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By the time that dish arrived, we were already nearly full, having finished off toasted slices of a Farm to Market baguette, which we generously buttered and spread with a variety of local jams. We also tried one of the four savory crepes: a bacon-and-egg concoction mixed with chopped onion, red peppers and grated smoked gruyere. I would have liked it much more if the cheese had been melted and gooey. (Among the crepes, there's one vegetarian option: a feather-light model wrapped around fiery poblano peppers, fresh corn and scrambled eggs.)
Boozefish's two sweet crepes included one that was thickly spread with Nutella, the chocolate-and-hazelnut spread. I am not, alas, nutty for Nutella, so Diethelm-Floyd suggested a dessert that she had prepared for that night's dinner crowd: an airy, mousselike pumpkin pudding topped with a dollop of ginger cream and sprinkled with crushed gingersnaps. With a cup of strong, hot coffee, it was not only an imaginative finale to a satisfying morning meal but also a good argument against the usual please-everyone buffet.
Many more desserts are on M&S Grill's buffet table, even if the menu didn't convince me that the "freshly baked pastries" hadn't been pulled out of a box and defrosted. But freshly baked is the story here, and, damn it, the staff is sticking to it.
The service at M&S is friendly but inconsistent. On one recent Sunday morning while dining with Bob and Carol Ann with an after-church crowd, we never received even a crust of the "warm, cinnamon-sugared rolls" that the menu promised. The kitchen hadn't run out of the yeasty little things — we could hear friends at another table raving about them. Our chatty waiter simply neglected to deliver the goods. That may be just as well because serious overindulgence is likely even without the rolls. The hot dishes here are heavy on fattening staples: big, fluffy biscuits smothered in sausage-cream gravy; an exquisitely succulent pot roast, one of the best I've tasted in a long time; and pasta dishes in spoon-bending sauces.
M&S Grill has offered this Sunday brunch since last April, and it has really caught on, according to manager Ciaran Molloy. "We've built up a solid core of regulars," he says. The spacious dining rooms swell around noon, and — for less than $20 — the chefs set out a buffet that largely lives up to its spectacular visual appeal. Standards on more expensive local brunch menus — smoked salmon, peel-and-eat shrimp, fat Belgian waffles made to order — taste good here, too.
Carol Ann's eyebrows shot up at the waiter's announcement that the restaurant offered "bottomless mimosas" for $5 during the brunch hours. "Five dollars for all the mimosas you can drink?" Carol Ann asked. The waiter answered with a complicit nod, and it was on.
The Blue Grotto has a less indulgent but still reasonable alcohol special: Bloody Marys, mimosas and screwdrivers for $3 each. I just wanted a steady flow of hot coffee on the nippy Sunday morning that I brunched with Martha, when we were seated at my least favorite table in this restaurant. It's the one adjacent to the door leading to the patio. This inconvenience didn't ruin our brunch, but it's smart to request one of the second-floor tables.
Wherever you sit, you'll find a brunch menu in flux. Since I was last there, chef James Landis has replaced the tomato-prosciutto-and-spinach strata with a frittata baked with bacon and spinach. More changes are ahead, our waitress told us, but the best-selling items, such as biscuits and gravy (there's nothing Italian about the Blue Grotto's countrified version of the brunch staple) and the vanilla-scented French toast (griddled with a center of fluffy ricotta and doused with honey-pecan syrup), seem destined to survive the cut.