Remember brunch? You know, that meal with the cloying name that chefs would like to forget if only the eggs-benedict-loving populace would let them? Seven years ago, when husband-and-wife restaurant consultants Gayle Pirie and John Clark were working as chefs at San Francisco's Zuni Cafe, they resolved to rescue what they saw as an unloved meal from its second-class status. They accomplished this feat in part by moving beyond eggs.
Brunch, they believe, has become so predictable that simple statements seem delightfully bold. "You get to charm and seduce people where they least expect it," Pirie says. Halibut with herb sauce, for instance, dares to bring fish that's not smoked to the table. Semolina sage gnocchi, though not the usual weekend-afternoon meal, is definitely a crowd-pleasing one. For die-hard bacon-and-egg lovers (among them Pirie and Clark, coauthors of Country Egg, City Egg), there's roasted pancetta-wrapped radicchio with baked eggs. While these dishes don't shout Christmas any more than they do brunch, they're ideal for the holidays: easy to prepare, perfect to serve to large groups and crafted to make the most of comforting seasonal ingredients.