Countless brunch dishes benefit from the addition of cheese—what omelet or breakfast sandwich is complete without it?—so you'd expect that at Artisanal, Terrace Brennan's dairy mecca, fromage would play a starring role. It's certainly the case at dinner, where fondue and cheese plates make up a hefty chunk of the menu.
At brunch, many featured items like pork belly hash and egg frites barely mention cheese at all. But it would be silly to go to Artisanal for brunch and miss out on their gougeres and croque madame—the two dishes that best showcase the establishment's talents with the art of cheese.
Gourgeres may be offered all day long at Artisanal, but they're so well suited to a late morning meal that it's almost impossible to imagine them elsewhere. I have to wonder why people don't add cheese to their biscuits more often, though calling these puffs "biscuits" wouldn't be quite right. Artisanal's gougeres have a crisp crust that yields an airy, fluffy, and unquestionably cheesy center. The secret, unsurprisingly, lies in their aged French Gruyere, but the casual presentation in a paper cone cuts out any element of pretension from the dish. (Unfortunately, the same can't be said of the service).
I knew to expect fantastic gourgeres, but I was caught off guard by the sheer deliciousness of Artisanal's croque madame, which appears in the much talked-about grilled cheese section of the menu (or fromages grilles, if you will). It's a dish where each element is perfected—fresh and crunchy bread with prosciutto and gruyere so melty it's almost cream sauce, all topped with a fried egg. Served alongside homemade pickles—not too sour, almost a tiny bit sweet—and freshly crisped chips, it's a complete (and satisfying) way to sample the offerings of Brennan's holy cheese temple.
2 Park Avenue, New York NY 10016 (map)