Yesterday, Eric and I went to brunch with my good friend Melia, who I don’t get to see often enough. Brunch is one of those events that I love the idea of: a leisurely Sunday meal filled with champagne-based fruit drinks and plate after plate of hearty foods. When most Sunday’s roll around, however, taking 2+ hours out of my schedule-followed by the obligatory post-brunch nap-just doesn’t make sense. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not very good at the whole “lazy Sunday” thing (Eric would be happy to verify this), and I tend to keep busy trying to get though my to-do list as opposed to just relaxing and enjoying the day. If I did this, my mind would just be racing with all of the things that I need to accomplish anyhow. Blame it on my type A personality.
I made an exception to my rule yesterday for three reasons. First of all, I wanted to catch up with Melia, who has a much more exciting weekend social life than I do (her Facebook photos prove this), and brunch is a much better option for catching up than some noisy Vegas club. Second, I dragged myself to the early Sunday morning Bikram yoga class, earning my right to a plate full of carbs. Finally, I had been hearing about the fantastic brunch that Chef Kerry Simon serves at his eponymous restaurant, located at the uber-trendy Palms Place. Being a huge fan of Chef Simon’s signature upscale comfort food, I just had to check it out.
Boy did I pick an exciting day to disrupt my schedule and go to brunch! No, there were none of the usual Simon celebrity sightings, although there were a few tattooed suspects hidden under hats and shades congregated in the corner. The excitement wasn’t even due to the phenomenal menu, which featured everything from Frosted-Flake Crusted Brioche French Toast to custom-blended organic smoothies. Thisexcitement occurred when, not ten minutes into brunch, we heard a very loud “pop” followed by the sound of shattered glass.
My first reaction of course was that two servers had collided mid-restaurant as a result of being distracted by the eye candy lounging at the adjacent Palms Place pool. Not so. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw thousands of shards of glass raining down onto the pool area from the above condo tower. It seemed like an endless stream, and I half expected to see a person come down with it (clearly, I have been watching way too much C.S.I. Las Vegas.) The tourist sitting next to us promptly snapped a photo. Really??
Three injured sunbathers, two drained pools, and one stretcher later, we learned that one of the glass balcony panes had “somehow” smashed. These are fairly thick panes. One can only imagine the story that goes along with this. Thank goodness that there were no serious injuries, just a few cuts and several dozen displaced sunbathers. It sure did cause a buzz among the brunch crowd though. You see, in Vegas, we don’t just talk the “never a dull moment” talk, we walk the walk too. Anything to draw a crowd.
Other than this obvious occurrence, the only downside to brunch was the fact that I couldn’t possibly sample everything that I wanted to try (which was pretty much everything that was offered.) One of these items was a moist-looking berry tea cake, which passed by me in a wicker basket on its way to another table. I couldn’t really tell which berry it was, but I didn’t ask because I knew that it would end up on a plate in front of me, and I just. couldn’t. eat. another. bite. I vowed to give it a try upon my next visit, but until then, I tried to create a version of my own, featuring a mix of three berries in a rich brown sugar-based batter. Enjoying a piece at home might not offer the excitement of brunch at Simon, but I think I’ve had my fill of shattered glass rain showers for awhile :) Here are my extra tips for making this triple-berry tea cake:
- I tend to use orange zest in recipes, only because I prefer the flavor to lemon zest, but lemon zest would work just as well in this recipe.
- Instead of using yogurt in the recipe, you can use sour cream or buttermilk. You can use low-fat varieties, but I wouldn’t recommend fat-free. You need at least a little bit of the fat to keep the cake moist.
- This cake will keep, tightly wrapped at room temperature, for about 3 days. You can also wrap the cake tightly with plastic wrap after it cools and freeze it for up to 3 weeks.
- If you want to enjoy the cake over a period of time, pre-slice it and then wrap and freeze the cake. Remove one slice at a time and thaw at room temperature or reheat it in the oven.
- This cake would also be great cut into cubes and layered as part of a trifle.
Mixed Berry Brown Sugar Tea Cake
Makes one large loaf (9X5 inches)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed golden brown sugar
Zest from one orange
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup yogurt
2 cups mixed fresh berries (such as raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries)
Preheat the oven to 325F degrees. Spray a 9X5-inch loaf pan with nonstick baking spray. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt, and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and the brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in the orange zest. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Mix in the vanilla extract.
Add the flour mixture to the batter in two additions, alternating with the yogurt, beginning and ending with the flour. Gently fold in the mixed berries, breaking them up as little as possible. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean, 50-60 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan set on a wire rack for about 15 minutes. Carefully invert the cake onto the rack and turn it right side up. Cool the cake completely, slice, and serve.