Benny's, breakfast tots on the new brunch menu at Bakersfield Pizza Co. The take on eggs Benedict top the tots with bacon, ham, bell pepper, mushroom and red onion.
Brunch is becoming serious business in Bakersfield.
Cafe Med is a longtime contender with a big buffet including prime rib, red velvet waffles, pita burgers and shakshuka along with bottomless mimosas. The Padre Hotel also bumps up the bubbles with a champagne Sunday brunch (featuring bottomless shrimp cocktail, hand-carved meats, made-to-order omelets and those mimosas) in its Belvedere Room. Centro 18 Cuisine & Lounge offers a taste of Brazil with its "endless skewers" of premium-cut meats.
It will be interesting to see what new northwest restaurant Sonder will serve on weekends.
The Calloway Drive spot is currently in a soft opening but general manager Shannon Brown said she plans a big presence of libations and shareable dishes for brunch.
Meanwhile Bakersfield Pizza Co. has stepped up with its own fresh brunch lineup, which launches this weekend. While it might seem strange for a pizza place to cater to the weekend brunch snack-and-sip set, it's not considering the man behind it. Restaurateur Alejandro Ocampo, who also owns Camino Real Kitchen & Tequila, is well-known for his innovative menus, mixing cuisines and flavors in unique ways.
This new brunch is no exception, with new dishes like breakfast tots, sandwiches and pizzas, including a chilaquiles one that was taken off the secret menu — secret only to those not following the restaurant's social media.
"People would come in and ask, 'Can we see the secret menu?'" Ocampo said of those who were hearing about the popular Facebook and Instagram posts.
Most of the menu is easily shareable from Don Fernando tots ($10), topped with an egg, steak, bell peppers, jalapenos, habanero sauce and grilled onions, to the country pizza ($13), piled high with protein — bacon, ham, chopped country-fried steak, hot links and eggs — along with sausage gravy and cheese. Both the tots and pizzas are customizable, as is much of the menu.
Customers can get creative with the brunch cocktails, a list of mimosas, Marys and Mitchs (short for micheladas, the beer concoction). Prices start at $5 with additional flavorings available for $1.
Those who start their day with caffeine have the option of ordering Rig City Roasting Co. coffee brewed table-side in a French press for $7. (Regular joe, hot or iced, is also available.)
New starters ($7) are french toast sticks, fried and served with cheesecake batter and maple syrup, and chicken and waffle fries, served with butter and maple syrup.
Speaking of sweet, the menu highlights two desserts — sweetbread, their take on a kouign-amann, a round crusty cake containing layers of butter and sugar; and Patty's cake (each $6). The latter, named for Ocampo's sister, is a inspired by the coffee cake she used to make based on a recipe pulled off the back of the Bisquick box.
"Me and my siblings, we’d always beg her to make it for birthdays."
At both his restaurants, Ocampo adds family’s members' names to key dishes.
"They get excited, tell all their friends."
And it's not just his family who's excited about the menu.
"I have some customers who are really passionate about food. They'll go home and message you the next day.
"It's all about feedback. I don't measure our success based on Yelp reviews or revenue, but on how many smiles we're able to achieve on a day-to-day basis."
Brunch will be available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays starting this weekend.
Ocampo said in the next few weeks, he'll start rolling out new items at Camino Real, which will update its menu, happy hour and more. New items will include a chile relleno grilled cheese sandwich and tacos a la plancha ("combining a taco, an enchilada and a quesadilla"), both of which had been on the restaurant's secret menu.
The rollout has taken a bit longer than expected as Ocampo and his wife recently welcomed twins to the family.
"Having twins and running two restaurants and working on new menus. It's very time-consuming."
Bakersfield Pizza Co. is located at 4105 Ming Ave. Learn more at bakersfieldpizzaco.com.
To market, to market
We're coming up to the end of National Farmers Market Week. But Bakersfield has never needed an official event to support local businesses. We have thriving weekend markets staying busy this summer. On Saturdays, head to the F Street Farmers Market (3201 F St.), which operates from 8 a.m. to noon; or the Brimhall Farmers Market (9500 Brimhall Road) from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. On Sundays, visit The Marketplace for the Haggin Oaks market (Kaiser Permanente parking lot, 8800 Ming Ave.) from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
All feature a mix of local growers and businesses as well as others operating within driving distance of town. Have questions? Who better to ask than the growers and makes themselves?
One of those growers, Meredith Bell of Autonomy Farms, was highlighted by the United States Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency for market week. Read more here about Bell, who sells at 13 markets in the Southland, including Brimhall and Haggin Oaks.
Frozen? Don't let it go!
Speaking of produce, while we're enjoying the last of the summer berries, a question of preservation may pop up. The Washington Post has a cool tip for preserving the sweet tastes of the season. Individual quick freezing will keep your berries at the ready for smoothies and other chilled treats.
Wash and thoroughly dry berries. Place them on a baking sheet, making sure they are separated so cold air can flow around them. Freeze the berries, uncovered, for at least three hours. Once they are frozen all the way through, scoop them into a bag. They'll be easy to scoop out for smoothies.
Turn up the nitro
Sure, we've all heard of the nitro cold brew, infusing the slow-steeped coffee with nitrogen. The tasty beverage is available at many spots in town, including Covenant Coffee, Sweet Surrender, Rig City Roasting (at the Brimhall and Haggin Oaks farmers markets), Caffeine Supreme, Cafe Smitten, Farmacy at the Padre Hotel and, of course, Starbucks. What a couple of those spots are doing, though, is a game changer. Both Caffeine Supreme on F Street and Farmacy are offering hibiscus tea run through the nitrogen infusion process. Note, there is no caffeine, but we're talking a majorly tasty summer treat. And if you are going caffeine-free, it's a definite winner.
New and different
Celebrate National Filet Mignon Day with this deal at Black Angus Steakhouse: two 6-ounce filets mignons with two sides, molasses bread and a bottle of Avalon California cabernet sauvignon for $58. The big day is Sunday but the deal is good from Friday on with a coupon available through the restaurant's Prime Club. ... Chow down for a good cause: Through August, for every $1 you donate to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society at any PizzaRev location, you'll receive a $1-off voucher good for the restaurant. ... The mad scientists at Krispy Kreme and Reese's have put their heads together for a peanut butter cup doughnut, filled with Reese's peanut butter cream, topped with chocolate icing, chocolate and peanut butter drizzle, peanuts and Reese's mini peanut butter chips. It's available for a limited time for $1.69. ... Olive Garden has added to the menu across the board. New appetizers include the meatball pizza fritta ($6.99, pizza dough stuffed with meatballs, mushrooms, onions, cheeses and marinara) and Parmesan zucchini bites ($6.29), fresh entrees are the citrus-glazed salmon ($18.29) and six-ounce sirloin ($16.49), both served with fettuccine Alfredo. And $6.49 will get you either of the new desserts: a warm berry crostada with vanilla bean ice cream or the cookie butter cake. ... Tahoe Joe's brought back its signature steak sauces, offering a 10-ounce ribeye with green beans, choice of side and one of three sauces (mushroom Marsala, whiskey peppercorn or Gorgonzola cheese) for $18.99. ... Del Taco added mini shakes to its Buck or Less menu, offering your choice of chocolate, vanilla or strawberry for $1.
Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.