With spring rapidly approaching (have you taken a walk through any of the parks lately? Flowerpolluza!), brunch season is also upon us. I took in the lovely brunch at Barleymash downtown, and this week, I checked out the amazing brunch at Encontro, North Park's spot for the best food and a variety of craft beer.
I've enjoyed a meal there in the past, and looked forward to what they had to offer for brunch. The brunch menu is loaded with delicious-sounding items -- it was pretty hard to select only a few things to try. Chef Jason Hotchkiss has designed a menu of classics with new twists and a few San Diego favorites with a distinct leaning towards famous San Diego-style Mexican food. Think homemade chorizo, black beans, and salsa on eggs. Hungry yet?
They also have a doggie menu. Yes, like many San Diego businesses, Encontro is puppy-friendly, even serving up free (!) puppacinos to our four-legged friends.
We started out with some French press coffee, a huge plus from the traditional brewed coffee served by most establishments, and orange juice. After debating over the menu some more, we decided to keep things mostly breakfast-based, and ordered the French toast with a scoop of ice cream, the Cali breakfast burrito, the chilaquiles, biscuits and chorizo gravy, and the celebrated portobello mushroom fries.
We have to talk about the amazing French toast. Covered with powdered sugar, cinnamon, and blueberry syrup, it had loads of fresh berries. If you go and consider passing on the ice cream, I urge you to do different. Get the ice cream! It's Hammond's vanilla bean, and is just stupendous with the sweet, spicy, warm French toast. It was all quite sweet, but just what is needed sometimes for an indulgence. With the hot, slightly bitter flavor of French press coffee, all was right with the world when I ate this meal.
The Cali burrito is one of Steve's favorite things, and having it for breakfast is even better! This San Diego staple was made with three scrambled eggs, tater - tots, house carne asada, avocado, pico, and cheese, it's a real complete meal. The spicy Sriracha aioli sauce really made this sandwich incredible. So spicy and tied together all of the flavors. And like most San Diego burritos, it was huge.
The chilaquiles were very good, and made in an interesting way, with eggs over easy rather than scrambled, a smoky chipotle sauce, avocado, and shredded chicken. The combination of eggs and meat really made this a meal that was satisfying and a good cross between breakfast and lunch. Another San Diego staple, the chilaquiles were on point.
I love sweet things, but being from Appalachia, I just can't resist biscuits and gravy when they're on the menu. I knew that the chorizo sausage would add a different flavor than the sage-y sausage usually used. Wow, such a good use of modification of ingredients! The gravy was so spicy, yet still retained the creamy loveliness that makes biscuits and gravy such a classic, hearty breakfast. The biscuits were light, yet crisp enough to stand up to the gravy without becoming mushy.
The portobello mushroom fries are always a hit: slightly crispy, with a surprisingly deep flavor, they are a unique side for a taste of something different. Served with basil aioli for dipping, and topped with shaved parmesan, they are a great item for munching and sharing.
With a final sip of some of the house-made kombucha and cold-brew coffee, we were rolling out the door. So much good food -- and in such a pretty place! I want to borrow a friend's dog just to go there and hang out!