When I heard the news last year that Pastoral was opening not only a cheese shop, but also an adjacent wine bar/restaurant in my 'hood, I immediately began planning for the day in which I could roll out of bed and spend a leisurely morning munching my way through all sorts of cheesy deliciousness. Already being a bona fide fan of the renowned shop and a connoisseur of all things cheese (from mild, creamy goat cheeses to pungent blues, I'm always down for cheese!), I had high expectations for the newest location. While the shop and restaurant opened to great fanfare at the end of the year, it wasn't until a few months ago in which they finally kicked off their brunch service. Of course, the moment the words "new brunch menu" floated my way via email, I knew it was finally time to live out my cheese-filled brunchy daydreams at Appellation.
Headed by Jesse Williams (formerly of Birchwood Kitchen), the Andersonville spot is Pastoral's fifth (and in my opinion, best!) location. Not only is the shop a treasure trove for lovers of cheese, wine, and charcuterie (as is every incarnation of Pastoral), but also the cozy adjacent wine bar/restaurant contains sparkling wine on tap AND mustard on tap from Maille. Yes, you read that correctly... there's basically a nonstop flow of sparkling wine and draft mustard. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I love my fancy mustards (Diana and I even took a trip to a the National Mustard Museum a few summers ago!) almost as much as I love my cheese (and bubbly!), so you can bet I was a very happy girl upon learning of these fun offerings.
Fellow cheese and brunch lover Ashley and I stopped by on a bustling Saturday morning, and after ogling the rows and rows of available wines and cheeses, we finally tore ourselves away from the bar and settled at a sunny table in the front part of the dining room facing Clark St. (a prime spot for people-watching!) for a two-hour tour through some of the highlights of the newly minted brunch menu.
As Ashley and I firmly believe every good weekend brunch begins with cocktails, we kicked off our meal at Appellation with a Grapefruit Mimosa...
...and a Gin Rickey, made with Letherbee Gin.
Baked Eggs in squash-herb cream sauce with vinegar-braised onions and prosciutto di San Daniele. Ashley and I both agreed that this dish exemplifies everything that is good about brunch at Appellation. The runny sauce, creamy eggs, salty prosciutto, and sweet onions combine to create one fantastic way to start the morning. You'll definitely want to ask for more bread in order to soak up every last bit of creamy goodness!
Just look at that perfectly shaved prosciutto!
Warm Mushroom and Kale Salad with fried bread, caramelized shallots, hazelnuts, poached eggs, and sherry vinaigrette. While I'm mostly over the kale craze, Ashley (aka mushroom lover extraordinaire) insisted we order this salad. I have to admit that she made a wonderful choice, as the slightly tart and bitter kale was nicely balanced by the woody mushrooms, eggs, and addictive chunks of fried bread.
Grilled Hanger Steak with sunny eggs, cheddar grits, and kohlrabi-Brussels sprout slaw. While the hanger steak was perfectly prepared, the sharp, creamy cheddar grits really took the starring role in this fun play on steak and eggs.
Croque Monsieur with poached pears, 1655 Gruyere, sage bechamel, and Prosciutto di Parma. For me, this flawlessly constructed sandwich was definitely the standout of our entrées... in fact, I'm even going to go as far as to say this was the best Croque Monsieur I've ever had! If the perfectly creamy Gruyere and sage bechamel (*swoon*) aren't enough, then it will most definitely be the addition of the poached pears that will finally steal your heart. Yes, yes, and YES!
Cornmeal and Sage Pancakes with orange butter and warm maple syrup. These savory pancakes were quite tasty on their own, but the orange butter took them to a new level. We both loved the pairing of the fresh orange with the earthy sage.
Ricotta Fritters with grapefruit curd. I'm usually not a huge fan of grapefruit (as it tends to be too acidic for me), but this grapefruit curd had just the right amount of sweetness to cut through the bitterness. Plus, who doesn't love a round of cute little doughnuts during brunch?!
Fluffy fritter happiness!
Needless to say (but I'm still going to say it anyway!), all of my expectations for the newest location of Pastoral were met... and them some. Not only is Appellation a fantastic addition to the mini-Pastoral empire, but also, it's seriously drool-worthy contender in a neighborhood already teeming with brunch options.
You can try all of this deliciousness and more at Appellation: 5212 N Clark. St., Chicago, IL.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary meal to facilitate this post. Review and all opinions are my own.