Until recently, I only knew three very scientific and absolutely true things about roses: 1. A long time ago, someone decided this particular flower was romantic—especially the red ones. 2. Nine out of 10 carpenters believe Rose DeWitt-Bukater definitely could have scooted over on that door and shared it with Jack Dawson. 3. One spritz of the Mario Badescu rose facial mist will improve your day (and complexion) by approximately 217%.
But now that I’ve brunched at the über-Instagrammable Rose & Basil in the East Village, I know one more thing about roses: A rose in your drink beats a dozen in a vase any day of the week. Why? Well, it’s all about the senses, you see. Drinking from a glass of wine accessorized with a rose plunked right in there is both an olfactory and gustatory sensation, elevating the age-old sip to something new and interesting.
As you raise your glass to your face for a drink, each taste you take gets accented by the subtle floral scent of the floating rose. The concept works, even if it’s a little gimmicky—and it’s just plain fun. (Meanwhile, a rose in a vase just sits there and browns.)
This sensory experience is really important to Ioana, who is originally from a rose farm in Romania. She first opened Rose & Basil in 2014, serving up a menu of whimsical and photogenic cakes and chocolate truffles—perfect Instagram bait for scores of Lumee-owning, pocket-sized-dog toting women. (The café is dog-friendly and Ioana’s Frenchie, Chiara, affectionately known as Smusher, reigns supreme among the comings and goings of other pups, including my new best dog friend, Phil. It’s as cute as it sounds.)
Recently Ioana and her partner, Ben, revamped the space and the menu to include more savory items and drinks, including a new weekend brunch (perfect Instagram fodder for scores of DSLR-toting, overhead shot–loving food bloggers like yours truly) they invited us in to try.
When my friend Christy and I ducked into the small but cozy space on a rainy Sunday, we were met with a warm welcome from Ben and Ioana (and about five dogs), but also from the space itself. Hazy pink light glowed inside the fairy-tale inspired space complete with rose décor and a millennial pink crystal wall accent. (I made Ben brighten the interior lighting because it was too warm and bad for photos. I am the worst.)
To start, Christy and I ordered a round of drinks—red wine for her and a mimosa for me. The rose’s scent really paired well with the nose of Christy’s Aglianico, and my classic mimosa was tangy and delicious and perfectly chilled. I was worried the rose would be a thorn in the side of practicality, but it actually didn’t block sipping or cause any spillage.
Next we put in an order for three mains: Robert’s Egg, Sausage, and Cheese Sandwich; Isai’s Benedict a la Mexicana; and Smusher’s Pizza Bun. The sandwich was pure comfort food indulgence. Scrambled eggs, house green sausage, manchego cheese, and house red sauce on toast combine to make one hefty sandwich that’s tasty and satisfying to boot. Hungover brunchers, you’re going to dig this one.
Though it caught my eye on Instagram, the Benedict ended up being my least favorite of the brunch, mostly due to the texture of the carnitas. I was expecting shredded pork, but the cubed meat was ultimately a little tough and chewy for my liking. However, the flavors of this dish, including a tangy housemade salsa verde, which was a nice complement to the cornbread pancakes, made up for the meat’s misstep. It’s worth noting, however, that Christy preferred this dish to the sandwich and my favorite, the pizza bun.
When I was younger, my brother and I used to fight over the last pepperoni Hot Pocket, and when I tasted Smusher’s Pizza Bun, those memories came flooding back in the best way possible. The 2017 version is better and healthier by far. Think a mini bread bowl filled with a piping hot mixture of marinara sauce, pepperoni, mozzarella (which I actually don’t remember tasting but would have liked), all topped off with a baked egg. It was saucy, salty, and oozing with warmth and goodness. Smusher knows what’s up.
Our carb-heavy brunch was lightened a bit by our meal’s only vegetable dish, the seasonally appropriate pumpkin hash. This mix of pumpkin cubes and roasted pepitas, pancetta, and cheese is the kind of dish you want to scoop up by the giant spoonful at Thanksgiving—salty, slightly sweet, and definitely comforting.
We couldn’t leave without tasting some of Ioana’s famous truffles (organic and gluten-free, FYI), so we went with one rose (naturally) and one chili. Each chocolate came encased in its own mini glass-domed tray like a small treasure waiting to be unveiled, another indicator of the care and love that goes into the cafe’s recipes.
The truffles were smooth and creamy, with both flavors lingering nicely on the tongue. I preferred the spice of the chili chocolate to the pure floral rose flavor, which I found a bit much, but Christy really liked it. I can’t wait to go back and try the other interesting truffle flavors like matcha and passion fruit and some of Ioana’s adorable cake creations.
The Bitches say: A. Rose & Basil’s creative menu, warm hospitality, and inventive space make this cute dog-friendly cafe a must-visit in the East Village—for the pics and the eats.
Rose & Basil
104 E 7th St
New York, NY
Rose & Basil serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.