Anniversary Begins. Brunch at Broussard's

by Tom Fitzmorris |

Weddings and the anniversaries of them are best left to the women involved. That’s my policy, anyway. Mary Ann said that she thought we ought to go to Mass today at St. Mary’s Assumption Church in the Irish Channel. That’s where we accepted the bonds of matrimony twenty-five years ago this Tuesday. That grand church was originally built in the prosperous 1840s by the German Catholic community. The Irish had their own church–the equally breathtaking St. Alphonsus, across the street.

Given its neighborhood (on the way up now, but one of the most distressed parts of town for decades), we expected to find the church the worse for wear. Not so. It looked better than either of us remembered it. This was not merely an illusion, but the result of slow but constant renovation. The wooden floor, for example, was recently repaired by merely pulling the boards up, turning them over, and nailing them back in place. First time in 174 years. They looked almost new–a miracle, because just underneath the wood is the river silt the church was built upon.

The majestic organ sounded great (it didn’t during our wedding, but that may have been the organist, not the instrument). So did the young alto who led the singing.

After Mass, the church held a party for parishioners and visitors, with that unavoidable staple of such gatherings: doughnuts. We had the priest re-bless our marriage, and we were off to brunch at Broussard’s.

Broussard’s just started serving brunch a few weeks ago. They have had mixed luck with it; I don’t think many people know yet. The place was about half full when we arrived, but they were fully staffed, down to a jazz trio (banjo, bass, trumpet) wandering around the room. I’ve met the banjo player before, and he remembered that I can acquit myself reasonably well on “Sweet Lorraine,” which he allowed me to sing with them.

The brunch was spectacular. Given the mid-$20s prices for three-course menus, this may be the best brunch value in the city. When the weather warms up and the courtyard comes into play, it could really take off.

MA started with crab cakes. Not jumbo lump, but delicious anyway. For me, a generous plate of beef carpaccio, topped with pine nuts, cornichon pickles, and Parmigiana cheese. Excellent! I will have to add it to a top-dozen list I made of such dishes just a few days ago.

Mary Ann was beside herself with pleasure from her entree. It was her favorite fancy dish–pan-seared or sauteed trout or redfish, topped with lemon butter and crabmeat–prepared exactly the way she likes it (a little overcooked). The poached eggs on smoked salmon on my plate were just right, too. (The late Chef Maurice Bitoun used to call this very dish “kosher eggs Benedict.”)

Something rare happened during this brunch. Mary Ann asked for the seven-dollar bottomless mimosa for her beverage. Indeed, they did not stop pouring the bubbly and orange juice, and she got a little tipsy. That almost never happens. But hey, we’re celebrating our anniversary here.

The only stumble through the meal came in the dessert course. She had a unique pyramid of cake with a scattering of fresh fruit. She didn’t much care for it, but she’s not a dessert eater. I am very much a bread pudding fan, however, and whoever baked the square of pudding I had didn’t look underneath it, where I found a burned section. I had discovered the part of the new Broussard’s menu that still needs work.

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