Brunch at Highball & Harvest

Written by Scott Joseph on .

HH brunch market

I finally had a chance to try the new brunch at Highball & Harvest at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes Orlando and I liked it very much.

Chef Nathan Hardin and pastry chef Stephane Chéramy put out a lavish spread of pre- and post-noon dishes, and general manager Matt Cristi and his staff make sure guests are happy and have plenty of whatever their hearts desire. (You’re heart might want to desire one of specialty Bloody Marys; the Hail Mary, with Absolut, heirloom tomato juice, pork crackling and lime and an Old Bay salted rim won my heart.)

HH brunch marys

At this point in a review I would tell you which dishes I recommend. But the thing with H&H is that they change things up every week. Everything is set up in a sort of pantry area and guests help themselves to the various dishes. But Hardin says he likes to offer different items each week.

Yappy Hour Brunch at TR Fire Grill

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Yappy doggies

I’m thinking this Sunday will be busier for brunches than most other Sundays. For one thing, most people have Monday off so they won’t mind lingering over a meal with a few extra mimosas or bloodies with friends.

And this is a particularly good Sunday for you to try the brunch at TR Fire Grill with your best friend. That is, your dog.

That’s because this Sunday, and every last Sunday of the month, is a special version of TR’s Yappy Hour Sunday Brunch. Dogs are welcome on the patio of the Winter Park restaurant at all times, but on the last Sunday of the month the folks from Judy’s Pet Rescue set up next to the patio and bring along some of their adorable adoptables.

So if you go to brunch for a little hair of the dog, as they say, you could wind up with the whole hound.

And even if you go and leave dogless, the brunch at TR Fire Grill will certainly have you wagging your own tail.

Narcoossee's Waterfront Brunch

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 Narcoossee brunch exterior

Walt Disney World has gotten into the brunch business. Last week I told you about Brunch at the Top, at California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. This week we look at the other restaurant now serving Sunday brunch: Narcoossee’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.

The two restaurants are conveniently connected by the Monorail, and if you really wanted to, you could combine the two for one really super brunch, which is what I did as an invited guest for a media tour of the two new offerings.

Of course, it would cost you. As I told you last week, the Brunch at the Top is priced at $80 per person, plus tax and tip. Narcoossee’s Waterfront Brunch costs $69 ++. (The cost for kids, ages 3 to 9, is $48 at CG and $41 at Narc’s.) If you were to splurge for the moveable brunch, I’d recommend starting at California Grill because the Contemporary will validate valet parking; for some reason that isn’t offered at the Grand Floridian.

Of the two brunch options, Narcoosee’s is  more casual one yet more structured. For the $69 cost, guests receive a prosecco, mimosa or Bloody Mary, or smoothie for the kids or teetotalers, and a basket of pastries for the table. Then they make a selection of an appetizer, entree and dessert, all from a menu — there’s none of that getting up and roaming around stuff like you’ll find at the other place.

California Grill's Brunch at the Top

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California Grill Brunch Mary

For those who still lament the loss of the Sunday brunch at La Coquina, take heart. The newly established brunch at California Grill may be the worthy replacement.

Like La Coquina, the fine dining restaurant in the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Resort that stopped serving in 2012, California Grill offers an elegant repast in a sumptuous setting at an extravagant cost.

CG, of course, is one of Disney’s top restaurants, figuratively for its upscale dining experience and literally for its location on the 15th floor of the Contemporary Resort. The restaurant is ordinarily open only for dinner, so dining during the daytime and being able to take in the bright vistas through the large windows — a sight that includes a Dumbo’s-eye view of the Magic Kingdom — is an especial treat.

La Coquina, you’ll recall, was special because the salads, charcuterie, cold seafoods and other starter foods were set up at stations inside the hotel’s kitchen, which ordinarily was out of sight of the diners.

California Grill does sort of the same thing with its opening courses. But since it features an open show kitchen (hard to believe it was one of the first restaurants in the area to bring the kitchen out front), such foods as salads, sushi and cured meats are set up in front of the kitchen stations without the need to go "backstage." And, as was the case at La Coquina, the entree course is ordered separately and delivered to the table.

Here’s where there is a major departure between the two experiences: La Coquina featured bottomless glasses of mimosas or Champagne — and good stuff, too. California Grill offers one welcome drink, then you’ll be billed separately if you would like more. And that welcome drink does not include CG’s Bloody Mary bar.

Osprey Tavern Brunch

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Osprey brunch decor

I’m liking Osprey Tavern more and more each time I visit, and I liked it just fine the first time. It seems to be growing into a more comfortable version of itself. Once you’re past the tentativeness of the front desk, servers are amiable without being cloying, the atmosphere buzzes with mutual conviviality, and the kitchen, under the direction of Ravenous Pig alumnus Joseph Burnett, produces a menu that combines comfort with style.

The restaurant has a different feel at brunch, at least in the early hours. The atmosphere is a little less manic, though certainly not subdued. One can’t really expect total calm in a restaurant that features a show kitchen as a prominent part of the dining room. I must say, however, that several of the cooks “on stage” on a recent Sunday morning did not look up to performing a matinee.

Brunch at Slate

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Slate interior bar

Now that it’s been several months since Slate first opened on Restaurant Row, I thought I’d stop in to give it another try, so I headed down on a recent Sunday to experience the brunch service.

I enjoyed my meal more this time. Maybe it’s that the place is getting comfortable in its surroundings, which still don’t include a lick of slate (the roof doesn’t count).

Brunch at North Quarter Tavern

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North Quarter Tavern interior bar

North Quarter Tavern, which opened earlier this summer, has added Sunday brunch to its repertoire. (It’s added lunch, too, but our focus here today is brunch.)

Executive chef Matt Wall has applied the same standards he practices with his dinner menu — everything made from scratch, right on the premises — to the brunch menu. The offerings lean a bit more toward the lunch side of brunch but are made more breakfasty with the addition of an egg. In my world, everything can be made better with a fried egg on top.

Vanbarry's Public House Brunch

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Vanbarrys interior bar

Vanbarry’s Public House certainly has caught on. It isn’t unusual to find its patio, bar and dining room, not to mention its parking lot, full at just about any time.

That includes Sunday brunch, but if you’re willing to get there before noon, when the music fires up on the patio (fire being the operative word in the current heat), you should be able to find a table.

And go ahead and find one yourself. I’ll give you permission to “sit wherever you want” even though my companion and I stood at the front door for several minutes before anyone told us. (This after several workers glanced a sleepy eye our way, quickly looking away so as not to commit to actually greeting us. I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: If you’re not morning people, don’t open in the morning.)

Artisan's Table Brunch

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 artisans interior

Artisan’s Table, the downtown restaurant owned and head-cheffed by Scott Copeland, has a pleasant vibe on Sunday mornings. It’s a decidedly young crowd, and I got the distinct impression that some of them had not yet been home since the night before. At least not to their own homes.

My guest and I were shown to a dark table in the center of the dining room. When we asked if we could possibly have the empty table next to the window overlooking Pine Street, she told us that they were waiting for clean butcher paper (which is what covers the tablecloths here) and that that paper was too dirty. There was no offer to seat us at one of the other, less dimly lit tables, so we alighted.

Scratch Brunch

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Scratch brunch

I've been an unapologetic fan of Scratch, the moody small-plates restaurant on Fairbanks Avenue, since I first visited, even as I sometimes wondered if the folks involved in it knew what they were doing right. There is bona fide talent in the kitchen, and the laid back attitude in the front of the house (though really there isn't much separation between front and back here — even the kitchen is out front) seemed right with the overall feel of the place.

But on a recent brunch visit everything fell apart, and I was left wondering yet again whether earlier enjoyable visits were only flukes.