by Alice Levitt
86 St Paul St., Burlington, 802-540-1786
Since the Bluebird Tavern reopened in downtown Burlington, the most frequent question I've been getting from readers is, How's the quality of their new lunch and brunch?
I finally made it in for brunch on New Year's Eve day. As the meal progressed, a couple of big parties of First Nighters streamed in. But when I arrived, just before one, the only other group was a couple and their young child munching on the $75 "Grand Plateau" of cold seafood. Quite the way to ring in the New Year.
Slightly less ambitious, I ordered a mango, orange blossom and cardamom shake while I perused the menu.
The yogurt-based concoction was so thick that there was a learning curve involved in sucking it through the straw. Once I got the hang of it, it was easy to taste each of the individual elements. Slightly sour mango, aromatic orange blossom and cardamom, with a light perfume of earth.
Over all, I wish that there had just been a touch more honey or agave nectar added to sweeten the whole thing, which I found slightly tart. A toothpick skewering a piece of cantaloupe, a strawberry and a chunk of pineapple helped. Even so, I could never have hoped to finish the whole enormous drink on my own. This shake is clearly made for sharing.
While we waited for our entrées, our waitress brought out a pair of tiny blueberry muffins, decked out in a layer of powdered sugar. For fans of muffin tops, those little guys are pretty ideal — so small that they're nothing but muffin top texture. I kind of wished they were bigger, so I could enjoy a little bit of soft middle — and um, so there would be more.
There was more than enough of the corn-tastic johnny cakes. Like the shake, the $13 dish could easily have fed two. The crisply griddled cakes had a less mealy texture than I usually expect from cornmeal, and also had a richer flavor, with notes that seemed almost malty.
They were even better with the added accompaniments that our waitress, dressed in a white shirt and untied bowtie, brought to the table. Maple syrup and butter were obvious choices, but the sweet and sour cranberry jam went best of all with the cakes — and the housemade sausages that joined them.
Once again, the pair of sausages seemed almost designed for sharing. Fried on a toothpick and wrapped in a rosemary sprig, the rustic pork links were an uncommon texture, somewhere between chunky and smooth. The meat had a pleasantly tangy zip, but I would have appreciated slightly stronger spicing overall.
Lack of flavor was not a problem for the candied bacon waffles. After taking his first bite, my boyfriend commented, "They should be selling this from behind the counter. Whoever is making this should probably be in jail."
He wasn't exaggerating — the experience is indeed that intense. Take an exceptionally rich, flavorful waffle batter, mix with crispy shards of bacon enrobed in sugar, and you've still only got the base of the gorgeous proceedings.
There was more candied bacon on top (I might have preferred some uncandied as well, but my boyfriend heartily disagreed), a pair of perfectly poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce that mixed together to make a maple super butter that simply defied description.
If you haven't tried it yet, you must. Then you'll feel compelled to "try it" again. This waffle, my boyfriend and I now have a standing weekend date.