With summer over and the smell of fall in the air, it is always nice when you take time from your busy schedule, sit down with friends, relax and enjoy some good food liberally peppered with good conversation. My favorite time for this event is “Sunday Brunch,” that most-civilized of dining-out events, where the entrees usually encompass the best of the breakfast and the lunch menus, leaving you spoiled for choice.
Probably the best place for brunch in Johnson City is at Cafe Lola Bistro & Wine Bar on North Roan Street. Using the finest locally grown ingredients, owners Tara and Hunter Morrow have been impressing local epicures since 2006 with Cafe Lola’s lunch and dinner offerings, but their Sunday brunch is where they really shine.
Just last week, my dining partner rang me up to say that it was time for Sunday brunch, and reservations had already been made. I agreed wholeheartedly and met the dine-around bunch for brunch at the appointed time. Over drinks, our perusal of Cafe Lola’s menu did not disappoint.
I opted for the brunch special, a mushroom, Swiss and ham quiche with a side salad ($7.95) while our Dieter chose the Toasted Goat Cheese Salad ($7.95) adding sliced breast of chicken ($3.50).
Having just returned from another series of travels and adventures, our Retiree ordered comfort food, Eggs Benedict with Smoked Ham ($7.95). The Carnivore, feeling a bit under the weather, ordered a Breakfast Panini ($7.95) with a side order of fresh fruit.
Lastly, my partner chose the Croque Madame ($8.95) with a fresh green salad on the side.
Our server brought us the chef’s amuse-bouche for the day, buttermilk biscuit mini-muffins, freshly baked, hot from the oven, and served with cinnamon-swirled butter. No sooner had we polished off the muffins than our entrees arrived.
The Retiree’s Eggs Benedict were quite tasty, the mild tang of the hollandaise sauce complementing the ham’s smoky flavor. The English muffin was somewhat stiff, but that may have been due to its size relative to the rest of the elements making up the dish.
Adding grilled breast of chicken proved a good match for our Dieter’s Toasted Goat Cheese Salad, though the goat cheese toasts could have been toasted a bit more. The raspberry-walnut vinaigrette was yummy, as always.
Our Carnivore’s foray into the world of light fare seemed to be going all right. His Breakfast Panini looked and smelled wonderful, and his side order of fresh fruit disappeared with commendable dispatch. My inquiring fork for a taste assay was turned away with a polite but firm smile, instead of the usual growl. (Maybe he really is under the weather.)
My quiche was properly prepared, with cream instead of milk. The smoked ham, Swiss cheese and sauteed mushroom mixture was positively scrumptious, and the crust was very light and flaky. Whoever said “real men don’t eat quiche” had obviously never had one of Cafe Lola’s. Here’s one real man who wanted seconds the minute he laid his fork down.
While I was enjoying my quiche, our host was busy with her Croque Madame, a breakfast sandwich of sourdough bread with a smoked ham, Gruyere cheese and Mornay sauce filling. The chef then layers on a Gruyere custard, browns it under the broiler until it’s golden, then sends it to table topped with a fried egg. I had some, and was amazed by the play of the different flavors; the creamy tang of the Gruyere, the mild smokiness of the ham, the savory bass note of the Mornay sauce all adding their own unique contribution to the flavor medley.
Though my dining partner was enjoying her meal, she opined that there was too much cheese used in the sandwich. I thought the dish was just fine, but then that’s my palate talking and not hers.
We all finished our Sunday brunch in fine style by sharing an order of Chocolate Fondue ($7.00 for two.) with fresh fruit and pastry slices dipped in Cafe Lola’s smooth melted chocolate.
Yes, there’s nothing nicer than Sunday brunch at Cafe Lola, except maybe lunch and dinner there during the week.
Cafe Lola Bistro and Wine Bar
1805 N. Roan St.
Open daily from 11 a.m. - midnight
Credit cards accepted