We were just as pleased with the breakfast tostada, a tortilla piled with spinach, home fries, scrambled eggs, sausage, shredded cheese, salsa and sour cream. French toast was excellent, but the kitchen should note that not everyone wants the maple syrup already poured on top. Jambalaya pasta salad featuring orzo and blackened chicken was also outstanding. Even the orange juice was great -- fresh-squeezed, naturally. -- PJ
Szechuan Best, 8625 Liberty Road, Randallstown, 410-521-0020. *** $
Szechuan Best has always been one of our favorite Chinese restaurants. We especially like it when we dine with folks who can maneuver their way through the special all-Chinese menu. Weekend dim sum is another rite of passage made smoother with a Chinese-American friend in tow.
FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION
The traditional dim sum carts are not wheeled around Szechuan Best, so you can't take a peek at the goodies before you order. Customers must make selections from the pithy one-page menu. Take heart -- items that sound especially foreign are often deliciously accessible. A case in point is the beef tendon noodle soup, which brings ineffably tender beef and fat egg noodles in a subtly sweet broth.
Another pleasant soup is "simply hot soy milk," especially good for dunking sweet, deep-fried noodles (kind of like Chinese crullers). And our party had no trouble diving into pan-fried scallion cakes or the elegant steamed pork dumplings flavored with ginger. -- LR
Tersiguel's, 8293 Main St., Ellicott City, 410-465-4004. **** $$$1/2
There's no better antidote to a bleak day than to brunch in Tersiguel's charming garden room, nibbling house-cured gravlax next to a stone planter full of fresh herbs, ivy and ferns. The hunt-club decor, the solicitous service, the shrimp dangling from our Virgin Mary -- they made us feel all was right with the world.
This delightful French restaurant in historic Ellicott City serves brunch on Saturday as well as Sunday. Offerings include omelets and crepes, as well as several specials. A buckwheat crepe filled with ham and cheese was ever so thin and light. Other crepe fillings, such as mushrooms, smoked salmon and ratatouille, can be wrapped in an omelet if you prefer. The eggs Benedict with caviar was a fine rendition, with above-average lemony hollandaise. Both dishes came with crisp cubed potatoes and broccoli with pasty bechamel -- the only off-note of our entire meal.
Everything else was a delight, from the light, creamy puree of cauliflower soup to the delectable tarts, one filled with fresh fruit and creme anglaise, the other with a swirl of dark and light chocolate mousse. -- KH
Treaty of Paris, Maryland Inn, Main Street and Church Circle, Annapolis, 410-269-0990. ***1/2 $$$
The Treaty of Paris manages to turn the all-you-can-eat brunch into an elegant, sophisticated interlude. Bach concertos waft through the speakers, and you drift through the tables in this historic setting without feeling crowded or rushed.
Some hearts of palm antipasto and a dollop of snow crab salad make a good start. Or choose from the huge platters of smoked salmon and steamed shrimp. Save room for eggs Benedict, tender beef bourguignon and oh-so-light Belgian waffles with warm syrup. Omelets are made to order and generously stuffed. A handsome assortment of decorated chocolates, fresh cookies and bread and rice puddings follows for dessert.
The day we visited, the dining room was so crowded we were offered a table in the bar/lounge. No matter. Snug in our street-level window seats on a drizzly day, we enjoyed the passing parade. -- M&SD
Vera's, 548 Baltimore-Annapolis Blvd., Severna Park, 410-647-3337. ** $
Vera is a demon for work. She bakes elaborate wedding cakes and delicious-looking pecan pies, biscuits, muffins and more. She sets a number of her native Brazilian dishes in her $10.95 brunch buffet, sends a basket of breads to the table, and tells you to order any entree from the Sunday breakfast menu -- a waffle, crepes, French toast, scrambled eggs with vegetables, cheese, bacon, ham or sausage. Hungry? Go see Vera.
The buffet and the breads are what's good. We found excellent (( roast beef. We took extra spoons of Brazilian shrimp (with peppers and coconut oil) and pleasantly sauced chicken. Potatoes au gratin had taste and texture and though what Vera called osso bucco wasn't o.b., so what, we liked it.
We pushed aside plates of too-salty buttermilk pancakes and undercooked and salty potato pancakes. Eggs Benedict were routine. The setting's a shopping center, the style, half-coffee shop, half-bakery, and the service, chaotic. -- JB
Waterside, Columbia Inn, 10207 Wincopin Circle, Columbia, 410-730-3900. ** $$$1/2
Waterside boasts a waterfront view of Lake Kittamaqundi, but who notices it with the wall of food that commands the attention of all and causes line-lock as the herd inches along at brunch?