"Does your child have a, a, food allergy?" -waitress
"Yes, it's called I'm a nitpicky eater-itis." -me
Cafe Campagne wasn't a dream come true. Not even close. At the end of our planned brunch, we didn't even have room, time or the inclination to even ask about the pear clafouti.
Oh, the food was okay. But my husband and my mom could make better brunch at home, and have. I could certainly have done without the jam-packed crowds, the five-minute wait (and we had reservations), the one stall in the women's restroom that always seemed occupied (when I waited, I counted past three minutes before I resorted to the men's, which was like a revolving door), the lack of a child-friendly menu or options, the lack of grown-up options (where are the baked eggs I dreamed about?), and the late service, however friendly (our waitress came straight out of Vogue Paris).
It didn't help to start off the day bone-tired, driving all the way down to Pike Place only to find the entire area closed off for a cheese festival. We parked across from the Wharf, thanks to some random guy holding up a sign that read, "City Parking free!," showing us that a car was leaving. Of course the driver was taking 10 times longer because we were waiting for her and her party of 400 to leave. Then, we all had to walk, with me in cheap, Mexican slip-ons that blistered my feet and no slip for my fancy see-through, muumuu-type dress--past several blocks and up a near-vertical flight of stairs (35 steps totaled, I counted). By the time we entered upon a jam-packed Pike Place Market, both me and my son had to go #3.
By the time we were seated in the middle of small room surrounded by loud people who looked territorial and paranoid, I was ready to go back home, go back to sleep, and have my husband make us his own omelettes. But he said let's just try it since we're here.
I couldn't find anything suitable for our son James. We finally settled on a baguette (hard, dry and chewy as boot leather) with French style butter, local honey and confiture (jelly), hold the honey and confiture, along with a side order of pommes frites after I was assured that they did not come with parsley on top. Thank God they had a container of white and brown sugar chunks is all I have to say.
The house-cured salmon Gravlax with salmon rilettes and demie-baguette with fennel, red onion and citrus salad sounded intriguing, but I was there for the baked eggs which was never there to begin with. I settled eventually for the Oeufs en Meurette (poached eggs on garlic croutons (which tasted more like flavorless spongelike brioche) with pearl onions, bacon and champignons in red wine-foie gras sauce, with pommes frites, while Eddie had the French-style rolled omelette with herbs, escarole, and chevre cheese, and chicken/pork sausage.
I overcame my distaste for brown anything near my eggs quickly, the second I took a bite. The sauce saved the mostly bland eggs and "croutons" (shouldn't croutons be crunchy?). The wine and foie gras gave the sauce a depth of flavor and just enough saltiness. I really enjoyed the bites of my husband's omelette, which was soft and creamy. Too bad Ed doesn't like goat cheese. His chicken/pork sausage was salty though, while the roast potatoes seemed to need more salt.
The pomme frites were brown to dark-brown, like they were burnt. They weren't crispy either. The fancy-sounding aioli did nothing to mask their saltiness. I expected perfect, slightly off-white sticks of potato goodness -- crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. What an expensive disappointment. This was not the brunch restaurant of my literal dreams, the one I swore was some psychic premonition.
For the past two days, Eddie was going on about this new venue in Bellevue, Artisanal Brasserie, a wine bar. He just landed a gig there playing keys for singer Gail Pettis, and said the food was awesome, right up my alley, we have to go.
Guess what? I checked their online menu out, kicking myself. The food there is more varied, more accessible, they have a kid's menu, happy hour menu, classic hard-to-find dishes that always make my mouth water: beignets, fondue, Penn Cove mussels, Trout Almondine, bouillabaisse, chicken under brick, Stroganoff...
Oh, and the baked eggs I'd dreamed about in the first place.