A Great Start to the New Year

January 2, 2013 by Kari Karch

Every year about a week out from New Year’s Day, I find myself making plans for the first of the year instead of New Year’s Eve. I’ve gone to the great parties, rang in the New Year standing in Times Square, kissed my suitors in venues across the country, and even thrown a couple fabulous extravaganzas at my house. But what I always look forward to is the very next day. I’m more obsessed with finding out where I will be having my first brunch of the New Year rather than what sequined or sparkled dress I should be adorning the night before.

To me, spending the first day of the year with close friends and family and enjoying a satisfying meal while conversing with those I love the most, makes a great start for what is to come. I usually begin my research by looking into the top 10 restaurants that are rated by locals in my area. I enjoy hearing what the consumer has to say but I will always take into consideration my own opinions and experiences. Most restaurants are open nowadays on New Year’s Day as opposed to that of the recent past. Going to brunch has become quite the pastime for young couples, foodies, industry folks, and all those who might be trying to seek out the hair of the dog from the night before. There are so many new brunch restaurants in my area that it sometimes becomes more frustrating than not to pick just one. Some of the clear winners must have some sort of brunch special that might have an enticing drink package, chef’s tasting menu, or discounted regular menu options.

This year I decided on Bar Umbriago. It is a new upscale wine bar that features some of the freshest and most delightful Italian eats I’ve had in quite some time. Chef Michael is a charmer who really knows how to put out a decent plate of food for his guests. The brunch menu was overflowing with new and exciting dishes such as pork belly hash, Mac and cheese omelets, and bananas foster waffles. My guests and I decided on the bottomless mimosas made from fresh squeezed orange juice and an order of the doughnut holes with a trio of dipping sauces to start the feast off right. After gazing at food runners serving other tables, I noticed a trend with the Benedicts. It wasn’t the same old Benedict staple everyone is used to, but there was an outpouring of Benedicts to choose from. Salmon, lobster, crab, veggie! It was obvious that I should try the crab Benedict on fresh made brioche and from scratch hollandaise. Pick me!

When our food came to the table, everyone’s eyes began to glisten with delight and palates began to salivate. I could not wait to dig into this platter of love. Now I must say this before I describe the food, but I hate when I order something, have an idea of how it should taste, and it comes out completely wrong. This was not the case. In fact, it was one of the most delectable benedicts I’ve ever had in Chicago and I will be more than happy to come back next week and the next. If only my waist size wouldn’t grow.

My brunch experience was just what I had hoped for and maybe more this year. Filled with laughter and good friend’s delicious food and great conversations. What a great start to 2013 and I hope all of yours was just as wonderful. Happy New Year and happy eating!

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Kari Karch

Kari Karch is a 19-year veteran of the culinary industry, creator of Kiss the Cook, and the head chef and spokesperson for the Kenmore brand. She has made many notable appearances on ABC Morning News, on WGN, on the Cooking Channel and as a judge for the World Food Championships.