Last summer I sent a Tweet that said I wanted a T-shirt emblazoned with “Respect the Egg.” I immediately heard from Scott Schroeder, the talented chef at the helm of The South Philadelphia Tap room.
He said, “I want one, too.”
Proper egg cookery is not always easy to accomplish. Eggs are delicate and need respect. I thought about this exchange during brunch at The Gaslight, chef Jason Cichonski’s four month-old pub in Old City. He and his line cooks know how to cook an egg.
Cichonski made culinary history when he opened Ela in Queen Village several years ago. His aerated foie gras and now-famous scallop noodles were perfection on a plate. He also helped chef Nick Elmi become Top Chef in the Bravo show’s season finale that aired in February.
Since I was on my way to the Museum of American Jewish History a few blocks away, The Gaslight was a good choice for brunch. Outdoor seating was booked and all the tables were filled indoors. We managed to snare two comfortable seats at the bar.
The room is open, airy and well-lit. White subway tiles line the bar area, and the walls are painted a soft and soothing dove gray. Gershwin and Berlin tunes were on the sound system, which was coincidental because the museum owns Irving Berlin’s upright piano. Hearing Louis Armstrong singing “Summertime” in his unmistakable voice was a delight.
Comte de Bucques ($8 a glass) is a sparkling wine from Alsace and a fine way to begin brunch. The friendly bartender told me they had just ran out and brought me a glass of Prosecco for the same price. Edward sipped a screwdriver ($7) as we studied the menu.
We ordered a croque madame ($13) with a side of sausage ($5) and three eggs your way ($9). A croque madame is a toasted ham and cheese sandwich topped with a fried egg. Sounds simple, no?
Although Cichonski did not take any culinary license with this classic dish, he used Serrano ham, a dry-cured ham from Spain that is prosciutto di Parma’s first cousin. His cheese of choice was gruyere, a nutty flavored French delight that he turned into a creamy mornay sauce. The open-faced sandwich was topped with a perfectly fried egg. Some oven roasted potatoes, sprinkled with paprika, came with the platter. I thought they could have been more crisp. We also thought the sausage a little too dry.
I always order gently scrambled eggs. They must glisten, as well as be soft but not runny. These hit the mark. They were piping hot and all they required was a bit of salt. Diners get a choice of ham, bacon or sausage with the dish. I expected a ham steak but received two large, round slices of not-at-all-salty grilled ham that looked like a boneless rib pork chop. The slightly smoky flavor was a delight. Instead of toast, I asked for a biscuit.
There are two ways to make these Southern treats. One can either roll out the dough and cut rounds with a cookie cutter, or make the dough and divide it into pieces and then form them with your hands before they hit the oven. This version was square, a bit flat in texture and lacked the buttery goodness of a down-home version. Some blackberry preserves and softened butter helped round out the flavor and texture. Oven roasted potatoes came with my brunch as well.
The menu also features French toast, pancakes, burgers and sandwiches should you prefer a more lunch-like dish. But my mind and taste buds were focused on the delicate egg.
Three tips of the toque to The Gaslight.
120 Market Street
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