Brunch & Bubbles

You know that saying “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper”? Well, my whole life I’ve done the opposite. Not the healthiest, I know. I’ve just never been a big breakfast person. I do enjoy breakfast foods, but I always feel too anxious in the morning to eat. Cue brunch. It wasn’t until I moved to L.A., a city that loves to brunch, that I fully understood this glorious in-between meal. Now, I brunch like a queen.

At my Alma mater, the dining hall’s weekend hours were made for brunching; they had the partying/sleep/recovery schedule of your everyday college student in mind. Since graduating, brunch has become a time when I can see the college friends I’ve been missing and we can collectively share the pains and joys of adulting. Brunch is the time when you can order breakfast, lunch, and cocktails all at once and not receive questionable stares. It’s the time when you can recover from a boozy night with starchy food and well, more booze. It’s not a meal for the faint of heart; it’s for those with big appetites and hours to spare.

When I first moved to my neighborhood a few months ago, I happened upon a lovely café/market called Olive & Thyme in the Toluca Lake neighborhood of Burbank. A restaurant’s atmosphere is very important to me and I knew from the moment I arrived at the large glass doors of this café, olive trees on either side, I was home. I hadn’t even stepped inside and I was already in love! Once I did, I found myself in a spacious dream kitchen. I’m talking straight-off-my-Pinterest-board dream kitchen. White subway tiles, communal wooden tables, natural lighting, orchids and succulents in abundance, copper pans hanging from an overhead rack, gorgeous baked goods behind glass, white marble counter tops, a wooden hutch filled with bottles of rosé, top-notch espresso machines, blocks of cheese, specialty olive oils, and candles for sale in their marketplace…you get the point. It’s basically a rustic, French country meets chic, Parisian café vibe.

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If you’re preparing a gourmet food basket gift, this is the place to visit!

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I couldn’t help myself from snapping a photo of the gorgeous decor in the ladies restroom!
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Truffles in jars, cornichons, gourmet mustard, oh my!
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Pick up birthday gifts or treat yourself to a gorgeous candle or perfume.

The menu here explodes with so many great brunch options from avocado toast with perfectly poached eggs and bagel & lox to a short rib hash and Nutella pancakes. On different occasions, I’ve ordered their chopped salad and avocado burrata toast, both of which were divine. This time, I ordered the organic seasonal fruit (which were ripe bananas) and whipped mascarpone-topped French toast made from brioche bread; it was a decadently-delicious dish that I paired with a Mimosa. Most know Mimosas are a classic brunch drink, but this particular morning cocktail was not made with your usual sparkling wine (FYI: we’re technically not allowed to call it Champagne if it’s made in the U.S.).

Champagne Problems: “Wait, I can’t call it Champagne?” Technically, no. The easiest explanation I can give is that sparkling wine can only be called Champagne if it comes from the region of Champagne, France.  Also, Champagne can only be made using Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. As counter-intuitive as it seems, all champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne. Just remember to think  of Champagne in terms of a geographical place as opposed to the way a wine is made.

Olive & Thyme makes their mimosa with Prosecco and freshly squeezed orange juice, and now it’s got me on Team Prosecco. You may even notice more restaurants are swapping Champagne with Prosecco.

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In using the brioche bread and not slathering the dish in syrup, but whipped mascarpone instead, the French toast wasn’t overly soggy or dry. Not everyone is a banana fan like me, but these had a rich, caramelized quality to them. O & T switches up the fruit they top their French toast with, so you can always ask what they’re using that morning.

For those who are not familiar with Prosecco, it’s a light, aromatic sparkling wine with origins in northeastern Italy from their native Glera grape. To fully appreciate Prosecco, it is important not to confuse it with Champagne; it belongs in its own category. Prosecco isn’t always bubbly like Champagne. It has fewer calories and is produced using a “tank method,” which is more cost-efficient than Champagne methods. In general, it doesn’t hurt your wallet like Champagne can. The flavor profile of Prosecco also differs greatly from Champagne; pear, green apple, and honeydew melon are some of the most distinguishable flavors.

Don’t get wrong, I love Champagne! However, I’m really enjoying the bright quality of Prosecco for these last summer months. Many people think Prosecco can only be served as an aperitif (before a meal), but it can definitely accompany your morning juice or pair nicely with seafood dishes. For a summer BBQ or dinner party, you can even pour Prosecco in larger bowled glasses and slip fruit-flavored popsicles inside; it makes for a fun presentation and tastes delicious. If you want to get really fancy, look for Proseccos with DOCG on the label; these are the most select bottlings. If you’re new to Prosecco and just want a quality accompaniment to your O.J. without spending too much, a bottle with a blue DOC strip will do the trick. I like Mionetto’s Brut Prosecco ($11.99; pictured below), as well as Tizano Dry Prosecco NV ($13).

At Olive & Thyme, I highly recommend trying to get a table indoors. Outdoor dining is available, but the interior decor here is too good to pass up. Parking can be tricky. There is valet and a nearby parking garage, but I try to find street parking when I can; I usually have luck on Olive Street (across from Warner Bros. studio) or Screenland Drive. Speaking of Warner Bros., the breakfast and lunch crowds here tend to be a mix of studio executives (Warner Bros., Disney Animation Studios, and sometimes Universal Studios), so either beat the morning and afternoon rushes or wait out the madness. Saturday is the brunch day here and it lasts from 9 AM to 4 PM. I once forgot and came on a Sunday. I was heartbroken.

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O & T is a draw for industry folk with Warner Bros. and Disney Animation Studios nearby.

Ironically enough, the one Sunday that I tried to go for brunch at Olive & Thyme was the same day I happened upon another favorite spot. Hangry and desperate, I found Another Broken Egg café, also in Burbank (they’re opening a location in San Diego soon, too). It’s a popular brunch joint with a Southern flair that turned my Sunday right back around. Biscuit beignets, “city” grits, Mardi Gras omelets, fried green tomatoes, and sides of andouille sausage await your taste buds here, so come with an appetite! On different occasions, I’ve ordered the Bananas Foster waffles, which felt even more gluttonous than O & T’s French Toast yet perfect for nursing a hangover or a cheat day; it has a dessert-y feel. Another time, I ordered the Skinny Omelet, which was a satisfyingly-healthy mix of fluffy, herbed egg whites, asparagus, roasted red peppers, goat cheese and roasted garlic cloves. Although “skinny” may not sound festive enough for brunch, the addition of the creamy goat cheese gives the omelet a richness you expect from brunch-worthy food.

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St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur ($31.99)

At Another Broken Egg, they also serve an amazing Mimosa called Lady Marmalade, and this time, it is made with Champagne. They also top their Mimosa with St. Germain and a dollop of orange marmalade, which makes for a unique take on the classic brunch drink. Consider making St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur a bar cart must-have because it can be mixed into so many drinks – sangria, sparkling wine, even margaritas! St. Germain has such a lovely, floral quality and it also makes for a beautiful gift; the bottle is reminiscent of an expensive perfume. You can find this liqueur at BevMo!, Total Wine, and sometimes Gelson’s.

I admittedly don’t drink sparkling wine as much as I’d like to but when I do, I reach for Roederer Estate Brut ($23.99). Located in the gorgeous, fog-enveloped Anderson Valley, Roederer’s sparkling wines are made using estate-grown grapes from their 580-acre vineyard. Anderson Valley is a short drive from my hometown and on the way to my family’s second home on the Mendocino Coast, so it’s definitely a place I’ll stop at the next time I’m home. The quality and value of their wines are undeniable.

 

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Easy additions to the classic Mimosa – Dundee Orange Marmalade (I love the bits of orange inside), freshly-squeezed orange juice, fresh raspberries, and Mionetto Prosecco ($11.99) or Roederer Estate Brut Sparkling Wine ($23.99).

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