Saturday, May 19, 2012

Birch & Barley

Brunch at Birch & Barley sat at the top of my must eat list for months and months.  Every time I would remember to try to snag a reservation, they'd be booked solid.  People flock to B&B for their hip vibe, sunny patio, and the culinary creations of Chef Kyle Bailey and Pastry Chef Tiffany MacIsaac.
I finally snagged a table through Opentable about 3 weeks ahead of time for a prime brunch spot.  If you're not such a planner, you can walk in and take your chances.  We saw walk-ins being seated with minimal waiting.

We passed on the $30 boozy brunch.  It includes donut holes, 2 cocktails, an entree, and bottomless iced tea or coffee.  If you want 2 cocktails and you like coffee or iced tea (not us), this is a fantastic deal. 

We ordered the pear and blue cheese scone to start.  We both agreed that we're not big scone fans but this one could make us scone believers.  Unlike the dry-as-a-desert scones we're used to, this one was melt-in-your-mouth buttery.
B&B is famous for the donuts, and for good reason. What could be bad about a plate of toffee-bacon, lemon poppy, and bittersweet chocolate donuts?

Because we hadn't already eaten enough carbs for the morning, we ordered the chicken and waffles and the french toast.  B was the day's clear winner with the fried chicken and waffles.  Crispy chicken, belgian waffles, with pecans and maple-chicken jus was a blue ribbon combination.  Kind of like a classed-up version of Roscoe's without Big Mama and a vat of whipped butter.

 Unfortunately my french toast didn't live up to the high expectations set by the other dishes.  The french toast was dry, the bacon was not crisp and was hard to cut, and the apple-mascarpone topping felt disjointed.  I was eyeing the fried egg BLT on a pretzel roll and I should have gone with my instincts.

If you skip the french toast, I think you'll find that brunch at Birch & Barley is worth the effort to get a reservation.  Did somebody say toffee-bacon donut?

Second Thoughts from B

If TwoDC was a sports team, J would be the advance scout.  Before we ever enter a restaurant, J has read professional reviews and blogs, analyzed the menu, and for all I know, created a new sabermetric algorithm to calculate the value of each entree a la Bill James.

Of all the eateries in DC, Birch & Barley was probably the number one target on J's list.  To say she coveted a reservation for months is an understatement.  I've been hearing about this place for years.  Thankfully, it did not disappoint.

Among the many things I've learned about myself in the course of writing about food is how much I like to be surprised.  Sure, I also like lamb and bacon and contrasting flavors and textures, but most of all, I like to be surprised.  There is nothing like that first bite that defies expectation and allows you to think about an ingredient or dish differently.  Birch & Barley did that on multiple occasions.

The first was with their scone.  I've never had a scone that I liked.  In fact, I've never had a scone that I didn't dislike.  But something about this one seemed different on the menu, and since my advance scout knew the pastry chef was also part magician, we gambled.  It was surprisingly moist and flavorful, and left me wanting more.

I also loved the spicy kick of my chicken and waffles.  Unlike many other editions I've had that are too sweet or overly seasoned, the spice on the chicken perfectly balanced the dish.  Each bite left a hint of burn in my mouth that could only be quenched by a mouthful of sweet, maple syrup-covered waffle.  Needless to say, I cleaned my plate in a hurry.

Nice work J.  You nailed your scouting report on this one!
Birch & Barley on Urbanspoon

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