|Mother’s Day 2010: Dressing it Up for Mother’s Day Brunch
|by Francoise Villeneuve
|| Photos by Vicky Wasik
A three course prix fixe brunch is an indulgence at $75, as many restaurants are cutting back on food costs to provide a more affordable meal, but 2008 New York Rising Star Chef Gavin Kaysen matches his pricetag at Café Boulud with his elegant, nuanced offerings. There are old reliables like Belgian waffles. But citrus-cured fluke, crispy duck eggs, and merguez-stuffed lamb leg make for more occasion-appropriate options, in contrast with menu items that are found at Café Boulud’s weekly brunches around the year. “People want to make it celebratory and take their time with their moms (with) food that can be creative but comforting at the same time,” says Kaysen.
Instead of pancakes, he serves blintzes that are fluffy with ricotta cheese and enriched with apple butter and sour cream, rather than cloyingly sweet maple syrup. Scrambled eggs are elevated by ritzier companions like poached lobster and caviar.
And though brunch is essentially an American institution, Kaysen notes his background in both European and American cuisines. His Mother’s Day menu is bilingual, culinarily speaking. Kaysen typically creates “French fare with a definite American twist,” he says. There are French stalwarts like onion soup, as well as more regional dishes like pistachio-studded saucisse de Lyon with Lyonnaise potatoes. At the same time Kaysen doesn’t shy away from updating classics. Slate-green Puy lentils with their characteristic firmness are topped with a merguez sausage stuffed-lamb leg, incorporating a Moroccan ingredient in a classically French dish for a modern spin. Closer scrutiny also reveals American classics with a Gallic nod, like steak and eggs served with sauce Bordelaise.
While Kaysen’s Mother’s Day menu might straddle numerous nations, it is unified by his elegance and attention to seasonality. He describes his cuisine as “fanatically seasonal” and he enthusiastically throws spring greens, ramps, and pea tendrils into the mix as a tribute to the bounty of spring vegetables available around mother’s day. This was one of the inspirations behind his extensive menu items.
There are savvy ways to approach this key meal in the industry. Kaysen gives as much care to his brunch dishes as those on his dinner menu, offering 10 appetizers and 10 entrées to provide more choices to the consumer. He does not cut quality ingredients, or compromise the quality of the remaining ingredients. “The more choices we’re able to give our guests the better they are and the better we are,” says Kaysen. By including some items from the dinner and lunch menus, he’s able to bulk up on ingredients without risking costly waste. This makes the meal at least as profitable as his weekly brunch menu without cutting the value of the final product. Clients are willing to spend a little more as a result of the added value of choice, and quality and variety of the offerings, even the inclusion of a Children’s Menu. Kaysen knows that as a day of leisure and indulgence, Mother’s Day is not the time to cut back.