Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Brunch for the Ages

Well, with a grand total of one vote (Mom's), last Sunday's brunch is the official winner and subject of today's post.

We dressed in slacks and nice-ish shirts and arrived at the Ath just before our scheduled 10:30 reservation. More on the history of Caltech's Athenaeum can be found here, but in brief, it's the big building on campus, opened in 1930, that serves as fancy restaurant and hotel for wealthy alumni and other well-to-do folks. The basement houses the appropriately named Rathskeller student bar. This time of year, it's decked to the gills with Christmas trees and garlands and a huge gingerbread house in the lobby. (A tiny Hanukkah display sat on a table in the corner, we noted with amusement.) Our friends were already seated when we arrived, so we set down our stuff and headed over to the buffet.

Tom and I don't "do brunch" very often. Let alone super posh brunch. The feast before us was unlike anything I'd ever seen...at that hour of the morning, anyway. There was the traditional breakfast fare, of course - waffles with berries and syrup and fresh whipped cream, french toast, muffins/bagels/crescent rolls/pastries, egg stations (they'd make omelets or scrambled eggs or fried eggs or whatever you wanted), potatoes with peppers and onions, and the piece de resistance, a gorgeous slab of bacon from which a gentleman was cutting delicious little slices. Next to the bacon was a prime rib. On another table was a seafood spread - shrimp, crab legs, oysters, possibly scallops? There was a tray of cured meats and pates. There was fresh fruit, there were roasted pears, there was hummus and baba ganoush with pita bread. There was chicken and salmon and green beans and ginger maple mashed sweet potatoes. And then the desserts! Cheesecakes and regular cakes and tortes and little custard puff things. Three kinds of juice, and hot chocolate. We hardly knew where to go first.

Plates piled high, we returned to the table. The dining room was just as decorated as the rest of the building. A big tree stood in the corner. An assortment of nutcrackers lined a mantle along one wall. On each table sat a little fir tree centerpiece. On the centerpiece - a tag that read "Not intended for consumption." We all had a good laugh over whether that meant we shouldn't eat it or shouldn't give it tuberculosis. The top of the tree waved back and forth whenever anyone bumped the table.

While we ate, a fellow in a Santa suit walked around, handing out candy canes to people. When he walked by our table he whispered, "Merry Christmas, guys," and kept going. We thought this was a little creepy, the whispering. It wasn't as though we were in a library, nor was it as though he hadn't just been carrying on with the two little kids at the next table, pretending to pull candy canes out of their ears. Crazy creepy Santa. Tom brilliantly invoked The Sixth Sense with a whispered, "I see red people!" and set us all to laughing again.

The food was delicious, of course. I thought the bacon tasted like candles (not in a gross way...just kind of smoky and, I don't know, like fire somehow), but then again, I am strange. We stuffed ourselves to the gills, wished Demetri a happy birthday, and rolled on home. I didn't last more than a couple of hours before succumbing to a nap. ;)

And there you have it. Tomorrow: Goose Feast, Part One.

1 comment:

Tom said...

It was nice; the Ath is posh. That was where I had lunch with a Nobelist.