I think we need to sit down and have a serious conversation about brunch. Isn’t it just breakfast? Who eats breakfast before 11am? Who eats breakfast without cocktails? Who even eats breakfast? Why? Why do you do that?
Brunch in Oakland really got me thinking about brunch. Halfway through my first Bloody Mary, surrounded by the hum of a brunch service in full swing, I had a revelation. I suddenly felt like – writer to writer – I could have a serious conversation with Carrie Bradshaw. About brunch. I feel like that chick nailed brunch back in the ’90s and there’s a lot I could learn from her.
We went to Boot & Shoe, in Oakland for brunch, because what’s the golden rule? Always eat where your buddy works. I really think we should all go and get that tattooed on ourselves so we never forget. I also think it’s a great sign that Brett still chooses to dine at work on his days off. I work in a bookshop, but on my days off I go to browse in bookshops elsewhere, capish?
Anyway, back to brunch. We started off with a round of Bloody Marias/Marys, garnished with celery stalks, queen green olives and pickled green beans. Incidentally, I love the above photo of Natalie. She looks like she has a big leafy green beard.
Brett and Brendon ordered for us and we shared each dish, tapas-style. Is this normal brunch behaviour? As a brunch novice, I’m not sure. I’m not particularly bothered as any other method of brunching is clearing incorrect as this way, we got to try half the menu. Interesting fact: Chrome’s internal spell check highlighted tapas but not the verb form of brunch, which I thought I had made up. Anyway, we started with crispy fried potatoes slathered in crème fraîche and spring onions.
Next, we indulged in warm beignets served with a sticky strawberry compote. The beignets were smaller and more delicate than their New Orleanian counterparts, and they were dusted in a cinnamon sugar that made each one taste like a little snickerdoodle pillow of joy. I love the boys’ hands hovering in the background – their eager paws stalking the beignets are living proof that sharing plates with a snap-happy food blogger is…
Next up, we had this little beauty: fried farro and heirloom tomatoes, topped with parmesan shavings and a fried egg. Look at that plate. There are seven ingredients in that dish – farro, red onion, tomatoes, parmesan, egg, parsley and butter. It was absolutely mesmerising – the saltiness of the butter, the tangy fresh tomato and the creaminess of the egg combined to rock my world, one bite at a time. I’d never had farro before and honestly, it was like discovering quinoa all over again. Farro is a grain, chunkier than rice and more toothsome than giant couscous. What really struck me about this dish – and god, I’m sorry for yawning on, but it really is worth talking about – was the strength of the individual ingredients. There’s something really brassy about charging $16 for such a simple dish, but the strength and quality of the ingredients justified the price tag.
Margarita pizza. Boot & Shoe seems to be known on the online reviewer circuit as a pizza place, but I think that’s a fairly reductive view of an exciting menu. The pizza is, however, exceptional.
Ratatouille with wood oven toast and a poached egg. I won’t lie – I can’t remember what this tasted like, because it paled in comparison to the farro dish that I still sometimes think wistfully about over a glass of wine on a quiet Sunday night.
… but this sassy minx of a dish made me forget all about the farro (well, for a a few minutes anyway). This is pain de mie french toast topped with a white nectarine and raspberry compote. Sweet, indulgent and full of fruity flavour, it was a happiness on a plate.
I finished with a Boot & Shoe classic: gin with homemade tonic. It was sweet, with a herbal flavour and distinct quinine kick. I really want to learn how to make my own tonic, man. I almost bought a kit from Oaktown Spice Shop, but decided against it for reasons unknown. Anyway, Brett said the flavour differs between batches, depending on what the chef felt like adding to the mix that day, and this batch had a sweet aniseed flavour.
Note, Boot & Shoe don’t take reservations but it’s absolutely worth the wait – particularly if you chill with a cheeky G&T or Bloody Maria whilst you wait for your table.
Boot & Shoe Service | Website