The return of the Black Bass

A civilized Sunday tradition resumes

 
 
Although it may have become an American dining cliché, the Sunday Brunch can still thrill when done right.
In keeping with the New Orleans theme, there is some proof that the concept of an elaborate, late morning breakfast got it’s reputation if not it’s start in the French Quarter.
In the mid-19th century Begue’s restaurant on Decatur Street served but one meal: a hearty “second breakfast” at 11:00 a.m. It was designed to cater to the hungry laborers from the docks and the nearby French Market whose workday began before dawn each day. By late morning they were ready for a substantial meal.

The Cotton Centennial Exposition of 1884 brought many visitors to New Orleans and those that found their way to Madame Begue’s became enamored of the famous brunch.
Today, many restaurants offer an all-you-can eat, buffet style brunch to capture the Sunday morning crowds. In too many of them, quantity far outstrips the quality of the food offerings.
Along with our good friends Beth and Lou, Ann and I for many years would take a mid-winter break and enjoy the Sunday brunch at the Black Bass Hotel in Lumberville, PA. The venerable old building perched above the Delaware River dates back to the 18th century. The dining room overlooks the canal bed and Delaware River, offering views of the rolling hills of Hunterdon County, NJ.

Although the brunch was an all-you-can eat affair, the quality was above average and the bottomless glasses of sparkling wine only added to the sense of contentment and satisfaction. For at least a couple of hours on a winter Sunday, all seemed well with the universe.

The floods of 2005 and 2006 created problems for the Black Bass and it had to close. Fortunately, a new owner stepped in, made some needed repairs and updates to the structure and re-opened for business in June of 2009. 

We were relieved to find the character of the old building intact and the upgrades complimentary to the original feel. Similarly, the revamped brunch exceeded expectations.

Gone are the omelet and crepe stations and the bottleneck around the sweets and savories trays. Now it is a three course affair. Diners select from several menu offerings for each of the first two courses and are then shown to the dessert table for the third. Champagne, coffee and juice are also included in the price.

I started with smoked salmon, capers and cream cheese served with mini-bagels. Not much that can go wrong with that.

Ann’s fruit filled crepe wasn’t as hot as she would have preferred. It seems as though it may have gotten misplaced in the kitchen as it didn’t arrive with the other three starters. The taste of the Black Bass Signature Bailey’s Pate that Beth offered was rich, creamy and slightly sweet.

The Charleston Shrimp and grits were my choice for a second course. Three jumbo shrimp in a tomato cream sauce were presented over very smooth cheese grits. While I always want more shrimp, the dish was not stingy on flavor or portions. I can only guess that the other courses, Scotch Woodcock for Lou, Poached Eggs Noveau for Beth and Pecan Waffles for Ann, were equally satisfying as there were no offers of shared tastes forthcoming.
The service was friendly, professional and efficient. The food is quite good and the servings ample enough that you don’t miss the gluttony of the all-you-can-eat at all. The late arrival of the lukewarm crepes was the only exception to an otherwise wonderful repast.
Sitting next to the windows; sunlight washing over us; enjoying an excellent meal in fine company; it was hard to find fault.

“Just so civilized,” as Beth put it. 

 
 
 

 

 

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