New Yorkers love their brunch, or ‘Boozy Brunch’ as they are often promoted. This is no doubt fueled by their tendency towards late nights, the ‘my phone is my kitchen’ mindset and a restaurant-dense landscape. So, after living here almost nine years, I was surprised to find that I was in the dark about THE best brunch deal in the city -hands down! Case closed. Where is this brunch nirvana? Read on to find out.Every chef training program has a variety of dining options available to the public for a very reasonable fee. Large culinary training programs, such as the Culinary Institute of America, might have multiple restaurants ranging from formal sit-down restaurants to the more informal cafe experience. The restaurants provide the students with real-world experience, a way for the school to recoup some of their food costs and the diner with a variety of food at below market rate. The service isn’t always the best. Some dishes are hits and some are misses. But, overall, everyone wins.
At Natural Gourmet Institute, there is no stand-alone full-time restaurant. But, every Friday Night and with some regularity on Saturdays a teaching classroom is transformed into a dining room. Here, the public is fed by the latest group of chefs in training. Last Saturday, our class executed our brunch, which I now wish I would have promoted more heavily to local friends. It was bargain brunch heaven!
Because it is Natural Gourmet Institute, the ingredients were mostly organic, local and sustainably sourced and there was a variety of gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan menu options. Along with all the usual brunch suspects (omelets, waffles, tofu scramble, vegan muffin basket etc.), the menu included some creative NGI-style signature dishes as well as more traditional classics. These were some of my favorites.
Spinach, Shiitake Mushroom Salad with Pine Nuts and Sherry Vinaigrette
Mixed Green Salad with Beets, Red Onions and Walnuts with Horseradish Dressing and Herb-Crusted Goat Cheese
Herbed Chickpea Crêpe with Curried Chickpea Filling and Mango Sauce
Tempeh Reuben on House Spelt Bread with Sauerkraut
Vegan Chocolate Pudding
Crêpes Suzette with Whipped Cream
All of this for $10! And, since I know the New York City readers are wondering, yes -you may bring your own bottle. ; )
So, even if you’re not in New York City, if you are looking for a unique culinary experience on a budget, check out your local culinary school. You might just find a gem of an experience.