April 9, 2014

More Than Eggs and Bacon: Brunch at Café Dewitt

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By YOO KIM

As a freshman, I found it quite easy to believe that brunch at RPCC on Sunday is as good as it gets. However Café Dewitt, a celebrated local restaurant that serves gourmet brunch, is just a quick bus ride away. Nestled comfortably inside of Dewitt Mall on North Cayuga St., Café Dewitt caters to local college students looking to escape the monotony of dining hall food, in addition to local residents seeking good food and good company. While it may be difficult to find the time to take a bus off-campus just for some food, Café Dewitt proves the worthwhileness of venturing out to satisfy one’s brunch cravings every once in a while. So what exactly made my dining experience so enjoyable?

FRENCH ONION SOUP

I love a good cup of French onion soup, and Café Dewitt does it right. Served quaintly in a white bowl with a thin slice of crunchy bread and melted cheese on top, it looks appetizing and builds anticipation for the first bite. The soup itself is served steaming hot with a golden-brown layer of melted cheese hiding layers of sweet caramelized onion and softened bread simmering in a tasty broth. My biggest complaint when it comes to French onion soup is an excess of salt. Cafe Dewitt’s had just the right amount. It was perfectly seasoned and chock full of flavorful goodness.The soup itself is served steaming hot with a golden-brown layer of melted cheese hiding layers of sweet caramelized onion and softened bread simmering in a tasty broth.

FARMHOUSE BREAKFAST

When it comes to brunch, I am a diehard omelet fan. I decided to take a chance and try the Farmhouse Breakfast. It’s a standard breakfast dish, with two eggs cooked any style, a choice of meat, bread and roasted potatoes. I ordered my eggs scrambled with chicken apple sausage and a baguette. It’s hard to go wrong with scrambled eggs, and the ones I was served came cheerfully yellow and warm, reminding me of the fresh eggs my mom slides off the pan and onto my plate at home. The chicken apple sausage was a nice substitute for bacon: perfectly spiced and not too greasy. They were delicious when eaten with the eggs. The baguette came toasted and still warm with some of their homemade cranberry jam, but the real star of the Farmhouse Breakfast was the side of roasted potatoes. I strongly dislike potatoes that are under-salted, under-cooked and cold. However, these potatoes were truly excellent, cooked to a toasty brown hue, perfectly salted, and packed with a punch of pepper and rosemary that added flavor to the slightly crispy texture.

CRÈME BRÛLÉE

Full, but not quite satisfied, I craved something sweet at the end of my meal. For a restaurant that specializes in brunch, it was nice to see desserts on the menu. I ordered crème brûlée, which had a customary layer of caramel on top that I cracked with my spoon. It was sweet and warm, a tasteful juxtaposition to the creamy and rich custard base. One bite of it had me immediately reaching for the next bite, despite being already extremely full. It is a dainty and sweet dessert; light enough that you won’t regret it afterwards and just sweet enough that you’ll feel the remnants of its sugary creaminess even after you’ve washed it down with some coffee.

THE TUNISIAN

The Tunisian is a dish that co-owner Josh Eckenrode believes is one of Café Dewitt’s signature dishes, and something that I plan to try next time. Available on the lunch menu, it includes regionally-sourced lamb sausage garnished with Spanish sauce, carrot apricot chutney, pomegranate-cumin vinaigrette, mixed greens served with local chevre and two fried eggs. Made with locally sourced ingredients and eggs, it’s what Café Dewitt is most famous for.

Voted best brunch by the Ithaca Times in 2005, 2008 and 2010, it’s hard to go wrong at Café Dewitt. It’s been around for 41 years and has passed the test of time, catering to local Ithaca residents and working to create a friendly environment where customers and staff grow to know each other. A small European style café with tables and seating spread out into the mall’s walkway, the layout gives off what Eckenrode describes as an almost funky atmosphere. What was once a little coffee spot for the people who lived and worked in the Dewitt building, the cafe is now an indoor café with an outdoor feel. With a penchant for using almost no pre-prepared food, the restaurant aims to satisfy customer appetites with ethically sourced local foods. Its unique location and delicious food make it a popular local haunt, one that I think I’ll find myself returning to. It doesn’t hurt that the co-owners are Cornell alums.

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