A few weekends ago, the Hubs and I decided to treat ourselves to a brunch a General Greene, a blog-ballyhooed restaurant in the neighborhood. I had been eager to try it since it opened in June. Expectations were high as I had heard good things about it.
It started out well enough. Tables were readily available. The faux-barnish rustic atmosphere manages to be both airy and cozy. Our waiter was pleasant. We ordered iced coffee which was served in cut-glass jam jars. Adorable! The Hubs ordered the baked french toast and I ordered the ratatouille baked eggs. Doesn’t that sound great? A rich, tomatoey, ratatouille chock full or eggplant, zucchini and other veggies, with two baked eggs nestled into the center?
Well, while what was actually put in front of me looked great, it didn’t look like ratatouille. It was creamy-looking, for one. But I was willing to go along with a non-traditional rendition of the classic French dish, so I dove in. What I found under the crispy golden top (pictured above) was a mass of foamy liquid, some small chunks of vegetables, all mixed in with completely uncooked eggs–yolks and whites. Whites! (The glop of clear whites isn’t visible in the photo left, but trust me, it is there. Oh, it’s there.) I can handle, and actually enjoy, a runny yolk in some dishes, but runny, still perfectly clear whites? That didn’t seem right. And I couldn’t get a grip on what the foam that was the base of the dish was meant to be. Was it supposed to be a custard? Not clear. It was so runny that a fork didn’t work in my admittedly half-hearted attempts to eat it. Rather than ask for a spoon, I reluctantly decided to ask the waiter to cook it a bit more.
While it might be said that I can be critical of the food I am served in restaurants, I am actually loath to send something back or lodge an official complaint to a restaurant employee. Sending food back to the kitchen interrupts the flow of the meal, and I feel this sense of guilt about it–I don’t like troubling the staff.Â So, only when a dish is inedible do I send it back. And I had no choice in this case. So, I flagged him over and pointed out that the whites weren’t cooked. He seemed surprised when he saw the raw whites, and said that he had asked for it to be done medium-well (he actually hadn’t asked me how I wanted them done. I just assumed baked eggs were meant to be well done. And at the very least in any case, the whites should be white). He took it back to the kitchen.
In the meantime, The Hubs had nearly finished his french toast. It looks lovely. Unfortunately, the top was dry, as if it hadn’t soaked up any custard at all), and the bottom of the dish was filled with custard that was–incredibly–also undercooked. It was very runny, and clearly underdone, though not quite to the point of being inedible. The Hubs ate it, though he can’t say he enjoyed it. The flavors were good, it just needed a bit more care in custard coverage, and a bit more patience in the cooking.
The waiter brought back the baked egg dish as Hubs was finishing his french toast. I broke through the reformed top skin to find the same strange foamy liquid, and incredibly, still some uncooked, perfectly clear egg white! I just don’t understand how it could still be so uncooked after so much time, and two trips to the oven, passing? This was just so puzzling. I tried to eat it in any case, telling myself it was fine. But I just couldn’t do it. This was like a thin, hot, salty, shallow milkshake. It was just off.
At hubs urging, I flagged down the waiter again and told him it was still uncooked. Without my asking he said he would take it off of our bill, which I appreciated, and asked if I wanted anything else. Not having a menu in front of me, I just blurted out, “A muffin?” I wanted something fast as the french toast plate had already been cleared and we were nursing the milky ice cubes from our coffees.
A blueberry muffin was brought out hence. It was still warm from the oven. It looked divine. I split it open with my thumbs. It was undercooked. Sticky batter massed in the center. I asked the Hubs to verify. Was I being just too picky this time? He confirmed that indeed, it was undercooked. I looked around for hidden cameras. This had to be a joke. Alas, it was an unfortunate reality. We asked for our bill, paid it, and headed over to the Flea so I could get something to eat.
I might sometime in the future, when the foamy liquid and raw egg whites fiasco is but a dim memory, try General Greene again–for dinner, which I have heard is quite good.
Postscript: I decided on a papausa from one of the Redhook Ball Fields vendors at the Flea. I took a bite and passed it over to The Hubs to try as I said, “This isn’t as good as I remember it being the last time I had one.” He sagely responded, “No, but it is better than the baked eggs.” I couldn’t help but agree as I took another bite.