Tag Archives: brunch

Brunch with a Brazilian Twist at La Sirena Clandestina

brazil It’s always a delicate balance finding somewhere to go out to eat on a weekend for lunch – note that I say lunch – not brunch! Fortunately La Sirena Clandestina (954 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL) strikes a nice balance between lunch and brunch dishes, and is sure to please people with all kinds of palates. La Sirena Clandestina has an eclectic menu with lots of Brazilian flourishes, based on Chef John Manion’s childhood in Brazil – they even have our favorite cheesy bread on the menu – Pão de Queijo – though it sadly wasn’t available when we visited.  We are always looking for new Brazilian tastes, so we were definitely looking forward to sampling La Sirena’s mix of Brazilian flavors and local ingredients.

SirenaSteak

The weekend daytime menu at La Sirena is a mix of sweet and savory, brunch and lunch. On the brunch side of things you can get their take on Eggs Benedict, with soft shell crab and Brazilian malagueta peppers ($18) or chilaquiles with plantains and salsa verde ($15). For those going more savory, you can get a grilled hanger steak with a fried yucca “tot” ($18) or the “El Che” (a take on the Cuban sandwich – $13) – achiote roasted pork loin with ham, Swiss cheese and pickles. There are also some nice, healthier vegetarian options including the Kale Salad ($9) and the white bean hash with avocado and chimichurri ($15) Among our group we ordered some options from each “type.”

SirenaEgg

One of our favorites, the hanger steak was perfectly tender and well-accented by the garlicky sauce – we also appreciated the whimsy of the yucca “tater tot.” Another hit was the Tapioca Nordestina ($12) – which was similar to a beachside dish that is popular in Brazil. This consisted of manioc flour crepes stuffed with cream cheese and topped with strawberry and rhubarb compote. This was a combination of flavors we didn’t expect – but worked really well together, and was not too sweet at all.

SirenaTapioca

As an added twist on brunch, instead of the typical mimosa, you can get a variety of mixed drinks with Brazilian cachaça, along with aguas frescas (the juice of the day was chamomile lemon) and teas from Rare Tea Cellar. The vibe inside the restaurant is relaxed and casual, with vintage Brazilian tunes playing in the background (think Os Mutantes and Elis Regina). The space is not very big – so reservations are recommended. We highly enjoyed our eclectic brunch at La Sirena Clandestina, and it was a great spot for the pro and anti brunch crowds alike.

LaSirena

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Brunch with a Swedish twist at Tre Kronor

sweden_flagTre Kronor (“Three Crowns” in Swedish), a local Scandinavian bistro, has been on our to-do list for quite a while, but it was just far away enough to keep eluding us. We finally found the perfect time to go, when we were looking for a place to catch up with a friend for brunch. Now we are usually pretty skeptical of brunch, but Tre Kronor seemed laid back enough to give a try. Tre Kronor (3258 W Foster Ave, Chicago, IL 60625) is located in the quiet North Park neighborhood, and is adjacent to one of the cutest stores around – the Sweden Shop (3304 W Foster Ave) which sells all manner of Scandinavian design items, cards and food. We could spend hours just browsing around – you won’t be disappointed.
TreKroner

The first thing you will notice when you walk in to Tre Kronor is the cheerful gnome mural, and the strings of flags displayed on the walls, giving it a very homey atmosphere. Though they do breakfast, lunch and dinner, they seemed to be pretty popular for brunch, and we just barely squeezed in (no reservations accepted, so prepare for a wait). The menu at Tre Kronor is pretty varied, but there is a marked Scandinavian flavor throughout, and especially on the dinner portion which includes seafood staples like Gravlax and pickled herring. However, for brunch, we knew we absolutely had to order the Swedish pancakes – pannekaker – with lingonberry jam. Other options included omelettes with Scandinavian cheeses, pickled herring, and the more Americanized brunch items: French Toast and waffles. M, of course, went with his brunch staple, the French Toast. If you are feeling more like lunch, you can also pick among a variety of Swedish-tinged sandwiches and can even get a burger.
Swedishpancake
We heard they were known for their known for their coffee and their cinnamon rolls as well, so I ordered a cappuccino, which was delicious, with an impressive amount of foam (see below). The food came out promptly, and everything was delicious. The Swedish pancakes were light and fluffy, and the french toast was crisp and golden brown. Also of note, Tre Kronor has an assortment of esoteric sausages, rotating on a daily basis. The day we were there, there was a potato sausage, which was delightful and mild, and a bacon sausage, which M thought was a revelation. What guy wouldn’t want a sausage made out of bacon? Our young server was very nice and helpful, and we appreciated his enthusiasm (as well as his Swedish idiom T-shirt). We thoroughly enjoyed brunch at Tre Kronor: the food was tasty, and the atmosphere was comfortable and relaxed. We are not big on brunch, but Tre Kronor may have just charmed us into changing our ways.
cappuccino

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Traditional Spanish pastries at La Mallorquina in Madrid

La Mallorquina
Calle Mayor, 2
Madrid, Spain

spainA seemingly endless window display of beautiful pastries, cakes and candies first entices you in to La Mallorquina. Taking the opportunity to have a weekend brunch and try some new-to-us pastries in the process, we quickly entered. The bakery was packed to the gills, it looked like half of Madrid had the same idea for brunch! La Mallorquina’s bottom floor is a traditional bakery, with stand-up counters where patrons quickly enjoy coffee and a sweet. The full tea room is located upstairs with tile floors and wooden tables. “La Mallorquina” means the little woman from Mallorca, and is also the same name of a famous old cafe in Puerto Rico (no relation). The Madrid cafe was established in 1894, and looks like it hasn’t stopped churning out treats since.

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La Mallorquina had a huge selection of baked goods, cakes, sandwiches and coffee drinks, and you can order anything in the tea room that is in the front counter. The selection was nearly overwhelming, but we went in with a few recommendations (the chocolate napolitana is a specialty, as are the rosquilla rolls). We were interested to see some of our favorite treats that are popular in Puerto Rico: mallorca and ensaimada. We went to the bakery around Christmas time, so Christmas favorites like Turron were also on offer. 

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We made our way up to the tea room and were lucky enough to find a spot. We picked an apple tart, a Napolitana and ensaimada. The ensaimada is a rich brioche roll, which was perfect with butter and the apple tart was fresh and had a sweet glaze. However, the chocolate Napolitana was definitely the star of the show, think a rich croissant filled with chocolate custard. Of course, to complement our brunch we had a cappuccino and some chocolate milk (we also hear the orange juice is excellent). Given the sheer variety, there were so many selections we wish we could have tried. The torrija, a Spanish take on french toast looks amazing. If you are looking for a classic Spanish pastry experience, this is definitely the place. Just be prepared for a crowd!

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Italy: La Taverna dei Sapori – Mariella’s Brunch

La Taverna dei Sapori – aka Mariella’s
Corso Garibaldi,215
Monte di Procida (Naples), Italy

Sunday brunch is not a traditional occurrence in Italy since the typical Italian breakfast usually consists of coffee and a pastry (which is really our normal breakfast as well). However, a very smart proprietress, Mariella Fratelli (the restaurant is usually just known by patrons as “Mariella’s”), decided to capitalize on the brunch nostalgia of American expats and started a Sunday brunch of her own in the Naples area. She definitely has done something right: Mariella’s has gained a major following among expats hankering for brunch. However this is not a replica of an American bunch, but rather an Italian-style brunch! The brunch was all-you-can-eat for 12€, and we definitely got our money’s worth of Italian comfort foods.

We were the first to arrive, so we had the pick of the tables. Being a few days before Halloween  we were surprised and pleased to see the place decked out in orange and black. One thing we greatly enjoyed was that the food was all prepared in a normal fashion on plates, with new plates being constantly supplied. None of that steam-table business – which is good because we normally hate warmed-over brunch buffets. The spread was quite impressive with veggies, cakes, fritattas, and cheeses. There were no less than five fritattas on offer, with a variety of cheese, vegetable and meat fillings (and even a fritatta full of spaghetti). We gravitated instantly to the fresh mozzarella di bufala and the fresh ricotta.  We were also impressed by the large array of fresh roasted vegetables – including peppers and eggplant – not necessarily what you think of for brunch, but completely delicious and healthy.

We also appreciated the chocolate and fruit tarts on offer, including the chocolatey Torta Caprese. We remember eating a slice of Torta Caprese for breakfast everyday when we were in Siracusa. Perhaps not the most well-rounded breakfast, but oh so good! There were also a few nods to American tastes, with muffins, fruit yogurts and brownies.  For drinks, there was also a jug of fresh blood orange juice and cappuccinos were also on offer. As the brunch wore on, the place gradually became filled with Americans. We definitely enjoyed our little Italian brunch, and kudos to Mariella for hitting on a concept that works!

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