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Thursday, February 4,2010

Off the beaten brunch

By Clay Fong

As friend Lisa and I drove on Hwy. 36 north of Boulder, we couldn’t help but notice the landscape’s arid harshness. Even though the sun was shining, we couldn’t shake a feeling of wintry desolation. Happily, the mood shifted for the better once we entered our destination, the Greenbriar Inn, for a leisurely Sunday brunch. This landmark’s interior of dark woods and forest green shades provided a warming contrast to the dreary scenery, making for a traditional clubby feel.

Brunch here costs a substantial $26, with a $6 charge for all-you-can-drink champagne, and $4 for a similar arrangement with sparkling cider. Regular coffee and tea are included in the price. For $5 each, we began with cappuccinos composed of a balanced ratio of potent-but-not-bitter brew with properly frothy steamed milk. Lisa waxed enthusiastic about her drink, declaring it “ridiculously good.”

While the buffet itself may not take up the sheer real estate of one found in a casino or cruise ship (which isn’t necessarily a good thing), it’s still impressive. Diners can enjoy fresh fruit, cheese, Caesar salad, quartered bagels with cream cheese and lox, and an endearingly eggy quiche Lorraine, among other items. My first move was to sample the raw oysters on the half shell. Although these weren’t top-of the-line Belons or specimens possessing the sparkling freshness you’d get at an oyster bar in San Francisco, they were perfectly acceptable. A cocktail sauce shot through with the taste of fresh tomatoes was unique and definitely enhanced this shellfish experience.

One of Lisa’s favorites was mushroom braised beef with whipped potatoes, a sophisticated interpretation of shepherd’s pie brimming with meaty flavor. The French toast was richer than most, with a near custard texture holding the bread together, while a slightly tart berry compote lent the correct measure of sweet. I was less enthusiastic about the cut-to-order prime rib, which tended towards tough, and it didn’t benefit from sitting out at the carving station.

On the plus side, our server was mindful without being obtrusive, checking in with us at reasonable intervals. Coffee refills were prompt, and our plates had been efficiently cleared as we returned from our second trip to the buffet. Selections we enjoyed from this go-round included a pre-made eggs benedict with expertly poached yolks, and a subtle Hollandaise sauce that didn’t overwhelm with richness. Lisa’s cooked-to-order omelet of bacon, mushrooms, cheddar and red pepper was near-perfect, with a fluffy texture and veggies cooked just enough to bring out their full taste profile.

While neither of us were enamored with a dessert of what appeared to be a maple-scented test tube filled with pudding and granola, we did enjoy the creamy bite-sized flans as well as simple fresh strawberries dipped in white chocolate. A hefty warm bread pudding, accented by the scent of vanilla, provided an elegant capstone to the meal.

Lisa aptly summarized the experience by explaining, “The Greenbriar’s a tradition, and it tastes like one.” Indeed, it’s a place to take a visiting relative who doesn’t want anything more than to enjoy an expertly prepared omelet or reassuring bread pudding. Pricing makes the Greenbriar a special occasion venue, and while the food isn’t on the culinary cutting edge, the baseline quality, along with the hospitable service and ambience, are more than fine.


Clay’s Obscurity Corner:
Hunters or journalists?

While it’s clear the term “brunch” is a composite of the words “breakfast” and “lunch,” what’s more ambiguous is who first started using this term. The two predominant origin theories both go back to the 1800s and attribute it either to aristocratic Brits or working-class Americans. The British theory holds that the term came from early-rising hunters of the leisure class who didn’t have time to eat breakfast before stalking game, necessitating a later meal. The competing hypothesis is that an American newspaper reporter devised this word to reflect the eccentric dining habits stemming from a journalist’s unpredictable, deadline-driven schedule.
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For those that have not visited the Greenbriar in some time the remodel done by Phil to the dining room is just stunning.  By opening the west wall with glass he has brought into the room the foothills and clever landscaping.  Call ahead for reservations, they are usually packed for brunch.

 

 
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