Thursday, May 26, 2011

Clover Club: Membership Encouraged


It's easy to miss Clover Club walking down Brooklyn's Smith Street, the signage way above anyone's neck range of motion. It was only the outdoor seating that clued us in. The chairs and tables spilling out onto the sidewalk were minimal, but we were adamant about snagging the only two-top, occupied upon on our arrival by ladies that were too deep in conversation. I caught myself pulling "The Secret," my eyes like focused daggers, the power of my thoughts compelling enough to escort them out. Because what is Sunday brunch on a fine day without the sun? Besides, the speakeasy-like dimly lit interior whispered dinner and late-night cocktails - the latter of which their impressive list speaks to what they are known for (though it's no Death & Co.).
Nothing says brunch like al fresco.
Where the mixin' happens.

They must also be known for their brunch because every item on the menu sounded better than the next. Ordering the perfect spread for a well-rounded sampling can be most stressful (cue the violins). After a labored game of dish Tetris and two glasses of sparkling Rose (each), we finally set it in stone, already qualifying our decisions with having to return for the ones that didn't make the cut. So which ones did?
Soup Special: Lamb with hominy
A beautiful start with something I never order for brunch: soup. As soon as our server spewed out this special, I knew it was mine. It was even more gratifying to my sense of taste than sound. A rich yet brothy beef base played swimming pool to lusciously stewed lamb shreds, that fell apart among walnut-sized hominy, pumpkin seeds, and julienned scallions and watermelon radishes. The light textures and deep flavors sang a harmony on my lips.
Beet-cured salmon and potato cakes buried by greens.
Switch gears from sumptuous meat to smoked fish brunch staple: salmon. But not just any smoked salmon - one that is cured with beet and dill, served atop fried potato cakes (that's latkes for my fellow Jewbies),  garnished with buoyant poppy seed creme fraiche and lots o' leafy greens. I have to say the novelty of purple salmon alone made it worth the order. But that was probably the most interesting aspect of this dish, as it didn't contribute much by way of flavor. Upon reflection, I would replace this plate with another contender. It tasted like the mainstay it is, nothing more, nothing less. And for $14, I'd prefer to pick up a pound of the smoked goods at my local deli. I will say my mom's latkes have some competition - these were seasoned and crisped to golden greatness.
The Englander
Now for what makes it brunch and not lunch: the eggs. You know I like a properly poached egg, all the oozy yolk waiting to escape that paper-thin white casing with the first puncture. And I got it - well, partially. We ordered two egg dishes. "The Englander" was glory with expertly cooked hanger steak (medium rare is the only option), thinly sliced and slabbed onto a toasty English muffin - keeping it English, after all. The layers were an excellent cradle for a JELLO-y egg round begging for the stab of my fork. The Bernaise sauce, though tasty, was ignored, as the yellow yolk coated my steak and soaked into the porous muffin just fine.
Chorizo and Manchego Baked Eggs

Our baked eggs with chorizo and manchego cheese did not fare so well on the yolky front. It seems England beat Spain in this battle. Our eggs were over baked, but the flavors were still marvelous. The gooey cheese supplied the runniness expected from the eggs and the hinted kick of the diced chorizo and tomato sauce provided adequate distraction. Add to that rustic bread to mop up this divine liquid emulsion and, to be honest, I didn't even miss the eggs. (And looking at the photo, you'd be hard-pressed to find them.) Not the catastrophic buzz-kill it could have been. Lucky clover.

Speaking of buzz, before we even sat down for this meal I had my eye on a cocktail that had my name written all over it. "Maria Sin Sangre," one of the four variations they had on the traditional Bloody Mary. This Mary had no tomato juice (sin sangre, without blood), but instead cherry tomatoes muddled with silver tequila, medium dry sherry, basil and fresh lemon juice. The Mexican twist was not as alternative as expected but still a great, refreshing stand alone drink. Ole!
Love me a good coffee press.

So we got our savory in, but it ain't over until the fatty sweets sing. There was no question in our minds on the finale to our meal: the thickest Brioche bread pudding I have ever cut into, doused with Bourbon caramel sauce, dotted with softened currants and whipped sweet cream. I died, thankful that it was the last thing to touch my tongue. The sauce was perfectly balanced in flavor (not too sweet) and viscosity (not too thick). The Bourbon rounded it out and the tiny currants contributed the necessary chew. The eggy Brioche was the optimal sponge for that delicious sauce, lightened even further by the whipped fluff of cream. As to my compulsion to spoon every last morsel into my mouth (and left wanting more) I can only say, "The Devil made me do it." This is the true Devil's food cake.

Instead of joining the gym I have joined the Clover Club, where the fee is worthwhile and the food does not discriminate. So become a member, today.