ordinary pleasures: sunday feast

As Spring approaches and the sun shines a bit brighter, my thoughts often turn to vibrant memories of markets and preparations for elaborate feasts - in short, my eternal Parisian Sundays. Each weekend, I would wake early to shop at Place d'Aligre - inventing dishes on the fly, experimenting with new ingredients. Whether it was pancakes (by request), a pork roast or an indoor picnic, each and every Sunday was "family" dinner for twelve.

Since joining the full-time workforce in NYC, my Spring Sunday routine has become simpler - typically beginning and ending with a long bike ride, in which the market is only one of several points of interest. If food is purchased, it's just a few interesting ingredients for the week, moreso than preparations for a celebratory weekend feast.

But on rare occasions - for a holiday or an out-of-the-ordinary reunion - I return to my elaborate Sunday kitchen. The weekends that I escape to my parents' home in Connecticut, these culinary impulses are at their peak, inspired by spacious counter-tops and cupboards (filled with tools for which I lack space in my meager Upper West Side studio).

This Easter was no exception. We spent Saturday afternoon preparing a home-made batch of puff pastry. On Sunday, that pastry was adorned with gruyere, creme fraiche, bacon and eggs - a spectacular and indulgent Easter Sunday brunch.

My sister and I went for a spin before eating, as per our NYC custom. As the sunlight gleamed through the tall seaside grasses, we squinted, rounding the corner for home. Just then, our uncle arrived in a family heirloom - grandfather's 1969 jaguar convertible - the cherry on top of our Sunday CT nostalgia.

eater's digest: the publican

Photos by Lauren DeFilippo It was Easter morning, and early.  After a full weekend of eating at the hippest restaurants in town, the last thing my family needed to pack in before our 11 a.m. flight was a hearty brunch.  And yet, here we were, twenty minutes outside of the Loop, face-to-face with portraits of overstuffed swine, and feeling a bit pot-bellied ourselves.

Yet any sense of gluttonous remorse vanished during this almost-religious brunch experience.  The ambiance might be described as Amish-alternative, appropriate for only the hippest of post-prayer gatherings.  Boxed-in booths hid behind hinged, church pew-style doors, while a central U of sturdy, stylized banquet tables filled the core of the high-ceilinged space.  Tall-backed, numbered, wooden chairs with convenient sub-seat shelves only underscored the quirky-meets-functional vibe, as did the table's condiment-toting lazy susan.

This impressive, yet homey attention to dining-room decor was happily equaled - if not surpassed - in the kitchen.  From finger-lickin’-good pecan sticky buns (I should’ve ordered a batch to-go!) to rich red-wine poached eggs, the portions were perfect and the flavors on-point.  Not to mention that our food was beautifully lit by the soft morning light, streaming through curtains that looked like they were stolen from an elder's country home.  The all-around favorite, however, was the ridiculously addictive french fries with (what I can only assume was home-made) mayonnaise.  Normally a fair-weather fan of potatoes, I found myself stealing more than my share of my sister’s side of fries.

It could’ve been our lovely waitress, the quaint Sunday-best of our neighboring diners, or the sentimental sense that this was our last Chicago meal – but I’ve a feeling that I could’ve eaten that food blind-folded in a basement and still savored every bite.  The Publican is namely perfectly – relaxed and accommodating, with just a touch of posh perfectionism.  And if I were lucky enough to be heading back to Chicago this Easter weekend, it's exactly the place I'd choose for my final, pre-flight bite.

The Publican 837 West Fulton Market Chicago 60607 (312) 733-9555