He’s the mastermind behind Marcel’s, Brasserie Beck, and BRABO, and now Chef Robert Wiedmaier is the honorary chef at next month’s Signature Chef’s Auction, which benefits the March of Dimes (get tickets here before they sell out). I got a few minutes of his time recently, and he told me about what’s he’s preparing for the event. Plus, he Bitched at me about brunch in D.C., and whether or not he’s going to (finally) launch brunch at Marcel’s (horray!).
What’s your brunch philosophy?
Brunch is a funny thing. Some people are coming for breakfast items; other people are coming for a lunch item. So it has to be a good mix of both when you’re writing the menu. People are going to want great egg dishes. They might want the classic steak and eggs. At Brasserie Beck we offer brunch and breakfast dishes and then you can order off the menu too, so it gives the diner the option. You don’t have to hold them hostage just to brunch.
What’s your favorite brunch dish?
When I go to brunch I have steak and eggs. Think poached eggs with a nice New York steak with sautéed spinach and hollandaise sauce. And a side order of fingerling potatoes with rosemary. I like to be served. I like to sit down and order: I’ll take my double espresso and I’ll have this this and this.
What’s your favorite brunch dish to prepare?
My spinach and Gruyere cheese omelet. I have fond memories of making it with my father. There’s a great technique to making the perfect omelet. It can’t have any color. It has to be light and perfectly folded. I can test young cooks by how they fold an omelet. There’s an art. For me, I learned when making it for my father when I was young. I have it on the menu at Becks.
What do you think of the brunch scene in D.C.?
For years, brunches were only in the hotels. You’d go to the Ritz, the Park Hyatt, the Four Seasons. But hotels had a stigma for banquet cooking, as if they were not any good. That’s changed through the years, and there are great restaurants in hotels now. Brunch is bigger and better in D.C. The city has exploded with restaurants. Every time you turn around there’s another restaurant opening up. There’s a lot more for diners to choose from.
So who does it right?
I think Brian at Blue Duck Tavern in the Park Hyatt does an awesome job at brunch. There’s a short beef hash that’s to die for. I’m not a big brunch eater, but when I go, I go to there or the Four Seasons. On Sundays, I’m just so beat tired I don’t go out to brunch that often.
So what do you do instead?
My wife Polly cooks French pancakes. It’s my grandma’s recipe, and it’s been in my family for years. My aunt made them every Sunday in California. You take sugar, whipped egg, add flour, and pull them in really slowly so they’re super light. Then put powdered sugar and fresh fruit on them. Roll them up. Delicious. They’re really frothy and really light.
But what do you drink with that?
When most people go to brunch they want mimosas. I think it’s sacrilegious to take good champagne and put orange juice in it. Take a prosecco or sparkling instead. Or have a bloody Mary. Wine wise, I would say a good sauvignon blanc or chardonnay would go well with brunch. Otherwise, if you’re having meat, go with pinot noir. Pinot noir is neither masculine nor feminine. That’s why pinot noirs are so great with food. It used to be you can only have white wine with fish, only red wine with meat. And that’s such a fallacy.
Why don’t you serve brunch at Marcels?
We’re thinking about starting. We do Mother’s Day and Easter, and they’re always sold out. I’ve talked to my maître d, and they’re like, ‘lets do it!’ And I think, don’t you guys want to have your Sundays off? But we’re contemplating it; it’s a thought.
What would you serve?
We would offer egg items, like poached eggs on toasted brioche, with sauvignon sauce, chives, tomatoes and goat cheese. I would stack it: toasted brioche, then pork belly, then the goat cheese, then poached egg. Match that with a really light sauvignon hollandaise. I would offer some type of omelet. Some type of steak. A salmon dish. A chicken dish. Three different types of dessert. Five appetizers, five entrees, three desserts. Two being very breakfasty. But people don’t come to marcels for that. They come there for something fancier. So, I’m still thinking about it. But it might come sooner than 2012.
Why do you love being involved with the Signature Chef’s Auction for the March of Dimes?
I’ve always thought [the March of Dimes] is a great cause. I’ve chaired the event several times. There are a lot of good charitable events out there—I’m asked every day to do a hundred of them. But the March of Dimes has been around for a long time, and I’ve always thought very highly of the organization. I’m happy to help out. That being said, I’m not even sure what I’m going to be preparing for the event yet. One year I did my Napoleon of smoked salmon; I’ve done my beef carbonnade with potatoes. But I’m still not sure what I’m doing to do this year. People should come because it’s going to be a lot of talented chefs putting out great food and more importantly donating to a great cause.