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THE HIGH-PRICED SPREAD

Spread the word: Sundays are open again.
The holidays are over. The Super Bowl is over. The nice weather is over, and I don't care what that goofy groundhog says--it's going to stay cold for a while.

Is there a better way to fill these now-free, if still frigid, Sundays than with long, lingering brunches?

A Sunday brunch always carries the slight sensation of stolen pleasure. It's still the weekend, you might have gone out to dinner the night before, too, and here you are stuffing your face again. And after that, there's nothing left to do but digest the meal and the rest of the Sunday papers. Maybe you're at brunch with the family, happy you didn't have to choose between the half who wanted pancakes and the half who wanted omelettes; perhaps you're there with someone you just met the night before, and you're discovering that you both love eggs Benedict. Whatever the situation, there's just something special about Sunday brunch that lets people kick back.

Location Info

Map

Brown Palace Hotel Tea Room

321 17th St.
Denver, CO 80202

Category: Coffee Shops

Region: Downtown Denver

Sometimes way back, as we found one recent Sunday at the Brown Palace Hotel. The hotel has been offering a blow-out Sunday brunch for eight years now; when we stopped in last month, it was being served in the Brown Palace Club, a temporary, second-floor home while Ellyngton's downstairs recovered from a facelift. Ellyngton's reopened this past weekend, its early-Eighties pallor replaced with a more sumptuous look that is the ideal setting for the Brown's high-priced spread.

Which is good, because the Brown Palace Club certainly wasn't. The private "executive dining club" is looking decidedly drab these days, almost like an upscale Denny's except for the coats of arms on the windows. Deborah Dix, who handles publicity for the Brown, thinks the decor is plain because the facility was once for men only. That changed in the Seventies, when Dorothy Davidson, who ran the local American Civil Liberties Union office for many years, raised a stink (and smelled a lawsuit). But even if the club was looking shabby, our meal wasn't.

The Brown's brunch is one of those all-you-can-eat deals, and it's a good value even at $24.95 per person ($31.95 if you want champagne; $99.95 if only Dom Perignon will do). We descended on buffet tables "groaning with food," as they say in the Little House on the Prairie books, and, along with the rest of the vultures, put entirely too much of it on our own plates. The breakfast buffet area featured chafing pans filled with real-hollandaise eggs Benny, decadent cherry blintzes, bacon, sausage and made-to-order Belgian waffles and pancakes; plates heaped with every type of muffin, bagel and bread known to man; and our own personal omelette slave. Unfortunately, the world's most indecisive diner beat us to him. No fewer than thirty bowls of possible ingredients stared this big, beefy guy in the face, and this was his big moment. "No, wait, I want cheddar. No, no. How about white American? Put green peppers in it. No! That's too much. Do you have Italian sausage?"

The choices were easier at the carving station, a true vegetarian nightmare. But it was a dream come true for the contented carnivores in our group, who went with chorizo-stuffed veal breast (bland, gringo chorizo) with onion soubise (read: white sauce with onions) and medium-rare roasted beef strip loin with caramelized onion demi-glace (read: gravy with onions). The carver, bathed in the glow of the heat lamp and a little too happy to be playing with his large knife, slooooowly sliced off each piece of meat and then wouldn't let us leave until he had ceremoniously folded each one into a tidy triangle.

We made our way to our seats, our plates piled high from this first round. The tables were crammed a bit close together, which made maneuvering difficult--and eavesdropping all too easy. We ate to the accompaniment of the woman next to us talking to a girlfriend who probably wasn't going to be that for very much longer. "I told him," she said, stabbing the air with her fork, "I said, `If you don't stop this right now, I'm going to emotionally shut down. I'm just going to shut down emotionally.'" This dialogue continued for an hour, with commercial breaks only when the pair got up for a return trip to the buffets.

For visuals, we had an entirely different set of folks. To our left was a couple wearing matching black jeans, he a baggy set with the zipper down (always fun when the person jumps up every five minutes for more food) and she in a pair so tight that she made an audible "Ooooffff" each time she sat down, causing every diner in the immediate vicinity to crack up. But that wasn't the best part of the show. Since she didn't have much room in the waist area for food, every few minutes she did one of those moves where you tuck your chin in and blow your cheeks out in an attempt to burp while pretending that you're really just making an expression of exasperation.

"When I emotionally shut down, I didn't feel a thing," the woman next to us continued. "And when we broke up, I didn't feel a thing."

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