Our two complaints, the burnt bagel and the small size of the “hangover cure” took it down a notch.
315 Pennsylvania Ave. S.E.
Béarnaise serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.