Brunch with a Zing

Bogartz • 5032 Whittaker Drive • 602-3583



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The herb and







I don't actually need an excuse to have brunch, but I had the perfect one this past weekend: guests from out of town. As the culmination of a fun-filled weekend, Sunday brunch was definitely in order, so we headed to Bogartz, which has been offering Sunday brunch since September. I warned everyone that I'd be working during the meal, which is a journalist's code for "I get to stick my fork in your food."

We sat in the room nearest the door, an airy space with mustard walls, slate floors, rustic wood ceiling and modern art. Vases of sunflowers and Louis Armstrong music added to the vibrant tenor of the room. One of our friends described it as "Provence meets New Orleans."

Brunch at Bogartz is a two-course meal, costing $15 with dessert as an additional course. When I saw the menu, which changes weekly, I was glad there were four of us. With five choices for first course and seven choices for second course, we were able to sample more than just the two of us could have. Still, the fact that we were doomed to leave a few dishes untasted resulted in some serious menu negotiation. I should mention that our server was unflaggingly patient during this process.

For our first courses we ordered the Soup of the Moment, which was Low Country Crawfish Stew; the Apple and Goat Cheese Strudel; Smoked Bacon Hash with Red-Eye Steak Gravy; and Almond Granola and Fresh Strawberries with Sweet Cream and Honey. The only first course we didn't try was the Antipasta Salad with Assorted Deli Meats, Cheeses and Vegetables.

All the first course dishes were good, but we unanimously declared the Crawfish Stew the best. It was a zingy bowl of crawfish with corn, tomatoes and celery in a spicy broth, making me wish for a chunk of bread for dipping. I didn't see any apples in the strudel, but I did find chewy apricots and creamy goat cheese encased in a light, flaky pastry. The hash was a really tasty combination of chunked potatoes along with diced tomatoes and bacon in redeye gravy. The gravy was dark and smoky with perhaps a hint of chicory. The potato chunks were especially tasty when given an extra swirl though the gravy. The crunchy granola, served in a bowl of heavy cream with sliced strawberries and almonds, was perfect for a spring brunch.

With seven choices for the second course, we had to make some tough decisions. We were unable to sample the Brioche French Toast with Strawberry Jam and Cream Cheese Mousse or the Steak and Eggs with Cheese Grits, Eggs and Red Eye Gravy. With our limited personnel, we did what we could.

Two variations on Eggs Benedict were offered, both on savory biscuits: Parmesan Biscuit with Smoked Bacon Succotash, Poached Eggs and Boursin Cream; and Cajun Biscuit with Artichoke Hearts, Tomato, Poached Egg and Hollandaise. After much discussion, we ordered the Cajun variation. Kernels of corn, artichokes, tomatoes and crawfish surrounded the biscuit and blended with the sauce. The biscuit was really more scone than biscuit, light as a biscuit but with the chewy density of a scone. The Hollandaise sauce was extremely light with just the perfect hint of lemon.

The fish of the day was a delectable Low Country pairing of large, tender, seared scallops and grits. Both the fluffy Brown Butter Crawfish Omelet and the Fresh Herb and Boursin Scramble were served with an inventive asparagus salad that also included green olives and celery. Every dish included grits of some variety, usually serving as a base for another item, such as scallops or eggs. We agreed the grits that accompanied the scallops—creamy ones mixed with mushrooms and herbs—were the most flavorful.

The herb and boursin scramble came with duck bacon. Ducks don't exactly yield bacon, so I was intrigued by the concept. Duck bacon, it turns out, is made by curing and smoking strips of duck meat, which are then fried. The result is not unlike ham in texture, with a sweet, smoky taste. If you like duck, you'll probably like the duck bacon. If you are expecting something more like bacon, you might be disappointed.

We tried two desserts. The Turtle Sundae was a big hit. The swirls of softened ice cream, nuts and hot fudge sauce got more chocolatey as we dug our spoons deeper into the old-fashioned sundae glass.  The hot fudge slowly melted into the ice cream just as authentic hot fudge is supposed to do. My favorite was the Strawberry Shortcake. The split, faintly orange-flavored shortbread biscuit was layered with strawberry jam, strawberries and strawberry ice cream—a strawberry triple treat.

Owner/Chef Bruce Bogartz circulated through the restaurant, making everyone feel welcome, especially our visitors. Our server was attentive and helpful. The dishes were beautifully presented, created from clearly fresh ingredients and prepared with obvious care and attention to detail. It was the perfect place to take our guests, but we won't need an excuse to return to Bogartz for brunch. Just the fact that it's Sunday will do fine.

© 2005 MetroPulse. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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