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Our Gourmet: Sunflowers delivers an order of spring in Jaffrey

21 Main St., Jaffrey NH

Sunflowers in Jaffrey sings a chorus for spring, with its colorful facade, fresh food and cheerful ambience - even on the cold, cold days of a winter that will not quit.

Step through the doorway, in the circa-1926 Swig Block, and you enter a sparkling and most thoughtful eatery, crafted with comfort, ecology and culinary delights in mind. It is as green as can be, despite its rainbows of color, with a long list of local farms and produce and regional, sustainable products.

There is a full bar. There are baked delights from its ovens displayed for dessert. There is live music. There are plants and flowers, polished wood and brass, local artisan wares, and colorful, custom touches everywhere you look.

It is a pleasure just being there. Eating there is truly a treat.

A recent cold Sunday morning found us cruising the central Monadnock region, and brunch time found us happily ensconced in Sunflowers, sampling an Irish Coffee ($7) and a mug of Mocha Joe's organic, looking at a menu that tempts the tasetbuds with innovative ideas and terrific blends of flavor and substance and style.

Try Lobster Crepes ($14 on the specials menu; call ahead to see if they are available that day) was a meal entirely worth writing home about, with fresh spinach, capers, onions and cucumber, drizzled with a light Hollandaise sauce, and accompanied by a garden salad with maple vinaigrette. A reviewer cannot even write that without the tastebuds perking up in joy.

The amount of chunk lobster meat inside the large, thin, folded crepe at first seemed as if lobster would dominate the dish - which might be a little much for breakfast, but the accompanying strong flavors (Hollandaise, capers, and no token amount of sauteed spinach) blended the meal perfectly.

That was one breakfast that graced our table, alongside the California Benedict ($10 on the brunch menu), which daringly places slices of smoked salmon below poached eggs in a traditional-looking Eggs Benedict atop two halves of an English muffin. What was different - and delightful - was thick slices of avacado in the Hollandaise sauce, which mixed with the egg yolk to create a substantial and pleasing combination of smoked seafood, eggs and vegetable.

Other Benedict breakfasts feature such add-ons as prosciuitto, tomato/basil/garlic/olive oil, and lump crab meat, most with the flavorful Hollandaise. Home fries are included, but they are unremarkable, as they universally are.

We shared a bagel on the side, but would return (and considered doing exactly that for lunch) for the full-bore bagel, cream cheese, smoked salmon, onion and tomato ($9).

If we ever stop eating as if it were our last meal, we would also return for the Berried Treasure ($7), a serving of Greek lowfat yogurt with fresh strawberries and granola - a breakfast everyone thinks of making at home but most peope rarely do.

There is quiche available, too, affordably priced at $7, accompanied by sweet bread and fruit (add a fresh side salad for $3); Steak 'n' Eggs ($14); cinnamon french toast with bacon or sausage ($9); pancakes, waffles, eggs any style, and the rest of the usual breakfast fare.

Omelets come in nearly a dozen varieties, and include tempting and breakfast-unusual ingredients such as feta cheese, Kalamata olives, capers, chorizo, spicy Portuguese sausage, salsa, and Vermont Chevre.

Mimosas are popular at Sunflowers at six or seven dollars, champagne brunch treats featuring tasty additions such as cranberry juice, OJ and grenadine. Bloody Marys come with or without a shrimp. A signature drink is the Black-Eyed Susan cocktail ($7.75) with vodka, rum, pineapple and orange juice and a splash of Grand Marnier.

A mid-day salad is an adventure, with chicken, salmon, shrimp and lobster as add-ons to a bevy of choices which can include pineapple, sunflower seeds (of course!), goat cheese, bacon, eggs, spinach pisrachios, bleu cheese, walnuts, raisins, sliced apples, roast beef, turkey. The maple vinaigrette is the restaurant's staple dressing, but interesting choices also include lemon-curry, strawberry vinaigrette and sesame ginger.

Sunflowers' lunch and dinner menus are entirely different, but similar stories, heavy on creativity and caring touches. There are soups, crab cakes, Wild Mushroom Saute, Lemon-Parsley Hummus and Coconut Shrimp; rack of lamb, sea scallops, Maple Leaf Farms Buck Breast and a New York sirloin. The list goes on, supplemented by daily specials.

Owner Carolyn Edwards has a distinct winner at 21 Main St., with chefs David Daume and Chaz Beaulieu working their magic on each plate.

For full information and a lineup of in-house entertainment and special events, visit Sunflowers' comprehensive website.

For those looking for a gourmet brunch in the most pleasant of country New Hampshire surroundings, Sunflowers is a cut above all the rest.



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