(Traverse City, MI) After a full day of debauchery, we are so looking forward to a leisurely Sunday brunch at Green House Cafe. Only problem is, they aren't open on Sundays! No stranger to diversity, we shift gears quickly and decide to review an old favorite: Amical. Thankfully, just before lunch, there are no customers waiting to be seated, as we had feared. With the film festival on its last day, and the weather bright and cheery, it is strange we have virtually no wait time...
Perhaps everyone has already come and gone for breakfast, eager to attend the first showing on the last day of the film fest, but we have virtually our pick of any table. There are even tables outside! It is still a little muggy out, so we opt for indoors where we can smell the French cuisine being prepared only a few feet away from our table. The hostess is brusque and efficient, and leads us to a four-top in the main dining area. Our waitress is even more brisk and all business. Sometimes I like that (as in this case) and sometimes it's annoying, almost as if they wish you weren't there. She does brighten up a bit later in our meal.
I start with a glass of grapefruit juice, freshly squeezed and room temp. It's not pink grapefruit (my preference) but it's still nice and refreshing. For my caffeine fix, I opt for the double latte which is brought in an oversized mug. It's like I'm already in Paris (where we're headed next month)! The coffee is large enough to last the entire brunch. After a quick conference with Juliet, we decide to split a Nutella-filled croissant (only $4?!?). At first, I believe it to be a plain buttery croissant drizzled with Nutella. Not so! The creamy hazelnut goodness is also inside the croissant. Oh, joy of joys! We spend several minutes devouring the pastry in silence, licking the spread off our knives and forks until no crumb remains.
I am torn about what to get for the main course. As you recall, I envied Juliet's Croque monsieur at Pinot Brasserie in Vegas last January, so I'm drifting toward Amical's Croque Madam. Just under this listing, however, are the Eggs Milano and they win the battle for control of my taste buds. John ends up ordering the Croque Madam and I am immediately jealous; it looks amazing. My dish looks pretty good too. The eggs are poached to perfection, little white pouches that ooze golden yolk when punctured. They sit atop a mound of ham and polenta, drizzled with pesto hollandaise. The taste is salty and rich, but not overwhelming. The earthy, innocuous polenta becomes the great equalizer, absorbing the sauces and mediating the salt. It is a delicate balancing act and I appreciate the effort that went into making it, although I think a less refined palate might consider it bland.
Diane chooses the French Toast,griddled Challah bread smothered in almond bavarian creme, berries, almonds, and raspberry romanoff cream. We all nibble at it because the portion is generous. It's sweet and hearty, but it reminds me why I don't order pancakes or french toast that often...too filling in too short a time. As I get older (scarce remembering the time when I was able to wolf down five Big Macs in one sitting), I tend to appreciate the dainty dishes that are more artful and flavorful than the sheer quantity I used to like.
Sadly, our trip to Traverse City is over. But it ends on a high note! Amical is the real deal when it comes to French food. Good prices, great preparation, and the "feel" of European cuisine. We pay our bill, walk slowly back to our car, bid our friends Adieu, then drive southward toward home.
Despite the hustle and bustle of downtown Traverse City, we luck out and are seated very quickly. Not so quick that we don't get a peek at the bakery counter filled with muffins, tarts, pies, cakes, puddings...a visual appetizer if there ever was one.
I order a tomato juice and a latte to sip while I peruse the offerings. Amical's brunch menu is quite extensive, with one page devoted to breakfast and the other side entirely comprised of non-breakfast items: pastas, salads, sandwiches, even soup. I always appreciate having a choice of breakfast or lunch for brunch, which is what "brunch" is supposed to be, right?
Jeremy and I share a Nutella-filled croissant and it's rich, sweet and perfect with my double latte. Imagine an oversized, flaky, freshly baked (on-site, by the way) croissant generously filled with creamy chocolate hazelnut butter and garnished with a drizzle of melted Nutella. Probably the most decadent way I've started my day in years.
I need some protein to temper all the caffeine and sugar, and I have every intention of ordering the tomato soup en croute. It's listed as a house specialty and it sounds soothing and filling. The soup and a side order of berries is on the tip of my tongue as the waiteress approaches, but for some reason "the chicken broccoli crepes, please" escapes my mouth. I am generally against chicken for breakfast. I do not know why; maybe I don't want the chicken and the egg on the plate at the same time? It's completely illogical, but I'll go meatless before I'll even do chicken sausages for breakfast.
So upon hearing me order the chicken crepes, Jeremy's eyebrows raise at me from across the table. "You hate chicken with eggs. You won't eat it in the morning." I shrug my shoulders, "I don't know why, but I had to try it."
And I'm glad I did. Two tender, light golden crepes arrive filled with chunks of white chicken meat, chopped bits of broccoli and mushrooms, and a thin sherried cream sauce. There's more veggies than chicken, which is fine by me, and the crepes are slightly sweet and a bit "eggy". The dish is deeply satisfying and probaby a bit too rich after that Nutella croissant. I should've gone with the soup and fruit, but the crepes were delicious and I've discovered a chicken breakfast dish I enjoy.
Throughout the meal the service is a little rushed, which seems odd given the number of empty tables scattered throughout the restaurant and their patio. Don't get me wrong, the servers are all exceptionally nice, but they are scurrying around as if there's a line of customers halfway around the block waiting impatiently for tables. It's just a bit disconcerting for a restaurant with a name that means friendly or amicable in French.
In spite of feeling a bit hurried, I would return to Amical again in a heartbeat. The food was amazing and I'd love the chance to check them out for lunch and dinner. And some time to linger over that bakery case a bit longer.
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