Monday, June 6, 2011

Vodka and Ginger Meet Vodka and Ginger

Croque Monsieur -- Bar Boulud
Bar Boulud

By the time we arrive at Bar Boulud, we are three sheets to the wind from our foray into all-you-can-drink cocktails at Fatty Crab.  Stumbling down the stairs in search of the restroom, Vodka finds herself in the private quarters of the restaurant.  Why?

"Call me crazy, but a sign that says 'LaLas' with an arrow is pointing towards the ladies room," she tells Ginger upon returning to their booth.

"On what planet does 'LaLas' translate to 'Women's Restroom?'" Ginger laughs judgmentally.  Clearly another drink is in order, so we peruse the cocktail menu.  Without thinking twice or analyzing our choices, Vodka chooses a vodka drink and Ginger, a ginger one.  We are true to form in all states of competence.
Our Self-Portrait
Settling down to business, we are at Bar Boulud for Frank Bruni's Best Thing I Ever Ate FOR BRUNCH dish, the croque monsieur.  A glorified open-faced ham and cheese, it is a delicacy with which Vodka is already obsessed and Ginger is eager to try.  Not wanting to order two prix fixe brunches, however, when our waitress arrives, Ginger informs her, "I'm going to have the prix fixe brunch, and this one is just going to drink," gesturing at Vodka.

Our waitress, clearly a soothsayer, properly translates this pronouncement into split portions and extra plates.  She is apparently the only person we have encountered today who has not instantly written us off as being lunatics.

However, when our saintly waitress comes around with the complimentary bread basket asking for our choices, Vodka grows guilty about the fact that she has not actually ordered brunch and offers to pay for the bread.  Upon refusal, Ginger gains a chuckle about this proposition while regaling (the now shoe-less, by the way, as her feet hurt.  Classy) Vodka about the history of Thomas Keller's restaurant, "Chinese Laundry."  Keller owns the French Laundry.

Drinking has not made us any smarter.
What Vodka Offered to Shell Out a Few Nickels For
We scarf down both our complimentary bread and the bowl of greens that arrives before us, barely tasting either.
Greens Greens and Nothing But Greens (Into the Woods Reference - Anyone?)
When the croque monsieur arrives, however, it is everything Vodka remembered and Ginger had dreamt of: a thick slice of bread enveloped by tanned and gooey cheese, the two items hugging an inner layer of warm, succulent ham.

Let us tell you, the French know how to do bread and cheese.
The Level of Cheesiness is Perfection
The sandwich feels almost casual, like you could pick it up and eat it as finger food (though we are trying not to act like cavewomen so we use utensils).  It is packed together miraculously tightly, as one would expect the three elements to separate from one another upon the first encounter with a knife, but it does not.
Finger Food?
The croque monsieur is a perfect brunch item, and we would venture to guess that Bar Boulud's croque madame (the same elements with a fried egg on top) is as well.  And though the inside of Bar Boulud has the distinct feel of a train terminal (not to mention incomprehensible signs for the bathroom), the outside tented seating area is perfect for breezy days (though not if the only tables left are in direct sunlight, as Vodka avoids the sun so religiously that she should own stock in Banana Boat).

By this point, our waitress is presumably done with her shift and has disappeared, leaving us in the hands of a much less capable waiter who takes approximately 18 hours to find our ice cream (which is light and refreshing pink sorbet with whipped cream) and check (which is very high numbered).
We Capped This Off with Cones from Mister Softee. No Joke
Nevertheless, we must agree with Frank Bruni's assessment of his ideal brunch dish, as the croque monsieur is scrumptious, both when you're in LaLa Land, and when you're out.

Bar Boulud's Croque Monsieur: 5 stars*

*Certifiable Best Thing We Ever Ate

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