Hearth's Polenta Comes to Brunch
If you've noticed an absence of brunch coverage on this site of late, I'm sorry. You can include me in the class of New Yorkers Who Do Not Brunch. The reasons aren't important, but suffice it to say, most brunch menus leave me cold, and there's plenty of other good eating out there.
Ten years after opening, Hearth has started a brunch menu (PDF), and it has something just for non-brunchers like me: meatballs, three fat ones, served over their renowned "cacio e peppe" polenta ($19). It's the same polenta served at dinner—coarse, nobbly Cayuga Farms corn grits cooked with plenty of cheese and black pepper—simmered to a puddinglike creaminess that is nonetheless full of bite and substance. The porridge is impressively savory, and the pepper tingle at the end makes this one of the more memorable plates of polenta in New York.
The meatballs look and taste a lot like grandma's, refined, but not by much. That means they're clean-tasting, intensely meaty, and come with a tomato sauce that's more of a jus. It also means, for the case of my grandma at least, that they're more tough and dense than your meatball ideal—hearty, not delicate. But they work with the polenta, an added element of texture. Softer ones would get lost in the mix.
No, there's nothing about this brunch dish that's especially brunchy. But that's just the way I like it. And if I'm in the position of brunching again soon, I have a good way out.