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If you like all-you-can-eat buffets, help yourself to Peerce's


Faithful readers will know that I'm not a big fan of all-you-can-eat Sunday brunches. It's mostly because I feel guilty not gorging myself full of sticky buns and roast beef and Belgian waffles dripping with syrup and shrimp casserole and pasta salad, followed by great slabs of carrot cake and mounds of chocolate mousse, until I've finally eaten my money's worth. I can never eat my money's worth. And in exchange for getting more food that I can bear to look at, let alone eat, I have to wait on myself.

But as all-you-can-eat brunches go, Peerce's Gourmet is one of the best. It's not the most elaborate, and it's not the most expensive, and they don't serve the orange juice and champagne that makes even the most crowded brunch bearable. But the food is better and more sophisticated than most, probably because Peerce's Gourmet is the cafe-market offshoot of two established restaurants, Peerce's Gourmet and Josef's Country Inn.

The brunch spread is the predictable jumble of foods that were never meant to be eaten together. But they include fluffy, not overcooked, scrambled eggs prettied up with a little minced parsley (the best I've ever eaten from a steam table); eggs Benedict with properly poached eggs and a really good hollandaise; French toast that tasted as if it was made from homemade raisin bread; creamed chipped beef with wonderfully light biscuits; and an excellent, cheesy vegetable lasagna.

Those were the highlights, but there was much, much more: small bagels with cream cheese, a bit of smoked salmon and a sprig of fresh dill. Seasonal fruits and such freshly baked goods as miniature muffins, tiny croissants and cinnamon buns. Good sausage and bacon. Homestyle potatoes with -- la-di-da -- a bottle of gourmet ketchup beside them. Pasta and red-skinned potato salad and coleslaw, all made on the premises. A plate of sliced roast beef and a boneless ham. Belgian waffles and somewhat limp cheese. (It was a warm day.)

Because Peerce's sells gourmet coffees, there's quite a selection to choose from in the do-it-yourself carafes. Get a cup of ice for some hazelnut cream or Columbia blend iced coffee.

As for service, it's simply nonexistent. You have to get your own drinks, no one cleared our plates, and when a waiter (I use the term loosely) hit me in the back with a chair he was moving not once but twice, I felt like standing up and yelling, "What good is it being a restaurant critic if you can't even eat your cinnamon French toast in peace?" The manager who came over later to apologize brought us a tira misu and three forks.

Peerce's Gourmet

Where: 9622-24 Deereco Road

Sunday brunch hours: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Credit cards accepted: AE, MC, V

Features: All-you-can-eat buffet

Non-smoking section? Yes

Call: (410) 561-2233

Prices: Adults, $9.95; children, $5.50


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