Rise. Shine. Eat.
Brunches worth waking up for
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There’s a bacon-and-eggs-and-pancakes brunch, and then there’s the gastronomic playground that is Nessa (325 N Main St, Port Chester 914-939-0119) brunch on Sundays 11:30 am to 3 pm). Here, brunch means dining in a sultry dining room with gauzy curtains, fresh flowers, and the “buzz” of close-together tables from which you can eyeball what your neighbor is getting before making your final decision. Choose from potato pancakes with spiced apples, whipped ricotta, and Acacia honey; a roasted hedgehog mushroom-and-fontina omelet; poached eggs with roasted apples, caramelized onions, chicken-apple sausage, and Béarnaise; or a ham-and-egg panini. If you’ve been here for dinner, you know this place has several different personalities: a happening spot with quartinos and the din of chatty patrons at night, a laid-back place reminiscent of Manhattan’s Little Italy in the summer with it’s bocce court out back and patio tables and chairs for watching, and this: it’s quieter laid-back Sunday brunch where you’re never rushed, and kids are welcome (the restaurant even offers a variety of “children’s cereal” on the menu). We like all its moods but find it especially nice in the mornings when you can greet the day with a strong espresso and inch-thick cinnamon-raisin fried toast.
You’ll want to pace yourself at X20 Xaviars on the Hudson (71 Water Grant St, Yonkers 914-965-1111) Sunday brunch from 12 to 2 pm is prix fixe at $38 per person) where your meal comes with a starter, an entrée, dessert, passed hors d’oeuvres, and unlimited Champagne. Not to mention one of the most stunning vistas in Westchester. This is brunch at its best, the kind of place to come with family for a special occasion and drink in the gorgeous waterfront panorama (every table has a view of the Hudson), along with the stunning cuisine of Chef Peter X. Kelly (an Iron Chef winner). Service is impeccable, often with more than one waiter accommodating your needs. First things first: the Champagne poured into a delicate fluted glass followed by a splash of OJ, and then a choice of breads—blueberry muffin, sourdough roll, or pumpkin—before the chef’s amuse bouche is brought to you. On my visit: chilled cava melon soup dusted with fennel pollen and sashimi tuna served on yellow watermelons. And then, just as you’ve placed your order, more food arrives served from platters by the waitstaff: coconut shrimp with Dijon mustard sauce; roast rack of baby lamb, crispy tuna roll, wild-mushroom ravioli. Entrées tend to be more lunch-oriented than brunch, which is fine, because for $39 you’re getting a well-thought-out gourmet meal that will leave you too full for dinner later on. (I opted for a char-grilled five-spice-rubbed skirt steak while my husband got the poached eggs with creamed spinach.) Take fair warning: with dessert included, and the meal spaced out like a true dining experience should be, you will want to try everything (including what’s on your dining companion’s plate) and you will want to come back. This is a brunch that’s habit-forming.
Rue des Crêpes (261 Halstead Ave, Harrison 914-315-1631) Saturday and Sunday brunch served from 10 am to 4 pm) has a “girl vibe” to it, the perfect place to catch up with a friend, sip a mimosa, and feel like you’ve been transported to the cobblestoned streets of France. The decorations are whimsical and imaginative, with the back room decorated like a Parisian street scene. There are real shutters jutting out of the wall, along with antique doorknobs, painted lamposts, and colorful flower boxes. (There are even stars on the ceiling that glitter at night.) It’s cute and inviting, making the décor alone one reason to visit (just don’t be fooled by it’s narrow pastry-shop entryway; the beauty is in the back). The solid price is another: a prix-fixe menu of $17 buys you your choice of Champagne, mimosa, OJ, or lemonade, a wide range of house-made crêpes like jam (choice of four jams a day with whipped cream) or French omelet with fruit salad or crêpe quiche with salad, and coffee, tea, or soda. You also can go à la carte and order smoked salmon (light cream cheese, capers, and scallions); oven-roasted chicken and grilled veggies; or sliced steak. Just don’t come if you’re in a rush: the service can be slow. But once you pair one of the amazing fruit tarts with a strong café au lait (or another glass of Champagne), you won’t mind so much.
Need something stronger than coffee to get you going? Crabtree’s Kittle House (11 Kittle Rd, Chappaqua 914-666-8044) prix-fixe Sunday brunch is $34.50, $17.95 for children 12 and under, 12 to 2:30 pm) has the best eye-opener around: a row of food stations set up with every item you can imagine. The minute you step into this gracious 200-plus-year-old home, you feel special from your first sip of Champagne to your last lingering spoonful of three-chocolate terrine. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed here—there’s a lot to choose from—but the staff is helpful and eager to explain the selections. Luckily, towards the end, when you’re too full to move, desserts including Crabtree’s famous Alsatian cheesecake, blackberry-Cabernet and pomegrante sorbets, and crème brûlée, are served tableside. And nowhere on earth will you find a greater selection of fine wines and libations. It’s the perfect motivation to rise and dine.
No doubt you’ve heard about the amazing views at 42 (The Ritz-Carlton, Westchester, One Renaissance Sq, White Plains 914-761-4242), brunch served Sunday 11 am to 3 pm; prix fixe at $45 per person) and about the fabulous food of Chef Anthony Goncalves, also known for his other White Plains creation, Peniche. It’s all true. But what you may not know is that the best time to enjoy this opulent setting, with panoramas that stretch from the Hudson to the Sound, is on a crisp Sunday morning when you feel the warm sun on your face, while enjoying the wintry scene below. You almost feel a bit regal, like a queen looking out at her subjects (just ask for a window table when you make your reservation). Brunch is served in three leisurely courses: first, second, and dessert, with portions that don’t overwhelm so you actually savor everything you taste. Where else could you find “PB&J” served with Cassis, brûléed bananas, and a berry smoothie? Or find a Portuguese breakfast of cornmeal bread, poached egg, Portuguese linguica, roasted baby peppers, and heirloom tomatoes? Don’t worry, picky eaters, there are offerings for you too, including a bagel with lox and cream cheese, a burger and (my fave) pancakes served with blueberry-raspberry preserves, whipped cream, and blueberry syrup. The only “downside”: the restaurant doesn’t validate parking so, if you don’t want to pay the additional $10 valet fee, park on the street.