Raggmunk from Krokstrom Klubb and Market
But while breakfast may be more about sustenance and business meetings, brunch is about eating and drinking. It’s also about spending time catching up with your friends and family, relaxing, and yes, maybe lazing through an entire day based on just one meal. Whether you call it brunch or blunch like The Westside Local does, what’s not to like?
We clearly don’t have to talk about its popularity, but let’s do talk about how this “institution” came to be.
Why the Word “Brunch?”
All the food historians say its chronicle is a bit hazy after they deconstruct the word (breakfast + lunch, as you no doubt know) as a “portmanteau.” Broadly, this is a French word for a suitcase, divided into two sections, big enough to hold overcoats. In this case, and others like “motel” or “Amtrak” or even the lowly “spork,” there are two meanings packed into one made-up word – at least that’s how Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty explained it to Alice.
All that said, the word “brunch” first appeared in a short-lived hunting magazine in an 1895 article by British author Guy Beringer who suggested that people would like something lighter than the traditional heavy Sunday dinner. There were other benefits as well: "Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting. It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week." He also mentioned, "By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday night carousers." While the magazine article didn’t exactly set London afire, his suggestion, somewhat patterned after English hunt breakfasts, after a repeat in the popular Punch magazine, helped the concept enormously.
Also helpful along the way were the facts that Catholics were supposed to fast until after church so better to eat earlier and much later, and when women started working outside the home, they needed some time off and going out on Sundays was a good break.
But before that, brunch became popular in the U.S. mostly in hotels – typically, restaurants were closed on Sundays. Gasp.
And in the 30s, the concept was glamorized enormously by one city. That was Chicago where the movie stars would stay over on their cross-country train trips between Los Angeles and New York. People like Clark Gable and Carol Lombard were photo'd at the celebrated Pump Room in the Ambassador Hotel. How glam!
Add in the trend after WWII to not go to church so much and by the late 40s all the way to the 80s, brunch was up and roaring. Now add the additional popularity of urban living and TV characters from Friends and Sex in the City in the 90s and by 2000, you have a full-fledged trend that doesn’t seem to ever go backwards.
In 2016, Los Angeles even held a BrunchCon – a full day of brunch food, drink, products, games, speed dating and who knows what else. BrunchCon 2017 is in NYC as well, of course. Maybe it’s a bi-coastal thing that the rest of us are rushing to catch up with. Maybe we’re already there despite some elites’ statements that this brunch idea is a shoreside phenome.
The Internationality of Brunch
From the hunt breakfast/lunch combo in Britain to the huge Mother’s Day celebrations in the United States, many countries celebrate “brunch” though it may go by different names. For instance, dim sum. The words “dim sum,” which look like this in simplified Chinese: 点心 , generally and most often translates to “touching the heart.” It also means to order as one desires – hence, small plates, often delivered by cart. It can be served usually from breakfast time through lunch. Our best example is the renown dim sum served at the Bo Lings’ 90th and Metcalf location as well as the Plaza where it is a long-time tradition. I had my first rooster feet there.
In the Scandinavian countries, it’s not too far a stretch from smörgåsbord, a luncheon or supper buffet that does include both hot and cold items, just like Krokstrom Klubb does on its unique Sunday brunch menu. Co-owner/General Manager Josh Rogers says his wife, Chef Katee, has tweaked many favorites for their delightful brunch items. In slow-dining France, brunch may be called déjeuner-buffet while in Austria, it’s equally popular. Grünauer has a Frühschoppen (which means pre-lunch drink or mid-day pint) menu on Sundays that includes stelze, their featured three-pound (for two) slow roasted pork shank among much else. And in Germany, even the word brunch has been adopted according to co-owner Katrin Heuser of Affäre, which offers the special meal on Saturdays and Sundays. You may want to try their German specialties like arme ritter (German brioche) or käsespätzle (ham, cabbage, onions, cream, cheeses), or jägerschnitzel (pork cutlet with a fried egg and butterspätzle) along with more typical brunch fare.
|Eggs Benedict at The Walnut Room|
And brunches in Dubai, of all places, normally take place on Fridays where hotels and restaurants present food and drinks during early afternoons – where expatriates and tourists will party on for hours. Brunch in Canada is an inclusive event as well and especially popular on Sundays in both homes and restaurants. Both buffet and menu are available, which we’re calling the traditional approach, for lack of a more glamorous name.
Traditional Brunches in Kansas City
Probably the best examples of the traditional brunch may be the ones we think about that celebrate major events. Of course, the mother of all these is Mother’s Day, when everyone’s goal is mom’s day off (except for staff of course whom we hope celebrate on a different day). Dishes are buffet or station arrayed. Or, have a carver dish up some prime rib or get an omelet or pasta dish made before you. Or, order off the menu – that’s ok, too.
These celebratory brunches can be extended to late November – December weekends for Christmas breakfast with Santa at Pinstripes in Prairiefire or at T-REX Café at the Legends along with the Easter bunny there later for April weekends. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, even Father’s Day – all the standard holidays now seem to include brunches except maybe July 4th. We are compelled to add that for those special, special days, you really need to check out our Calendar Events section of kcrestaurantguide.com.
Gaslight Grill in Leawood is an excellent example of this traditional approach. They offer made-to-order omelets, Belgian waffles, eggs Benedict and have additional items from cinnamon rolls to mac and cheese and jambalaya as well as a table of homemade desserts.Ophelia’s Restaurant and Inn on Independence Square offers a large buffet plus individual items ranging from grilled salmon to a breakfast Monte Cristo. Most casinos offer buffets and the Marquee Café at the Hollywood Casino adds a breakfast buffet special on Saturday and Sunday in addition to their regular menu. The Argosy Casino has a Sunday brunch from early in the morning until afternoon in their Terrace Buffet which adds individual carving and egg stations. Their new 99 Hops House also offers a different take – now on their menu is breakfast for lunch (or dinner) that is so varied everyone is trying it, especially on weekends.
Not So Traditional
There’s an art to being different but not so different that people are afraid to order. For instance, Pinstripes adds a surprising kids’ table, a waffle make-it station, and a very popular and flowing chocolate fountain on its sweets table. Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar on Sundays offers brunch items with New Orleans seafood flair seen in such items as the chicken and crawfish gumbo or their beignets, muffuletta, or shrimp and grits. The blunch menu at The Westside Local offers a smoked salmon plank, home-made biscuits and gravy (their best seller) or a chimichurri flat iron burrito among their eclectic selections.
The Brazilian churrascaria Fogo de Chão on the Plaza adds to their fire-roasted meats and already large Market Table, a seasonal roast, braised beef rib hash, a pão de queijo (classic cheese bread) egg bake and bolo de fuba (a sweet cornmeal cake with whipped caramelized banana crème) for their Sunday brunches. And Webster House, recently named one of the top 100 brunch restaurants in the nation by Open Table for their tasty variations on empanadas, short rib hash, biscuits and gravy or even the hot (Kentucky) brown.
The Marys and the Benedicts: Two Main Ingredients of Brunch
First, the “hair of the dog,” has certainly been a component since early times. We all know what that means – drinking more alcohol to supposedly cure a hangover which some, including Ernest Hemingway, swear by. As long as we’re talking history, this whole phrase is “hair of the dog that bit you” and comes from the custom of putting dog hair on the infected wound left by said savage. Note to bitees: that really wasn’t effective at all.
But bloody marys were supposedly introduced just for that – a heartier glass with vitamin C included for free, not that they knew about vitamin C back then – and its history is much murkier than brunch with several people claiming authorship. Grünauer makes its own tomato base as does Krokstrom Klubb and several restaurants offer them for enticing prices like McCormick and Schmick’s, Pig and Finch, Hereford House, or Pinstripes. Some go even further to the bottomless concept for these and mimosas like Harvey’s in Union Station, Affäre downtown, and Ophelia’s in Independence.
Another standard not to be forgotten is the Bellini, sparkling wine and peach purée, said to be invented in the 30s by Giuseppe Cipriani at Harry’s Bar in Venice and named after Renaissance painter Giovanni Bellini. Along with the mimosa, drinks like this became popular during brunch because they’re lighter, somehow more acceptable at breakfast, plus they’re sippers – great lounging drinks for people who linger.
Nearly as ubiquitous as the brunch drink is some version of eggs Benedict. This dish’s history also includes the possibility of several different originators, but it is apparently named after a person. Often credit is given to Chef Charles Ranhofer at the famous Delmonico’s in the 1860s for his Eggs à la Benedick. That recipe did show up in his cookbook, The Epicurean, published in 1894. Just space for one alternative: Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management (Oxford World's Classics) had recipes in the first edition (1861) for "Dutch sauce, for benedict” and its variant on the following page, "Green sauce, or Hollandaise verte," which might have been a fish variation, good for Lent or Fridays for Catholics.
Anyway, you can find a huge variety of eggs Benedict or at least one in practically every place that serves brunch. This ranges from the classic Benedict served at Genovese Italian Restaurant weekends in Lawrence; the classic, the crab or the Pacific northwest Benedict at ever-so popular and many-award-winning Classic Cup on the Plaza – or buy their famous buttermilk pancakes, even as a mix. Jax has a blue crab Bennie and Room 39 in Midtown offers a grilled steak Benedict with Swiss chard, béarnaise sauce, and breakfast potatoes on Saturdays. McCormick’s offers three, including a crawfish Benedict.
The bottom muffin to all this breakfast / brunch business is that breakfast is required and brunch, a logical extension of consumer trends, provides a great opportunity for weekend conversation and culinary adventures. It’s here to stay. Glory, glory say I.