Brunch. I’m trying to recall when that word became a part of our culinary lexicon. I seem to remember it emerging sometime in the early-to-mid 1980s, when glossy spreads about brunch began appearing in Gourmet, Bon Appetit and other food publications. There were features in The New York Times showing well-heeled young professionals (we used to call them yuppies) on the terraces of Manhattan penthouses, dishing out Mimosas with their quiche, croissants and designer coffees. The popularity of the urban brunch always seemed to me to be a Reagan-era byproduct.
But in fact—upon doing a bit of research—I learned that brunch was made popular back in 1896, by British writer Guy Beringer in Punch magazine, in an article called “Brunch: A Plea.” In it, he made the case for the creation of a midday Sunday meal designed to “make life brighter for Saturday-night carousers.” He writes, “Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting. It is talk-compelling ... it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.” I’d say Mr. Beringer was on to something!
France has something similar to what we here call brunch: le grand petit déjeuner, which seems like a bit of an oxymoron, translated literally as “the big little lunch.” And, of course, the Chinese have been doing their version of brunch—dim sum—apparently since ancient times.
For the longest time, however, I resisted brunch. Probably something to do with thinking of it as a yuppie status thing. But, my will has worn out. I’ve now joined the brunch bunch. And, I’ve found one brunch that is particularly worthy of your late morning or early afternoon: Faustina’s.
Faustina serves brunch on both Saturdays and Sundays, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. And, in warm weather, you can enjoy brunch on Faustina’s recently renovated patio, surrounded by tall pines, Japanese maple trees, bonsai bushes, hanging flowerpots, lime-colored umbrellas, and colorful peonies. New, high walls and planter boxes create a comfortable, more secluded feel than did the old patio and also serve to help cut down on street noise. “You can hardly believe you are so close to downtown Salt Lake,” says Faustina general manager Hillary Merrill. Incidentally, the patio isn’t for brunch only; it’s also available, when the weather cooperates, for dinner under the stars.
But, even as appealing as the Faustina atmosphere is, it’s Executive Chef Billy Sotelo’s culinary creations that turned around my opinion about brunch. I used to think brunch was mostly a way of selling basic, inexpensive breakfast foods—bacon, granola, eggs, sausage, muffins and such—at inflated prices. But Sotelo’s brunch menu offers—in addition to traditional breakfast items—sandwiches, paninis, salads and more.
The brunch omelet is typically a predictable affair, but not where Sotelo is concerned. His is perfectly cooked, fluffy eggs that envelop a filling of mushrooms, tomato, squash, white Cheddar cheese and a spicy “diavalo” sauce of roasted tomato, shallot, red chili flakes, garlic, anisette liqueur and chicken stock. Likewise, his version of scrambled eggs—the Faustina scramble—is anything but routine: It’s scrambled, farm-fresh eggs tossed with artisan lamb sausage, Asiago cheese and a roasted-pepper medley, served with breakfast potatoes and a French-style baguette ($10). Those breakfast potatoes, by the way, are awesome—perfectly crisp, crunchy, fried spud cubes. Another classic brunch selection that Sotelo gives his own spin is eggs Benedict ($11). He incorporates the traditional poached eggs, grilled tomato and hollandaise, but, in place of Canadian bacon or ham, he substitutes Italian sausage and, rather than the typical English muffin, Faustina’s Benedict is made using polenta—a cool concept.
The “Breakfast Breads” section of the Faustina brunch menu offers simple things like Texas toast ($8) served with housemade honey-almond butter and roasted grapes, or baked oatmeal brulee ($6) with steel-cut oats, sun-dried fruits and candied pecans. There are also more complex (and more decadent) temptations such as roasted peach and blueberry crepes with mascarpone and vanilla whipped cream ($9). Under “Sides & Starters,” there’s a selection of à la carte brunch items like croissants ($4), farm-fresh eggs (two for $3), sausage ($4) and apple-wood-smoked bacon (three slices for $4).
My favorite breakfast-style brunch item at Faustina, however, begins with flaky, light, puff pastry ($11). Sotelo takes a square of puff pastry and tops it with eggs (poached, scrambled, over-easy or however you’d like them). In my case, I chose poached eggs, which were bathed in hollandaise and perched atop Black Forest ham slices with melted Jarlsburg cheese, and finished with fresh avocado slices. Alongside is a small terrine of Mosiah sauce, named for the Faustina saute chef who created it, Mosiah Guerrero. The sauce is a puree of many ingredients, including avocado, bell and jalapeño peppers, red onion, garlic, sour cream, lime and cilantro. It’s a delicious condiment—one that also comes with the bacon & egg cheeseburger ($11).
Don’t care for breakfast foods at brunch? Then I suggest opting for the smoked Sonoma chicken salad ($6, $11 for entree size). This is about as perfect as a salad gets: fresh, crisp mixed greens dressed lightly (thanks for not drenching!) with a sweet & tangy pomegranate vinaigrette, and tossed with dried blueberries, Gorgonzola morsels, almonds, caramelized onion, thin strips of green apple and luscious, tender chunks of chicken breast that is smoked in-house. The chicken is absolutely marvelous.
Of course, it wouldn’t be brunch without Mimosas, right? Well, Faustina offers brunch Mimosas for $3 each, made with traditional orange juice, or not-so-traditional pineapple, peach, grapefruit and other assorted fruit flavors. There’s also a terrific wine and beer selection, as well as specialty cocktails such as Faustina’s grapefruit Margarita, peach Mojito and the scrumptious Desert Flower, made with St. Germain elderflower liqueur, Champagne, soda and fresh mint.
With Faustina’s help, I’ve done a 180-degree turn where it comes to brunch, revising my opinion of it from boring to bodacious! I finally get why the custom has endured since 1895.
454 E. 300 South