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MAMA MIA

for The Brooklyn Paper
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My friend Larry’s mother is a cantankerous, nitpicking whiner. Mary Catherine, fondly referred to as Our Lady of Eternal Suffering, has one gift: the ability to take the loveliest event and turn it into hell.

I’ve seen her in action.

Larry invited Mary Catherine to his 30th birthday party. She complained that the hors d’ oeuvres that Larry’s catering friends prepared - the same appetizers they served at Ivana Trump’s party - were "OK, if you like that hoity-toity stuff." The roses I dipped into my savings account to buy "smelled like a whorehouse," and Larry, whose face graced the cover of GQ Magazine, needed to "get his skinny ass moving and find a real job."

After a lot of therapy, Larry decided to forgo Mother’s Day with Mary Catherine. Following his psychiatrist’s suggestion, he looked for a surrogate mother to "adopt" for the day.

"Is your mother available?" he asked.

To call their meeting a love fest would be an understatement. My mother looked at Larry and said, "You’re beautiful." He scored big points by telling her raunchy jokes and mimicking her New York accent. They drank too much wine and sang an impromptu duet together (loudly) in the restaurant where we had brunch.

"I’m taking her," Larry said later that day.

Larry has adopted other mothers since our last get together, but mine remains his favorite. This year, I’m giving mom two surprises for Mother’s Day: brunch in a great restaurant and Larry. Good food and "that gorgeous man." Let the fun begin.

If Mary Catherine could love anything, it would be the brunch served in the restaurants below:

Toast Mother’s Day with a free glass of champagne at Alicia’s Cafe and Eatery in Brooklyn Heights. Locals flock to this charming cafe for its laid-back dining room and chef Sijbe’s (pronounced See-ba) "American eclectic" cooking.

For Mother’s Day, Alicia’s owner Wayne Anderson is offering a $9.95 brunch. In addition to specials like waffles with fresh fruit, and shrimp with grits, Anderson will pour a la carte strawberry or cherry mimosas. To end the meal, Sijbe has concocted a multi-layered chocolate and pecan charlotte with whipped cream. If the weather cooperates, tables will be set up outside the cafe - the ideal spot to enjoy the flowering trees on residential Columbia Place.

Give mom a big, fat Italian Mother’s Day at the Tuscany Grill in Bay Ridge. Chef Marny Conforti offers an a la carte brunch-into-dinner from 2 pm to 8 pm ($17-$26). The restaurant, known for its comfortable antique farmhouse setting, is the perfect spot to sample Conforti’s grilled veal chops, yellowfin tuna or salmon. Specials will include spaghettini with fresh spring asparagus, a generous portion of shrimp and scallops, lightly topped in a rich tomato sauce. For mothers with a Mama Mia appetite, Conforti grills an aged New York sirloin steak, baby back ribs or thickly cut pork chops.

Do a little sightseeing in DUMBO’s tres chic galleries before impressing mom with brunch in the cozy Five Front. Mom will enjoy rubbing elbows with the celebrities who have discovered the big-flavored cooking of Five Front’s chef Paul Vicino. From 11 am to 4 pm, on Mother’s Day, Vicino is serving his $10-$15 prix fixe brunch. Besides light omelets and platters of smoked salmon, Vicino is adding a crab cake Benedict with hollandaise sauce. Pastry chef Jodi Gordon’s basket of savory and sweet breakfast breads are included with the meal.

If mom craves excitement, take her to Superfine, another DUMBO winner. Moms are treated to a free cocktail. The Salty Dog - fresh grapefruit juice and Stoli served in a salt-rimmed glass - will put her in a celebratory mood.

Lounge Leader, a five-piece group with an elegant, big band sound will perform on Mother’s Day, from 11 am to 3 pm. Chef Laura Taylor’s a la carte ($6-$16) brunch has a southwestern theme. Mom could tuck into the huevos rancheros - eggs to order with Monterey Jack cheese, hatch green chilies and black beans; or the breakfast burrito - three eggs, house-made pork sausage, hatch green chilies and black beans rolled in a flour tortilla. Work off the meal by hustling up to the fluorescent orange pool table and shooting a few rounds.

Cozy The Minnow in Park Slope, is the perfect place to spend Mother’s Day. The long, narrow room is pretty and intimate and the waitstaff is accommodating. Chef Aaron Bashy serves his brunch ($5-$17) from 11:30 am to 5 pm. Fluffy waffles with fresh strawberries or blintzes with straight-from-the-farmers’-market rhubarb or blackberry compotes are two delicious options. But if you’re in a restaurant known for its seafood, you and mom may want to share the luscious pink snapper over rice for two.

Mother’s Day is a big deal for Charlotta Janssen, owner of Chez Oskar in Fort Greene. Janssen transforms the French bistro into a spring flower shop with feather-covered faux-butterflies and fresh flowers dangling from the ceiling. There’s something for everyone on the a la carte brunch menu ($7-$14). Of course, there’s French toast and omelets. For fish-loving moms, there are mussels in a white wine, shallot and garlic broth. Meat-eating moms will devour the lusty steak with frites, and vegetarians will adore the Napoleon of grilled vegetables with melted goat cheese and basil oil.

Treating mother to brunch on her special day is the least you can do. She’s sacrificed to give you so many things. Even Larry would agree. Mary Catherine has given him plenty of stories to share with his therapist. With more to come.

 

Mother’s Day brunch is popular so make your reservations early.

Alicia’s Cafe and Eatery (10 Columbia Place between Joralemon and State streets in Brooklyn Heights) accepts Visa, MasterCard, Diner’s Club and Discover. Prix fixe brunch: $9.95. Mother’s Day brunch is served from 10 am to 4:30 pm on May 11. For reservations, call (718) 532-0069.

Tuscany Grill (8620 Third Ave. at 86th Street) accepts Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover. Brunch-dinner entrees: $17-$26. Mother’s Day dining is 2-8 pm on May 11. For reservations, call (718) 921-5633.

Five Front (5 Front St. at Old Fulton Street in DUMBO) accepts Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover and Diner’s Club. Prix fixe brunch: $10. Special brunch items $10 to $15. Mother’s Day brunch is served from 11 am to 4 pm on May 11. For reservations, call (718) 625-5559.

Superfine (126 Front St. at Pearl Street in DUMBO) accepts Visa, MasterCard and American Express. Brunch entrees: $6-$16. Mother’s Day brunch is served from 11 am to 3 pm on May 11. For reservations, call (718) 243-9005.

The Minnow (442 Ninth St. at Sixth Avenue in Park Slope) accepts Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club and Discover. Brunch entrees: $5-$17. Mother’s Day brunch is served from 11:30 am to 5 pm on May 11. For reservations, call (718) 832-5500.

Chez Oskar (211 DeKalb Ave. at Adelphi Street in Fort Greene) accepts Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club and American Express. Brunch entrees: $7-$9.50. Mother’s Day brunch is served from 10:30 am to 4 pm on May 11. For reservations, call (718) 852-6250.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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