This past Sunday was the inaugural Brunchfest in the Queen Village neighborhood of Philly, organized by The Friends of Bainbridge Green, Queen Village Neighbors Association and South Street Headhouse District. These organizations hosted some of the neighborhood’s best chefs and restaurants in a gathering to raise money and awareness of the ongoing project to build a multi-purpose, open park area on Bainbridge St., between 3rd and 5th streets, called Bainbridge Green.
The public space would bring a wonderful and vibrant green park area to Center City which would benefit local businesses, visitors and residents alike.
The fundraiser drew a huge crowd of hungry brunch fans who were all ready to sample the goods of some of the popular eateries in the area, but it wasn’t all about the grub. The festival had some fun, family-friendly activities too…
Like a silent auction for some really awesome photos, prints, and original artwork.
But of course the main attraction of Brunchfest had to be the brunch, right? The Friends of Bainbridge Green invited me to come and sample…an offer which I was more than happy to agree to. I mean, I had to, right? It’s research!
So, as I arrived, I determined that the best method of conquering the multitude of brunch booths would be to simply start at one end and work my way down. Yeah…that method went out the window as soon as I saw the The Good King Tavern‘s offering. Now, I have a confession to make: I am not a salmon person. I just don’t care for it any way that I’ve eaten it. In fact, I have never been brave enough to order smoked salmon for brunch (GASP…a breakfast/brunch blogger who’s never had smoked salmon before!!), but I’ve always been curious. I knew I was going to try this so I headed straight here first! GKTavern served their Mint Cured Salmon with preserved lemon, black pepper creme fraiche and crispy shallots. I did have a bite but I guess it’s just a matter of personal taste, and unfortunately salmon still just isn’t my thing. It was really fresh though and from what I observed and gathered from talking with other folks, the texture was just right and flavors were vibrant and mixed well. It definitely seemed to be one of the most popular dishes of the afternoon!
As I gathered my first round o’ samples, I noticed that there was no lack of seating at the festival, which was much appreciated by this out of shape dude (I mean me…not the guy in the picture). However, this standing table caught my eye as part of the offered amenities. I’d LOVE to have this in my kitchen!!
Chef Scott Schroeder of The Hungry Pigeon blew me away with this unique sample of what their server called a “deconstructed ham, egg and cheese biscuit”. Actually, I’d consider this a totally reinvented breakfast sandwich. It was a very, very light and airy biscuit which was baked with egg and gruyere cheese. The ham component was a really fascinating and tasty rendering of the protein blended with dill and other seasonings. The guy who was eating next to me probably described it best…like a savory cream puff.
Ox Coffee was brewing their Ox Signature Line with bottomless refills of their Ethiopia Yabitu Koba coffee. It’s vibrant and dynamic profile enhanced the brunch samples perfectly. They were quite busy.
Equally as popular was 13th Street Cocktails with their Bloody Mary and Mimosa station.
Round two of brunch bites delivered a dish I had never heard of, much less eaten before. Kanella served their fresh-made Flaouna – a traditional cheese, mint, raisin Cypriot Pie served with Labneh. Ok, with all due respect, I’m going to say that this was basically a really good cheesy bread and a side of whipped yogurt w/ cinnamon, honey, and nuts. And it was sooo good! The Flaouna was really flavorful, and I’m not sure if the labneh was meant to be eaten with the bread (it was originally served in a separate cup), but I put it on top of each bite and they were delicious together. Good job, Kanella!
One of the consistently longest lines of the entire festival belonged to one of Philly’s favorite brunch spots, Sabrina’s Cafe. They were here serving a couple different versions of their famous brioche Stuffed French Toast!
Before I grabbed my spot in line, I snuck around to the back of the tent to capture the magic in action. They were offering two versions, banana and pumpkin.
I opted for the pumpkin stuffed French toast, and if you’ve been to Sabrina’s and had this, I don’t even need to explain. If you haven’t…go there. Now. I didn’t even realize until I was writing this that I didn’t even have syrup on this. I didn’t need it. It was so good.
One of the other features of Brunchfest was this awesome pumpkin painting station for the kiddies. I mean, how awesome is this?
And local favorite band, Sweetbriar Rose, entertained the masses as we ate and mingled. Good stuff!
Ok, for the final round it was go big or go home. I headed over to Ela‘s booth to see what Chef Jason Chiconski had in store for me. What I found was one of the tastiest samples of the afternoon. His Country Chicken Gravy and Buttermilk Biscuits was a home run for this biscuits and gravy fan. The gravy was creamy, chunky and seasoned perfectly, and the biscuit was moist and fresh. I heard many folks praising this dish and rightfully so.
Chef Jeremy Nolan from Whetstone Tavern was offering some delicious Buckwheat silver dollar pancakes with cinnamon-maple syrup and cardamom sugar. Yeah, these were as delicious as they look. I’ll be looking for a full-sized order of these soon when I visit Whetstone for brunch!
One of my favorites of the fest in terms of both presentation and flavor was the New Orleans Crostini Sandwich from Plenty Cafe. It was simple yet delicious. House cured and smoked tasso ham, fresh apple, gruyere, and fig jam topped a crusty, grilled bread as a mini open-faced, bite-sized sample. The combination of flavors were expertly assembled. I actually had two of these 🙂
My final savory sample of the afternoon just so happened to be my absolute favorite bite of the day. The Potato and Egg Torta with a spicy aioli from Chef Chris D’Ambro at Southwark was tremendous. It was a perfectly cooked slice of tender egg and potato layers, and the spicy aioli enhanced every bite. It came with a little croissant which really was unnecessary, but generous nonetheless. All I can say is that I’m glad I tried this last, because if I had gone here first, I would have used up all of my food tickets on plate after plate of this torta and would not have gotten to try anything else!
For as full as I was, when I saw what The Little Bird Bakery & Cafe was serving for dessert, I knew I couldn’t leave without it. Their Pumpkin Pie spiced cinnamon roll with cream cheese icing was seriously To. Die. For. It wasn’t just a pumpkin dough, they actually had pumpkin pie filling swirled into the cinnamon roll, and then covered it in a deliciously sweet icing with chopped nuts. I cannot even explain to you how good this was. Just go to The Little Bird and ask them to make you one. They’re contemplating putting it on their fall menu. You can be the reason they do! My wife was mad at me that I didn’t bring two or ten of these home for her.
The first annual Brunchfest, by all observations, was a big success..at least for brunch fans. I hope funding continues and that the park is built soon so that more events like this, and many others, are available to the folks and the businesses in Queen Village to enjoy. Open space is always a good thing – a positive. I know it’s one that many people who live and work in this area are looking forward to. I’d like to extend a HUGE “thank you” to the Friends of Bainbridge Green for their generosity and I’ll be looking forward to checking out Brunchfest next year at the newly expanded site of Bainbridge Green!
This post was sponsored by the folks who made Brunchfest possible. All opinions are my own.