Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Breakfast salad

It is rare to see a menu item that is so original I can honestly say, "I have never heard of that before!" It is rare, also, to see a tiny neighborhood gourmet to-go type place push the boundaries of breakfast to such a degree that my breakfast, lunch and brunch eating habits have been transformed. The breakfast salad at Chicory Brooklyn on Degraw Street is my favorite dish in the world right now, the foundation of a concept that deserves further exploration. Salad for breakfast, you ask? This is like the best Israeli salad ever – grape tomatoes, little diced bits of cucumber and radish, with just enough feta cheese – combined with gently scrambled eggs, perfect cubes of fried potato and a combination of chopped romaine and frisee, all tossed in a light shallot vinaigrette. When I asked Gavin, the owner, if I could crumble an order of bacon into the dish, he agreed and also suggested sausage as another meaty, greasy addition to the absurb deliciousness of the breakfast salad. It's a dish that brings vegetables to the breakfast table in a way that I often crave but don't know how to fulfill.

Chicory was reviewed in today's New York Times Dining section. I'm sure the owners are thrilled but terrified: they seem overworked already – it's super hot in the space and the guys are always sweating it out and looking like they are working their asses off – and I am sure that this review will send business up even higher.

But I am dismayed that the reviewer overlooked my beloved breakfast salad! Yes, the fried chicken is good, the salads in the deli case are consistently great, the sweet potato fries are almost perfect, but that salad is an elevated dish. I have turned several people on to this salad already; my friend Aimee from San Francisco had four of them, I think, during her few days in the neighborhood.

I do have criticisms of the place, sure. I agree that the mac & cheese is too brick-like and thick, and often gets that strange off-kilter burnt flavor when put under the broiler or salamander. Also, I am very disappointed in the regular sandwiches there: the use of crap supermarket bread depresses me, and what really infuriates me is that a place of that calibre uses shredded iceberg lettuce on most of the sandwiches. A few leaves of green leaf or even a bit of cress or arugula would do wonders. Pardon the heated sandwich criticism there, but I find it baffling that a kitchen that can turn out something as sublime as the breakfast salad falls so short on making a basic turkey sandwich.

All that aside...
Congratulations to Chicory! They deserve it, and I wish them well.

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