The morning after Distill America, Nostrano served a brunch with North Shore Distillery breakfast cocktails. Hastings Cameron of Underground Food Collective was working the bar with Grant Hurless, and Trevor Gruehn of Johnson Public House was slinging the coffee drinks. Chef Tim Dahl told me the brunch was something of a test for this spring— when he plans to serve a similar prix fixe on Farmer’s Market Saturdays. Nostrano will soon be a major contender in the brunch category.
There was a separate coffee menu, which unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of—but to give an idea of what Gruehn was sending out, here is a shot of my latte:
I also ordered a superb bloody mary which was vegetal—lots of rosemary—and came skewered with what I assume was an Underground Meats sausage. Sadly, I failed to get a shot of it.
I ordered the gnocchi, which was presented instead as fried polenta sticks. I didn’t mind the switch, as the polenta was crispy on the outside and still creamy within. The shrimp was zesty from the chili verde. I thought it was a fun and successful starter dish.
The beet-cured Salmon was a gorgeous plate. It arrived as a pink still life with shaved beauty heart radishes and intensely colored salmon. This contrasted with a dark brown rye bagel. Glorious to behold, wonderful to eat, and my pic doesn’t do it justice.
For my second course, I tried the pancetta hash with a duck egg and nasturtium pesto; it was satisfying although a touch salty and oily. However, sometimes for brunch just a touch of grease is welcome—there might have been something missing had it been any lighter. It was earthy and spicy, and the nasturtium pesto worked well on the duck egg. The crispy ciabatta gave it textural oomph. The accompanying salad with dill and shaved fennel was perfectly dressed and bright.
Despite all the exciting things going on with the hash, the smoked pork shank sandwich was the most popular item. It garnered praise such as: “This might be the best smoked pork I’ve had out in a restaurant.” Coming from the man I consider Mr. pork connoisseur himself, this was high praise indeed. There was spice from the house-made giardiniera, sweetness from the onions, and a pop from the grainy mustard. Everything about this dish worked.
Just to be sure we weren’t missing anything, I also ordered the panettone. I would have had hash & pork envy had I ordered it alone, but as an extra the panettone was a great sweet foil to the rest of the food. I thought it was a creative take on the Italian classic, and I enjoyed the playful appearance. It confirmed that brunch at Nostrano will cover both savory and sweet with equal panache.
For the finale, the Veinnoiserie (Vienna-style pastries) engulfed us in baked decadence. As heavenly as it looks– plum, apple, almond, and even chocolate eclairs. It is going to be a long wait until April 21st!