Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen
110 South St, Morristown, NJ 07960
Brunch at Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen
The brunch took place during September 2020, after the COVID-19 pandemic started to ease up.
Brunch is a portmanteau word of breakfast and lunch that originated in England and became popular in the United States in the 1930s. It is usually a weekend ritual that allows a leisurely meal later in the day than breakfast, and includes a number of different dishes and beverages.
In the United States, the classic brunch menu could include steak and eggs or bacon and eggs or ham and eggs, eggs Benedict, bagels and cream cheese, pancakes, corned beef hash, bagel and lox (smoked salmon), eggs Sardou, sopaipillas, and a number of other dishes washed down with a Bloody Mary or a Mimosa or a Bellini, plus a cup of coffee or tea.
Brunch is also very popular in Asia, and includes congee, dim sum or other dumplings fried or steamed, filled buns and other quickly cooked dishes, fresh fruit and salads, all washed down with tea.
If you are in Punjab, India, a preferred brunch dish could be aloo paratha or bhakri, both stuffed flatbreads, and beverage would be lassi, made with diluted yoghurt either salty or sweet when mixed with honey; in Istanbul, the preferred beverage would be salep while you munch on your simit, a sesame-covered round like a thin bagel. Coffee and tea are nowadays ubiquitous, drunk in most cultures. As far as dishes are concerned… in Jamaica you could have ackee and saltfish; in Israel fatoot samneh (pita bread fried in clarified butter); in Mexico, chilaquiles and huevos rancheros and so on. Each country and ethnic group seems to have their own particular preferences.
On a recent Sunday morning we went for brunch to Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen, a restaurant situated in the lovely Vail Mansion, an Italian Renaissance Palazzo in Morristown.
Chris Cannon created a 15,000 square foot space in the mansion that includes the main entrance – it now serves as the Oyster Bar – and the magnificent staircase that leads to the building’s upper level. There are four distinct dining spaces in three levels: the Rathskeller in the basement, it used to house the jail cell for Morristown, and now serves as a beer hall and private event venue; the Washington Room on the second floor, in the original living quarters of the mansion, it is perfect for a relaxed dining experience; the Vail Bar, a 1920s cocktail lounge, just behind the grand staircase; and the Oyster Bar and Patio whose menu features a wide variety of seafood, house made charcuterie, cheese, and small plates alongside traditional entrées, and that’s where we were seated for our brunch.
Chris Cannon, owner of the restaurant and James Beard Award winner, is also the sommelier; his wine knowledge is extensive and he has in his cellar a vast number of very distinct bottles. You can ask for wines from California, Oregon, New York State, Sicily, France, Galicia, Germany’s Mosel, Alto Adige, Tuscany, Greece, Spain, Portugal… wherever distinct wines are made Chris has bottles, including retsina, the resinated traditional Greek white wine that, according to me and Chris, it’s the best tasting turpentine you can ever drink.
Top toque in the kitchen is A. J. Capella, a winner of the Garden State’s Culinary Arts Rising Star Chef award.
Seasonal, best possible local ingredients, dominate the menu that changes with the seasons.
We started with half-a-dozen each of raw oysters and clams sourced locally from New Jersey’s Barnegat Bay. Homemade cocktail sauce and mignonette, plus mini-Tabasco bottles and lemon wedges, festooned the ice-tray on which the bivalves were resting.
The next dish was avocado toast, a very interesting variation on a 1930s brunch favorite, made with avocado slices and avocado paste, pickled onion, roasted mushrooms and raw cauliflower. It was delicious and, hungry that we were, we made it disappear in no time!
Next was Crab Benedict, a variation on the usual Eggs Benedict, made with lump crab meat, spinach and hollandaise sauce covering poached eggs. Also superbly delicious!
Barbara asked for a glass of Mimosa and I had a glass of Rosa, a new rosé wine that I brought with me to try. The wine is from Donnafugata, a Sicilian wine producer that creates a couple of my favorite wines, including a very nice Chardonnay that Chris also has in his wine list and a red, Sherazade, made from indigenous Nero d'Avola. The rosé is made from two unique Sicilian varietals, Nerello Mascalese and Nocera. The new bottling was created in co-operation with the team at Dolce & Gabbana.
With all due respect to José Rallo, the talented winemaker – and exceptional jazz singer – at Donnafugata, I’m afraid that this new wine misses the mark as it has a rather unpleasant, to me, aftertaste. But, Chris came to the rescue with glasses of white and rosé wines, from Oregon and California, a very nice Greek white, and a Spätburgunder from Austria, that were much more to my liking.
We continued with a half portion of the Short Rib Hash: over-easy-egg on crispy potatoes, fried peppers, short-rib meat, fried onions and fresh chives, and we added crisp bacon strips. Quite nice!
Time came for dessert and coffee and I decided on the Tarte Alsacienne with candied apple slices, sweet custard and Chantilly on top, while Barbara got the Brownie S’mores i.e. a brownie, with torched meringue and graham cracker ganache that the waiter recommended. And I ordered my usual double espresso. A very delicious finish to our brunch.
I would like to praise the service staff. They all seemed knowledgeable and eager to please; ever present without being overbearing.
Congratulations Chris, you have put together quite an exceptional restaurant.
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