I’d always thought brunch was one of America’s finest contributions to civilization, but it was actually the brainchild of an Englishman named Guy Beringer. Beringer’s essay, “Brunch: A Plea,” written in 1895 on behalf of “Saturday night carousers,” suggested a gentle hybrid of breakfast and lunch fare, served midday, could ease the late-rising, headachy set back to life and promote happiness in general. “Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting,” he wrote, persuasively. “It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”
Alcohol could be served instead of tea and coffee, Beringer added — and perhaps it was that afterthought that caused post-Prohibition Americans to embrace brunch in the 1930s and propel it the national custom it has become.
I recently met a couple of friends for brunch at Culture Cafe-Bar in Beacon, which opened last summer to local applause. It’s a colorful, easygoing little spot that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, as well as brunch on Sundays. At breakfast, served from 8 a.m. to noon, there are eggs any way you like, waffles, French toast, bagels and such. Lunch, served from noon to 5 p.m., gets a little heartier and more international, with a selection of soups, salads, and sandwiches that include bratwurst, falafel, and an Asian pork bun. At dinner, the menu is bistro-esque, with dishes like short ribs, meatloaf, and steak frites.
Sunday’s brunch menu lists several tempting possibilities, not least the banana walnut bread pudding French toast, which sounds like two dishes in one. But when there are eggs Benedict to be had, I usually have them. Culture’s version, Culture Benedict, substitutes smoked salmon for Canadian bacon or ham, which technically makes them eggs Norwegian, if anybody cares. They also add a few of spears of asparagus, the Hollandaise has a horseradish kick, and the crispy potatoes on the side are irresistible. Squirt a little hot sauce on the perfectly poached eggs, eat up, and you’ll be restored, no matter what you got up to the night before.
Culture has just a few tables inside, and more on the back patio for when it’s warm. Add a full bar, an interesting selection of beers, good coffee, well-prepared food, modest prices, friendly service, and original artworks on the walls, and all you need is cheerful company and your worries and cobwebs will be swept away.
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