One of Brasserie’s most popular dishes also best embodies its mission. The Coq au Cidre – chicken with cider – is Brasserie executive chef and culinary director Tony Hudson’s take on the classically French coq au vin, or chicken simmered in red wine with braised onions, mushrooms and lardons. Hudson’s version combines flavors of the Midwest, befitting its Columbia, Missouri, location. He house-cures a ham in honey and lavender before roasting and topping it with a pan sauce of local cider and chicken drippings and serves the ham with forest-foraged mushrooms over a mash of Granny Smith apples and potatoes.
Brasserie, which opened last month, serves traditionally French items that are elegant but also comforting and accessible. “The thing about the Columbia palate is that the economy is strong here, and most residents are well-traveled,” Hudson says. If they’ve ever been to France, then, they will immediately recognize its influence in many aspects of Brasserie. The bright red façade with tall, latticed windows is illuminated with romantic street lamps, and the interior mimics an alfresco dining experience complete with trees and painted depictions of a Parisian courtyard.
Brasserie is owned by Adam Guy, who also owns the adjoining new opulent event space, The Champagne Ballroom, as well as Umbria Rustic Italian and The Upper Crust, a French retail and wholesale bakery that got a new kitchen and stone deck oven when it moved into its new digs next door to Brasserie. After two successful decades of business at The Upper Crust, which serves quick-service lunch including housemade pastries, breads and desserts, Guy and Hudson believed a similar approach would work in a full-service, brasserie-style environment. The result is Brasserie, which serves inventive hors d’oeuvres, fresh seafood and hearty entrées.
“I didn’t see a reason to be specific to a French region on the menu,” says Hudson, who spent a year under the tutelage of a French-German chef specializing in cuisine on both sides of the Rhine, now a specialty of his own.
“I’m going down to the Riviera with bouillabaisse, then I’ve got another entrée with roasted pork, red cabbage, housemade spätzle, mushroom and chive crème fraîche, which is very Alsatian. I knew a French bakery would take off, and for dinner, I just needed to find things that the consumer would recognize and respond to within the larger French cuisine.”
Hudson says challenges included not only destigmatizing the pretention of French fare in the college town, but also combining his business experience with his culinary vision and background to create seamless transitions between the breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert menus to make the restaurant more financially viable.
Perhaps one of the menu items that best illustrates Hudson overcoming both hurdles is the country pâté, made of black truffle, duck liver and pork liver, wrapped with Parisian ham and garnished with cornichon relish, Stilton blue cheese and fig-orange marmalade. Served as a hors d’oeuvre on the lunch and dinner menus, it also appears in a Napoleon sandwich and in a terrine made with the pâté, house-cured bacon, Parisian ham, lettuce, tomato and tarragon mayo on housemade brioche. For dinner, the pâté finds yet another application in the heartier tournedos entrée, where it’s served with filet mignonettes, haricots verts, forest mushrooms and béarnaise and bordelaise sauces.
Other menu standouts include locally sourced duck cassoulet, five steak frites options and the Bar à la Mer, which offers daily rotating options: crevettes, lobster, house-cured salmon, crab, cold-water oysters and mussels, available individually or in three tier options. Desserts are one of the restaurant’s specialties and can be purchased a la carte at The Upper Crust’s retail counter in addition to plated versions at Brasserie. Favorites include a flourless chocolate torte, delicate soufflés and croquembouche – puff pastries filled with crème anglaise, stacked into a tower and topped with spun sugar, powdered sugar and cocoa.
Hudson, who earned his sommelier certification in 1990, developed Brasserie’s drink menu. There are six local beers on tap, along with French and Belgian brews. The 30-plus wine list is geospecific to French, Austrian and German wine regions, and sparkling wines are a particular area of focus. Hudson created six or so sparkling cocktails, as well.
“Twenty-five years ago when I was making my own ketchup, no one wanted it,” Hudson says. “It was a matter of being a better culinarian, front to back, and I’ve never wavered on my stance that everything can be made in house. Now, here, the timing is right.”
Brasserie, 3919 S. Providence Road, Columbia, Missouri, 573.874.3033, brasserieuc.com