We arrived at Balthazar at 9:45 today, which proved the perfect early-riser brunch hour, b/c you can enjoy the pre-10AM discount on your coffee drinks, postponing your food order a few minutes until 10, when the brunch hour officially begins. (We paid $3.75 for cafe au lait instead of $5 after 10AM.)
The $12 basket of baked goods was downright shameful. The powdered-sugared tutti-frutti loaf (a variation on the theme of pannettone) was merely unpleasant. The 1/3 loaf of chocolate bread was just a bad idea, as chocolate bread always is (not counting the chocolate bread in The Cake Bible, which is really a less-sweet pound cake). I noticed many people around us also not eating their chocolate bread, or dipping it into the equally bad bowl of cafe au lait--misery preferring company. The brioche was obviously not fresh. The three slices of nut bread were quite good, but not so good as the one at the bakery Levain (74th and Amsterdam, which also makes the best ciabatta I've ever known). Finally, the pecan sticky bun was on the dry side but generally excellent. Throughout, I longed for the pastry basket at Ouest (part of a fantastic $24 prix fix caloric orgy), whose star was a banana mini-muffin containing a warm chunk of banana at its center. ooooh.
On the other hand, the eggs benedict proved a DEFINING MOMENT in my culinary education, of the perfect poached egg. The egg white lay in that liminal state between rawness and coagualtion. The yolk oozed deliciously. The English Muffin seemed a good deal fresher than the pastry basket had. The ham was yummy if a bit thickly sliced. The hollandaise was flawless (to me; my companion found it overly tangy).
It was enough to make my buy 3 dozen eggs and some vinegar and teach myself to poach my own egg (something I've always been vaguely terrified of doing, like curing my own salmon). Wish me luck.