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Brunch is Back in Durham

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Photo courtesy of The Piedmont

Before going to Piedmont for brunch recently, I heard about the coddled egg. If I were an egg (or not), I’d like to be coddled as well, especially if Chef Ben Adams is the one doing the coddling. He has brought the sous vide cooking method, along with a bunch of other nifty tricks and tasty dishes to this Durham mainstay. Suspending the egg in a sealed bag and immersing it in a bath of steadily controlled hot water makes for one heck of an egg, especially when it is perched perfectly atop a bed of wild mushrooms, smoked bacon and celery root puree, all topped with a drizzle of truffle oil.

Piedmont, when it first opened roughly ten years ago, was among the first in the area to be farm-to-table. Thankfully, it once again offers brunch.

As a Durhamite, I can say Chef Adams (formerly of Hominy Grill and McCrady’s in Charleston) and General Manager Crawford Leavoy (formerly of John Besh’s Restaurant August in New Orleans), have come to the right place – we long for brunch, especially one served by folks wearing dark denim and plaid shirts, and especially one that starts with a warm helping of sweet potato bread (serve this with ice cream and call it dessert) and a cocktail. The Our Milk Punch, made with brandy, cream, nutmeg, and house-made cinnamon ice cream, sported a poached apple, and smelled like the holidays – a welcome memory late winter sip.

The grapefruit juice infused with rosemary is revelatory – a flavor pairing I’ll be pondering, tastily, for some time. Who knew these two were destined for such greatness? Adams did, apparently.

He also knew to bring barbeque to brunch as well, something else we appreciate, especially when it comes with an eastern Carolina-style sauce, such as Pig Whistle. On top of a root vegetable hash and aside yet another perfect egg, this one fried, its vinegary jolt might have doubled as a coffee substitute. Or not. Order the coffee – it’s from Larry’s Beans, a local roaster.

If you’d rather focus on the sweet side of things, go for the Loaf Bakery brioche French toast.Topped with cinnamon-pear compote, candied pecans, and bourbon-maple syrup, this dish is hard to beat.

Unless you order the oatmeal.

I never would have thought oatmeal would steal the show, but this savory version brings my entire oatmeal understanding to a whole new level. Adams cooks the Anson Mills grains in a diluted vegetable stock, preparing it risotto-style to ensure a toasted finish on the al dente oats. Finished with a drizzle of maple, a dollop of crème fraîche, and some brown butter poached apples, this was the unexpected contender on a menu ripe with champions.

Welcome to Durham.