April 6, 2006

Brunch Away!

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Sunday morning. The weekend is almost over, and that homework you shoved under the bed is starting to make you nervous. But after a long Saturday night, let’s be honest-you’re starving. At this point, it’s April, and we’ve been eating brunch at Cornell for seven months. All of the dining halls have been covered ad nauseam, and there are only so many trips you can make to Collegetown Bagels, ABC Café, Rulloff’s, and the Carriage House. Where to next: the Commons? Syracuse? You really don’t have to venture so far for a great Sunday brunch. In fact, you just have to walk to Central campus and into the Statler. That’s right: Banfi’s Sunday brunch is the best-kept secret at Cornell.

On an average Sunday, there’s usually plenty of seating-I got a table for two right away at 1pm. Granted, the dress code is a bit more formal than the usual sweatpants fare, but this is all about breaking the normal routine, right? Our server promptly poured coffee and offered us a selection of juices, which are included with the brunch. First, we started with the breakfast portion of the buffet, located close to the entrance of Banfi’s. After loading up on sausage, scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, a bagel, dried and fresh fruits, mini brioche, and granola, I already knew I had to make a second trip for the made-to-order Belgian waffles with fresh-cut strawberries and whipped cream (yes, real whipped cream, not cool whip or worse, the crap out of an aerosol can).

Breakfast kept us entertained for a half hour, until we decided to check out the lunch portion of the brunch. Our server told us that lunch was “around the corner”-little did we know that meant an entire separate room filled with food. The center table was adorned with a cheese board, crusty bread, dips, more bagels with flavored cream cheeses, finger foods, and a selection of cold Italian white bean and pasta salads. Around the exterior of the room were the meats and fish-a carving station, peeled shrimp with cocktail sauce, chicken with rice, salmon with cheese polenta, and Italian deli meats. Turn the corner, and you’re faced with four more Italian antipasto salads and a massive wok filled with sautéed vegetables. Just when you think you can’t possibly fit any more food on your plate, you’re handed a plate of mushroom fontina frittata with a side of frisée salad and a cup of clam chowder. The clam chowder is worth going into more detail: the cream broth was mediocre, but the soup was chock-full of clams and red potatoes and tasted amazing with the crusty bread. Another favorite was the cherry tomato and onion salad-the tomatoes had a perfect bite, and the dressing was light and tangy.

Like any self-respecting brunch, Banfi’s completed the buffet trinity with a dessert spread worthy of praise. The cream puffs were chockfull of cream, the espresso cream tarts were sweet and smooth, and the petite strawberry sponge layer cakes were light as air. The cheesecake, dense, rich, and creamy, was topped with a chunky blackberry sauce. Mini fruit tarts and chocolate dipped meringue cookies polished off the table. I thought for sure I had eaten through my food allowance for the week but was shocked when I saw the bill. Three buffets and one coffee for roughly $17 plus tax and tip didn’t break the bank after all!

If you want even a chance of trying most of the foods at Banfi’s Sunday brunch, make sure to allot at least an hour and a half to peruse all three buffets. The restaurant stops seating at 2pm, but the food spread stays up well after. If you really want to splurge, check out Banfi’s for Easter brunch on Sunday March 16th. Whether you celebrate Easter or not, it’s a food spread not to be missed. Reservations can be made at Open Table online or through the Statler. Next time you get antsy with the “Cornell routine,” you don’t have to travel great distances for a change in pace-what you’re looking for might just be on campus.

Archived article by Anna Fishman