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Sunday Brunch at Peels

Peels Restaurant on the Bowery

During our recent visit to the Hester Street Fair Summer Picnic, we thoroughly enjoyed a s’mores cupcake from Peels on the Bowery.

This tiny little ball of decadence was all the reminder we needed that we still hadn’t stopped by for brunch, even though we’ve enjoyed dinner there.

Peels is the sister restaurant to another perennial brunch favorite, Freemans, known for simple, rustic American cuisine and atmosphere. Luckily for us, Peels doesn’t stray too far from this winning formula.

Inside, the space gives off a country farmhouse feel, with its white pressed tin ceiling and communal tables. Large windows on both floors flood the interior with natural light.

We were seated at the end of the downstairs bar, a long beautifully crafted wooden countertop overlooking a galley kitchen where chefs buzzed around, taking freshly-made biscuits of the oven and preparing milkshakes and other treats.

The menu is full of the same kind of down-home charm as the restaurant—it mostly features Southern-inspired comfort food.

Fried Chicken Sandwich from Peels

Buttermilk Flapjacks from Peels

Laura had a fried chicken sandwich with honey mustard and fries—she says Peels serves the best fried chicken she’s ever had.

I had the buttermilk flap jacks served with blackberry compote on top. The pancakes were perfectly crispy around the edges while the compote provided a sharp contrast to their buttery texture.

Gypsy Rose at Peels

Laura completed the Southern theme with a Gypsy Rose cocktail—sloe gin, cherry heering, topped with champagne—which was refreshing and had a nice sanguine tint.

Rather than my usual coffee and brunch cocktail I instead opted for one of Peels’ leaded milkshakes. The Coffee Rum Affogato was a creamy blend of rum, espresso, and ice cream served in a charming little milk bottle.

Leaded Milkshake at Peels

We were already big fans of Momofuku Milk Bar’s adult milkshakes, but thought this one tasted creamier and packed more of a punch.

Since we enjoyed the aforementioned s’mores cupcake so much, we decided to try another one of pastry chef Shuna Fish Lydon’s creations.

(It’s worth noting that Shuna, in addition to being a kick-ass chef, is also a great blogger and photographer herself.)

Blackberry Eton Mess Fool at Peels

We opted for the blackberry Eton mess fool—an old British standby, made with fresh blackberries, meringues and cream, only Shuna’s version was topped with an almost-effervescent mint ice cream. Incredibly refreshing and palate-cleansing.

We can’t wait to return on a hot day for another leaded milkshake, perfect for enjoying at the bar as sunlight and laughter fills the dining room. Now if only they’d install a porch swing out front…

– Ryan

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A Summer Picnic at the Hester Street Fair

The Hester Street Fair

We abandoned our typical Sunday brunch plans today in favor of something a little more “seasonal.”

Despite the threat of rain, hidden behind ashen clouds, we decided to have a picnic!

However, rather than packing our own basket, we stopped in at Hester Street Fair‘s first-ever Sunday Summer Picnic. The Hester Street Fair is typically only open on Saturdays, but today they hosted a special event with just food vendors, picnic tables, fun games, and live music.

Food from Hester Street Fair Summer Picnic Vendors

More than 20 vendors converged on the Lower East Side’s Seward Park and sold a variety of tasty goodies.

Our first round of food included Arancini Bros.’s risotto balls—hot softball-sized spheres of fresh, creamy arborio rice with various fillings. The offerings today included taleggio and mushroom, marinara, and spinach—just a fraction of the flavors they offer at their Bushwick, Brooklyn, storefront.

Risotto Balls from Arancini Bros.

We couldn’t resist the taleggio and mushroom iteration, so we didn’t try any of the other flavors, but they all looked fantastic. (Arancini Bros. co-owner Will Levatino is a Roberta’s alumnus, so how could they be anything but?)

Taleggio and Mushroom Risotto Ball from Arancini Bros.

We also stopped by The Clerkenwell’s tent to give their currywurst on a pretzel roll (um, yum?) a shot.

The Clerkenwell is a new-ish restaurant, but the chef, Ryan Jordan, is a friend of my Ryan’s and protégé of April Bloomfield (of The Spotted Pig and The Breslin fame), so we weren’t surprised that even The Clerkenwell’s picnic fare was extremely tasty.

Pretzel Rolls from The Clerkenwell

Currywurst from The Clerkenwell

The sandwich consisted of the bratwurst on the pretzel roll bun, but it was also topped with caramelized tomato, onion, madras curry, Thai chilies and allspice—a delicious combination.

The Poffertjes Man

Our first dessert was a serving of poffertjes with strawberries and cream.

Poffertjes? Yeah, I didn’t know either, but it turns out that they’re Dutch mini-pancakes, perfectly light and fluffy with just a hint of sweetness. Supposedly they’ve been a big hit at the Hester Street Fair so far—last week they were sold out by the early afternoon!

Peels' S'mores Cupcake

We slowed our feast at this point, but not before we had a s’mores cupcake from Peels’ pastry chef Shuna Lydon.

The cupcake was made of dark, dense chocolate, with another layer of unmelted chocolate on top, but it was also complemented by a perfectly toasted marshmallow. A house-made graham cracker accompanied it.

(Also, shameless plug here, but Peels, which just opened in December, has the best fried chicken I’ve ever had!)

A Strawberry Egg Cream from Brooklyn Farmacy

Our last treat was a strawberry egg cream from Brooklyn Farmacy.

The egg cream is an elusive, endangered bird that actually involves neither egg nor cream. This 19th century concoction traditionally consists of chocolate syrup, milk and soda water, but strawberry syrup was available so the self-professed “soda jerk” was happy to experiment for me.

After our egg cream, we wandered around and inspected the other vendor’s wares. Tacos, tea, macarons, or pickles—it was all there.

Shaved Ice from the Shaved Ice Shop

We were particularly enamored with The Shaved Ice Shop’s tent.

A huge machine rotated a round of ice, which was then shaved into “snow.” The ice was topped with syrups, fruits, and hard toppings, in the traditional Taiwanese style. The end result was colorful and perhaps resembled an Amy Stevens’ cake.

Shaved Ice from The Shaved Ice Shop

We also admired the impressive cemitas Mexican sandwiches, the live music courtesy of the Red Hook Ramblers, fresh sodas from our favorites at P&H Soda Co., and a delectable assortment of jams from the Jam Stand.

The Jam Stand at the Hester Street Fair Picnic

Granola Sampling at the Hester Street Fair Picnic

By the end of the afternoon, even the clouds knew they could no longer bring down the mood at Seward Park and they receeded—lighting up a whole herd of well-fed, happy ping-pong playing, taco-eating folks.

– Laura

Anatomy of a Cemitas at the Hester Street Fair Picnic

Ping Pong at the Hester Street Fair Picnic

Ice Cream Sandwiches at the Hester Street Fair Picnic

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