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.
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.
837 West Fulton Market