Hello my dearest Breeps:

That's a combination of "brunch" and "peeps." I don't think it's going to stick. This past weekend I took advantage of the Red Queen's absence to suggest a place she didn't particularly feel like going: Monika's Cafe Bar - http://www.monikascafebar.com/

Now, I'm not sure why she didn't feel like going. Maybe she was thinking of Scorpio Cafe Bar, which is a Croatian place nearby. Anyway, she was off on a retreat with her theatre company, Stolen Chair: www.stolenchair.org Or as I like to call it, "theatre camp."

Interestingly, Monika's was one of the first places I ever ate at when I first visited Astoria. The Red Queen, amazingly enough, took me there, as she lived right down the street years ago. I loved the lunch there, but since I live closer to Ditmars, had totally forgotten Monika's existed.

So this week, I was joined by her not-better half, El Generalissimo, the Neighbors, Kung-fu Master and two women who are new to our group. The first was Kung-fu¨ Anne. She is a small, half-Malay, half-German woman who practices Wing Tsun (http://www.citywingtsun.com) with Kung-fu Master and El Generalissimo. Although she is small, she is feisty and can totally kick anyone's ass - including KFM and EG. Aside from being a bad-ass, and one of the nicest and least weird Germans I've ever met, she is gregarious to the point of injury. I mean that in that she always greets me with a smile and a jolly slap on the shoulder. As those of you who have followed my blog know, I recently had shoulder surgery. She always seems to find the injured shoulder, so while I always look forward to seeing her, it is with a bit of trepidation.

Our other new member (not pictured) is Mademoiselle Meringue. Like a meringue, she is beautiful, light, airy and sweet. Unlike a meringue, I'm sure there is more to her than just eggs and sugar. For crying out loud, she's a Jersey girl who likes hockey, but hates the Devils (for the record, she's a Senators fan). There's got to be some craziness going on there. Her smile lights up the room and we're so glad that Susie Q decided to invite her to join us.

Back to the matter at hand. Monika's Cafe Bar was recommended by a work friend of mine, and I'm glad I finally took him up on his recommendation. A suitably sized cafe, Monika's is full of natural light, which shines through the wall to wall windows. A few of these windows are covered in stain glass drawings, which add a colorful element to the place. The colored light reflects of many surfaces of the cafe, making your early-ish morning brunch a rainbow adventure.

Monika's has a Greek feel to it in terms of food, with a "Cypriot breakfast," including Eggs, Greek sausage, grilled Halloumi (a thick Greek cheese), and olives and a "Mediterranean breakfast" with scrambled eggs, tahini (sesame dip), tzatziki (yogurt dip), and pita bread. They also use tsoureki (a Greek egg bread) as the basis for their french toast. EG and I decided to get the "Mediterranean," while I added a side of grilled halloumi, because it is a requirement to eat it when I see it. I loved all the elements of the dish, though I'm still wavering on whether they all mix together properly. Also, as you can see from the photo below, the plating left something to be desired.

Though I'm colorblind, I can even tell there's a lot of beige going on there. I honestly don't know how you avoid this problem, considering that's just the color of the food, but it isn't the most flattering of presentations. That being said, Both EG and I really enjoyed the flavors and finished off our plates. The halloumi was a big hit, and I'm glad I had the rest of the table to help me consume it.

Mademoiselle Meringue had the Greek yogurt and homemade granola with berries. She raved about the fact that the granola was homemade and seemed happy to have made that choice.

KFA had a made to order mozzarella omelette which she enjoyed.

Susie Q and KFM both decided to go for the Western Hemisphere version of breakfast with huevos rancheros. I should have tried them, but they seemed to enjoy them enough that I didn't get a chance. In fact, I barely had a chance to snap a photo with my phone before it was devoured.

Finally, Mayor McCheese decided to go off the brunch menu and get the felafel sandwich. He said that is wasn't something you can really screw up and that they did a decent job. His one complaint was that there were only two felafel in the sandwich, which if you ask me is a bigger deal than he seemed to make out.

Now the normal brunch menu provides for a free bloody mary or mimosa with your meal. As much as I enjoyed my bloody mary (very well made, with a nice balance between the mix and alcohol), I was glad that others were more adventurous and went away from the free drinks for the seasonal specialties. El Generalissimo and Kung-fu¨Anne ordered the hot apple cider; his with brandy, her's without. On a cold, but sunny winter day, these drinks were absolutely delightful, especially the hint of spices (cinnamon, etc) that found their way into the drinks. We also ordered a drink called "gluvine" by Monika's, but really should be spelled "gluhwein" - thank you KFA. In fact, she would have ordered it first if she had recognized what it was. Gluhwein is a German mulled wine: warmed red wine and spices. This drink was delicious, and I'm sure made K-F Anne feel at home. If you get a chance to get to Monika's Cafe Bar before the winter is over, make sure you take advantage of their seasonal drinks.

The service was high quality, even if the waiters looked like body doubles for Twilight characters. All in all, a very pleasant experience, and when maybe we can convince the Red Queen to join us next time.

Until next time, Happy Brunching.

The Brunch Baron


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