Breaking Bread at Harlem's Hautest Table
Being that both of us hail from the South, Rachel and I decided that it would only be fitting to kick off our weekend with an early Saturday morning brunch at Marcus Samuelsson's recently-opened nouveau-Southern, Red Rooster Harlem.
"Early" and "Saturday" are two words that should never be used so closely together in a sentence but, due to the fact that President Obama had visited the restaurant earlier in the week, I thought that a pre-noon arrival would be necessary in order to avoid a potentially heinous line and/or wait for a table. We settled on 11am.
In true Lunch Belle fashion, I arrived at the restaurant about 15 minutes early and, to my surprise, Red Rooster was not nearly as crowded as I had imagined it would be. Since Rach and I did not have a reservation, there was no need to approach the hostess and inform her of my arrival. Instead, I made a beeline to the spacious bar and ordered a café latte as I waited for my guest.
Just as I began to get comfortable, Rachel arrived. As I paid my bar tab, she approached the hostess stand and inquired about a two-top. Coincidentally, we were seated at a communal table, located just inches from my original bar stool.
"You know," Rachel admitted, as my head was buried deep in Red Rooster's brunch menu, "I've already been here for dinner." I glanced up in shock — as if she'd just announced that she was going to move to Las Vegas to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a showgirl. "What?" I exclaimed. Rachel reassured me that, despite having previously dined here, this did not change the fact that she was eager to sample the 'Rooster's morning offerings. "OK, Rach, but I don't want to hear about your dinner experience until after we're done with brunch. Fair?" She nodded.
Cornbread I've never had cornbread shaped or sliced like pound cake, but this presentation made quite a bit of sense. I cut my portion down the middle and, on each half, spread a thick layer of the accompanying dips — honey butter and tomato jam. The cornbread was very heavy and dense — almost dry. The tomato jam was incredibly fragrant, though not in a positive sense (or shall I say "scents," hahaha) of the word. There were too many combative ingredients and textures. The honey butter, however, was an excellent pairing with the savory bread. Rachel and I butter knife-fought over the last spreadable serving.