April 10, 2008

Ithaca Bites: Brötchen

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If you can’t afford a trip to Europe and have an insatiable craving for some wienerschnitzel, head over to Brötchen, a new café and bakery in the Commons, which will instantly transport you to a Viennese kaffeehaus. Brötchen (pronounced BRERT-khen ) specializes in homemade chocolates, Viennese coffee and fine European pastries, all at reasonable prices. The café also offers light lunch fare, including gourmet open face sandwiches and three to four daily specials, including wiener schnitzel with red cabbage and herb-spiced pork tenderloin with prosciutto-wrapped brussel sprouts.
My friends and I felt like kids in a candy store as our eyes darted from the decadent chocolate truffles to the dainty jam cookies to the frosted raspberry danishes in the bright glass display case. After much deliberation, we decided to share a few of the open-face sandwiches, a slice of the lemon blueberry mascarpone cake and a box of chocolates.
The open-face sandwiches were delicious, although a little dry from being refrigerated for too long. The smoked salmon sandwich was our favorite, with an ample amount of salmon, red onions and capers sitting atop a baguette slice. Other varieties of the sandwich include prosciutto and Genoa salami, roast beef and black forest ham. Each sandwich also had a generous spread of liptauer cheese, a Hungarian spiced cream cheese. The lemon blueberry mascarpone cake, unfortunately, was mouth-numbingly sweet and extremely disappointing. The chocolates were decent; some (such as the almond butter toffee) were better than others (the espresso truffle, which was once again overwhelmingly sweet and drowned out the espresso flavor). The crowning finish to the meal was the caliente hot chocolate, made with German chocolate, a pinch of cayenne pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg, to give it a kick, all topped off with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and fresh chocolate shavings. I would go back to Brötchen everyday for this smooth, slightly spicy chocolaty goodness alone. The entire meal cost a mere $20 — a bargain considering how much food we ordered.
Brötchen’s offbeat, kitschy décor, however, seemed more reminiscent of a flea market than a café. Stark black and white photos of daisies hang above John F. Kennedy memorial albums and paintings of the French countryside. A sign above the coffee counter is made entirely out of coffee beans, with a raggedy burlap sack hung sloppily next to it. I loved the dark mahogany wood tables, but not against the dull mustard yellow walls and floral seat cushions. In addition, Brötchen seems like a great place to go on a Sunday afternoon to grab a cup of coffee and study, but at the moment this is not possible; Brötchen is closed on Sundays and designates only the uncomfortable counter seats for laptop users.
Despite the cut-and-paste décor and odd seating arrangement, Brötchen has a lot of potential and is a much-needed addition to the Commons. It is a great place to grab a quick bite or spend a lazy (weekday) afternoon sipping a Viennese cappuccino and munching on delectable, buttery pastries.