Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Brunch and a Movie and Dinner, or: How I Spent My Labor Day Vacation

Oh, Labor Day, you step-child to the holidays, just what are we supposed to do with you? There’s no real way to celebrate you, not traditions to uphold, presents to exchange, or ritualistic sacrifices to perform. Therefore I propose that from this point forward Labor Day shall be International Super-Delicious Food and General Laziness Day!

Here’s why:
With a rare mutual day off Nicole and I decided to have brunch and hang out on this past Labor Day. Our mid-morning repast was to be located at the Inn on Coventry. Located near the Grog Shop, B-Side, and La Cave I’ve peered in the window of this humble eatery many times but had never actually dined in. Actually it seemed so perpetually closed that I started to think the owners just never showed up one day and had left the doors locked and the tables set; a sort of ghost-diner. I learned recently, however, that this was not true when I received a text from Nicole one afternoon singing the praises of their lemon and ricotta pancakes. I was sold and wanted to try for myself.

We arrived around noon, the place was packed, but we were quickly seated very near our neighboring table, Inn on Coventry is not the place to eat if you have space issues. Comfy in our surroundings we perused the short but delectable menu. The Inn is only open until 3pm so their menu is all breakfast and brunch items. With plenty of standard morning fare, eggs, toast, oatmeal, etc. even the pickiest eaters can find something to with which to sate themselves. But the Inn doesn’t seem to be satisfied with merely rehashing old hits, they’re also re-inventing the classics.

Feeling like some Eggs Benedict, but not a Canadian bacon fan? The Inn on Coventry’s got your back with Portobello Benedict. Not a lot of flap left in your jack? The Inn offers a variety of variations on skillet-cooked quick breads. How does orange-whole grain sound? Pumpkin, perhaps? Mango-sour cream? Even the blues-and-chews sounded interesting—that’s blue berries and granola.

How was a breakfast aficionado to decide? It wasn’t easy, but after a mental coin-toss I settled on the huevos y pan de mais. Another of the Inn’s variations on Eggs Benedict, these huevos are poached (natch), but then sub out the English muffins for slightly sweet cornmeal cakes. Instead of back bacon I received a big chunk of spicy andouille sausage. In lieu of the traditional hollandaise sauce, the plate was slathered in a rich, creamy, spicy chipotle sauce! With a side of hearty home fries, this was one of the finest breakfasts I’ve ever had. The eggs were perfectly poached, the yolk still runny, adding to the richness of the sauce. The corn cakes added a much needed sweetness to the dish, and sopped up the fantastic sauce as they crumbled. And the combination of the sauce and sausage was perfect; plenty of heat but not too spicy. The Inn knocked this dish out of the park!

Nicole kept things a little simpler with eggs, toast, and home fries, but added one of the Inn’s amazing, aforementioned pancakes. She opted, again, for the lemon-ricotta pancakes which, from the few bites I had, seemed pretty great. Rich and creamy with plenty of lemon flavor, this was one of the best pancakes I’d ever tasted. Using the bare minimum of flour to hold the confection together, it was almost like eating a sweet, citrus-y cannoli filling, although a spoon seemed to work just as well when it came to eating. Add on their mimosas, Bloody Maries, and modes beer selection, inside a modest, diner atmosphere that places more emphasis on food than décor, and the Inn on Coventry is certainly one of the best brunch stops on the east side.
We spent the rest of the rainy holiday afternoon doing as little as possible, until about 7pm when we decided to see a movie at the Cedar-Lee. The movie: In the Loop, a pretty ridiculous looking British comedy for which we’d been seeing previews recently. The verdict? Amazing! That is, if you like fast talking, swearing, and dry—Sahara dry—British humor; think West Wing mixed with the best dialogue from Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. The movie’s a political farce about a British bureaucrat who makes an errant comment about the possibility of war in Iraq on a radio talk show and accidently becomes a hero for the anti-war politician in Washington DC. When later confronted about his statement by reporters he tries to back peddle and inadvertently gives the hawks a great sound bite. From then on this poor chap’s life becomes a veritable hell as both sides want him to support them while the British government desperately wants to remain neutral. While all the characters in the film are wonderful, the real standout is Peter Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker, the loudmouthed Scottish bully who pushes around our protagonist, Simon Foster, played by Tom Hollander. Tucker’s thick brogue and endless streams of ego rending profanity are masterfully executed, the character’s way with a curse word is masterful, painting lurid pictures with his words and mowing down everyone in his path.

Sufficiently entertained but in need of food we wandered next door to the Charles Stewart Parnell, an Irish styled pub. We ordered some fish and chips and a few Guinness* to wash it all down. I’m not a huge fan of fish and chips, or at least the fish part, but this was really good, especially considering there were all of 5 items on the menu. The fish was well battered and fried extra crispy on the outside, while the inside was tender and flaky, with good, but not overwhelming fish taste. The chips, too, were crisp and flavorful with a beer battering, but really anything with that much malt vinegar on it is bound to taste pretty great.

Well fed and thoroughly entertained we called it a night, but not without reflection that this had been maybe the greatest Labor Day on record, and with no remorse for the Oktoberfest or Great Geauga County Fair that were called on account of rain and naps.

So, next Labor Day when you’re faced with the puzzling prospect of this random, but much appreciated, holiday-like occurrence, remember: use this time to eat well and relax!

*Does anyone know what the official plural form of Guinness is? Guinness? Guinnesses? Guinni?


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