by Alice Levitt
1190 Mountain Rd., Stowe, 253-6245
There's nothing like a lovely spring day to stir brunch cravings. I'm ready for a Benedict at any time of year, but when I headed to the Rusty Nail Bar & Grille on Sunday, I was met by a brunch rush that could only have been kindled by the 70-degree weather and plenty of outdoor seating.
Having an obsessive fear of sun damage, I was happy to stay inside. Our hostess had some difficulty processing that idea, but, hey, it got me a table right away.
A table filled with local ingredients for Bloody Marys sat beside the bar, and general manager Kate Wise told us that she was making excellent Irish coffees that day. But even at 2 p.m., I just wasn't in the head (or body) space for cocktails.
I was feeling more like a bacon, egg and cheeseburger between two duck-fat doughnuts. Unfortunately, the "Donaught" had just sold out. A burger served on doughnuts had sold out? This brunch crowd was serious, and apparently had learned nothing from Paula Deen's diabetes. My kind of crew.
Chicken and waffles would just have to do. The crunchy waffle was cooked a minute or two longer than I would have preferred, but was still delicious. It was the first sourdough waffle I ever tried. The starter gave it a deep underlying tang at the end of each malty bite. Caramelized peaches seasoned with Chinese five-spice powder took the place of syrup as a sweetener, though I wish there had been even more of the irresistible fruit.
If the waffle was slightly dry, the five meaty chicken wings made up for it. Brilliantly brined, the flaky, peppery breading peeled away to reveal gorgeously moist and flavorful meat.
The eggs Benny's name did little to hint at the uncommon wonders of the dish. First, the homemade English muffins. Thicker and chewier than Thomas', they were an ideally hearty base for the glories built upon it.
Thin slices of chile-roasted pork shoulder and belly were fatty in a moist, delicious way, not a greasy one. The meat melted in my mouth with a delightful kiss of heat. Both eggs were poached to reveal an ideally creamy center. Frankly, though, it wasn't necessary in the wake of the Hollandaise. Luxuriously creamy, a hint of smoke from chipotle peppers stayed with me even after I'd finished the dish.
Frequent readers might recall that I'm a stickler about home fries. These were nicely seasoned and fried in duck fat. This gave them a hint of sweetness that contrasted marvelously with a liberal covering of salt. When I reheated them at dinnertime with my leftover chicken and waffles, they were just as good as they had been at brunch.
Even as I write this, I'm salivating. And preparing to face the Donaught soon.
Alice Eats is a weekly blog feature devoted to reviewing restaurants where diners can get a meal for two for less than $35. Got a restaurant you'd love to see featured? Send it to email@example.com.