Brunch (both the word and the concept) was created in the late 19th century in England for—drum roll, please—hangovers. In addition to being a portmanteau of the first two meals of the day, it usually included champagne or cocktails. It was also a Sunday meal out after church to give the lady of the house a day off from the kitchen.
The notion first appeared in print over 100 years ago, penned by Guy Beringer:
“Instead of England’s early Sunday dinner, a post church ordeal of heavy meats and savory pies, why not a new meal, served around noon, that starts with tea or coffee, marmalade and other breakfast fixtures before moving along to the heavier fare? By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday-night carousers. It would promote human happiness in other ways as well. Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting. It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, and it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”—From “Brunch: A Plea,” published in 1895
These days a hearty meal and a little hair of the dog—most often outdoors at a fancy hotel or picturesque setting with endless mimosas, Bellinis and/or Bloody Marys—might be the cure. What better time and way to share a congenial meal with friends and family than late morning when everyone is all bright and chipper?
Bob’s Well Bread Bakery
The bucolic drive to Bob’s Well Bread Bakery in Los Alamos makes for a great weekend outing. It’s hard to imagine anything more fitting than beans on toast to salute the English roots of brunch.
Bob Oswak’s version is fit for royalty: a hearty serving of house-baked beans over thick slices of toasted Pain de Mie bread topped with a poached egg, sausage and a British flag! Or try the addictive mushroom toast on the peppery house-made biscuit that rocks or the Croque Monsieur or Madame with cheesy, crunchy edges.
Besides baking all their breads onsite, Bob buys organic eggs from small independent farmers when available. His wife, Jane, makes jams from local fruit brought to them by local farmers, such as peaches from Shea Family Farms in Ballard, among others. More than likely, you will have to wait in line to order at the counter before relaxing outside on the big wooden picnic tables, where you can also bring Fido, and your order will be cheerfully delivered. Bob’s also has a second location in Ballard.
El Encanto, a Belmond Hotel
You can have the most leisurely brunch with mesmerizing views at the El Encanto at their Bellini Brunch—Sundays on the terrace, with bottomless Bellinis or mimosas.
Of course, I had a Bellini, the famed drink of prosecco and peach nectar invented by Harry Cipriani in Venice, Italy, and now enjoyed around the world.
My brunch companion had the whole branzino, a great Mediterranean fish beautifully prepared and presented. I went for the Huevos Rancheros on our waiter’s recommendation—he was right on. A three-tier dessert tray was brought to the table to choose from.
For Easter, they will have a special menu and an Easter adventure with seasonal activities for all ages. For Mother’s Day, they will have live jazz and spa specials.
San Ysidro Ranch
The San Ysidro Ranch and its lovely gardens have been beautifully restored after the devastating Thomas Fire debris flows. French champagne is flowing (along with other free-flowing beverages like mimosas, Bellinis and Bloody Marys) at their sit-down three-course brunch. The Dungeness crab cake starter was a meal in itself. Entrees include Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Waffle and Parmesan Crusted Halibut.
Executive Chef Matthew Johnson has an amazing organic garden and orchard to draw from that produces everything from peas, tomatoes, carrots, lettuces and herbs to figs, plums, loquats and Meyer lemons. The Ranch also has its own beehives and harvests honey (the bees love the lemons, lavender and rosemary in the garden) that’s drizzled over berries and the acclaimed San Ysidro Ranch Meyer Lemon Tart. Adding to his onsite culinary palette, the chef takes advantage of local purveyors like Seaside Gardens in Goleta for their microgreens including pea shoots.
Field + Fort
In Summerland, Chef Austin Moore is wowing patrons at Field + Fort with his inventive menu of breakfast and lunch offerings that include Instagram-worthy breakfast boards. It’s not much of a stretch to see why: This native Santa Barbarian returned home after college and having worked in Portland, Oregon, for a decade. Portland may be the world’s biggest brunch town. (Are the rainy weather and happening young late-nighters scene the reasons many wait in long lines for brunch?)
“There are 10 to 15 places with lines out the door on the weekends,” Austin says, adding, “I love brunch! I’ve always followed the old adage that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”
Seeking things that are “comforting but unique” has informed his approach to devising the menu. Sources include bread from Baker’s Table in Santa Ynez; pecan butter from Avila and Sons; gluten-free bread from Oat Bakery; and ingredients from The Garden Of…, Roots Organic Farm, Earthtrine Farms, Frecker Farms and Ebby’s.
Cooking is in his blood: His mom, Kim Schiffer, is a longtime Santa Barbara caterer/private chef who first inspired Chef Austin’s call for a career in the kitchen—which began by making his own eggs.
The Italian black rice porridge is predictably filling. It comes sweet (with seasonal fruit, labneh, candied pecans, baharat butter and orange blossom honey) or—my fave—savory (poached egg, pecorino, braised greens, lardon, tomato jam and truffle butter). Toasts, weekly donuts and sweet bread pudding with brioche and seasonal toppings add to the fun offerings.
Actress Meg Ryan (a regular) also likes the savory rice porridge. I can’t blame her… they are positively orgasmic.
A Few More Not to Miss:
Rosewood Miramar Beach is now serving brunch in the Revere Room (pictured above), which has views of Miramar Beach. I loved Chef Massimo’s heavenly lemon ricotta pancakes, which were as light as air.
Little Dom’s Seafood, the offshoot of the Hollywood Little Dom’s, is now open in Carpinteria. Co-owner Warner Ebbink and his partner, Chef Brandon Boudet, serve brunch foods cooked in the wood-fired pizza oven, including oven-baked breakfast pizzas, roasted eggs, frittatas and pastries. They’re sourcing from local farms, such as Givens and Frecker and Earthtrine for herbs and Beylik for tomatoes. They source seafood from local fishermen, such as Tony Luna and urchin from Sea Stephanie Fish.
In downtown Santa Barbara, I did try the fun and filling make your own hash at Dawn Patrol and intended to try the Carbonara at Oppi’z Bistro and Natural Pizza. I also hope for repasts at Scarlett Begonia, cited by many chefs. There are many more, but I’d be remiss not to mention my friend Wade’s favorite spot: Via Maestra 42.
The Southern California version of brunch would not be complete without a nod to Mexican-inspired brunches: Think menudo at any number of places on Milpas Street or Oaxacan moles at Flores de Maiz, the latest outpost of Los Agaves restaurateur Carlos Luna.
Last, But Not Least
After all these fantastic brunch meals, I have to admit I came across one of the most sublime examples quite by accident one Sunday morning at the Santa Barbara Fish Market. A woman in front of me was handed the most beautiful box of shucked oysters followed by an equally stunning box of uni.
“Are you having a party?” I asked,
“No, this is breakfast,” she answered. I then saw her outside, with her two young sons, blissfully sitting at a picnic bench enjoying our harbor and the bounty from our shores and beyond.
This brief encounter reminded me to think outside the box when it comes to what is now one of my favorite meals of the day. A meal that’s really all you need to eat for the entire day.
Or maybe even for the week.