This week’s Young & Hungry will look at how two restaurants have dealt with the seismic waves that recently rocked their kitchens. As a small, somewhat complementary taste to the upcoming column, I offer up this short take on Cashion’s Eat Place, which James Beard award-winning chef Ann Cashion sold last year to her long-time sous chef, John Manolatos:
The wife and I stopped at Cashion’s on a recent Sunday for brunch. My brilliant plan was to check out new chef/owner Manolatos’ work during a service that many chefs despise. I mean, if he could impress me with Sunday brunch—-otherwise known as the Eggs Benediction for the Maple-Syrup Inflicted—-I suspect he could impress me at any hour.
I was most definitely impressed with the wife’s cornmeal waffle, which Manolatos slathers with pecan butter and rests atop small pools of applesauce. When combined with a lean application of syrup, the waffle is silly with flavor—-sweet, tart, and bready—-but it also comes with the added benefit of a pecan crunch. It’s that surprise element of resistance that places this standard-issue brunch item into a category all its own.
My omelet, likewise, packed plenty of flavor, stuffed as it was with spinach, mushrooms, and a small vat of Gruyere. The kitchen cooked the curds to the satisfyingly fluffy texture—-always a sign of skilled line cooks—-but the entire omelet came covered with a thin sheen of tomato-basil sauce. The sauce, expertly prepared no question, had the unfortunately side effect of turning my plate into eggy, reddish marshland. The flavors were there, the consistency was not.
As a lark, we ordered a side of cheese grits, which I have to say were almost inedible. The problem was the heat; these grits were packed with black pepper and bits of chili pepper (a jalapeno from hell, by the taste of things), both of which were sending the Scoville scale into the red zone. It was unfortunate; the grits themselves were simultaneously creamy and studded with pleasing, tongue-teasing bits of coarse ground corn. I would have loved them with a little less heat—-say, a small controlled blaze, not a California redwood-ripping wildfire—-and I say this as a unrepentant hot-head. I’m no chili pepper wuss.
In the end, I’m not so sure this brunch tells me anything about Manolatos and the new-look Cashion’s, other than the fact that brunches are still a bitch to make original.