Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but it's got nothing on brunch for sheer decadence. If you're normally an early bird, like I am, it's the perfect counterpoint to a rewarding morning of sloth. Usually get up at 6:00am to go to work? Leave the alarm on and enjoy that extra special feeling you get when you turn it off, realize you can sleep in as late as you want, then roll over and sleep some more. Once you've reached the point where further sleep just isn't physically possible, it's brunch time!
My favorite place to saunter on over to during these rare moments of sinful shirking is Plums Cafe. Started over twenty years ago by Kim Jorgenson, a health-conscious Oregonian with a deep commitment to slow food, regionally sourced products, and community outreach, Plums Cafe has become a well-known hotspot amongst Central Orange County locals. It also happens to be in the same strip mall as Frenzy Sushi, which regular readers will recognize as my sushi restaurant of choice. I like it when good food clusters together.
On weekends, Plums Cafe is packed with some of the hottest Orange County bodies you've ever seen off the small screen. This is where the trendy people come to eat, sporting fashionably rumpled hair and the latest in designer casual. There's a definite scene here, but that's never stopped me from my pursuit of good food. Besides, this panda's got some game.
With amazing crowds come amazing waits. The average time required to get a table on the weekend seems to be 30-40 minutes, although waits of close to an hour are not unheard of. There's doesn't seem to be a pattern to the rushes, either. I usually go around the same time on Saturdays, and I never know how long it will take for me to get a table. Once I'm in, though, everything moves very quickly. Service is fast, friendly, and startlingly efficient. The last time I was at Plums, I counted no less than one server for every three tables. My drink glasses were never empty, I only had to lift a hand to have someone materialize, and my order arrived promptly. At Plums, they almost literally wait on you hand and foot, yet you never feel rushed. There may be a crowd of people outside waiting for the next free table, but there's never any pressure from the staff to leave once you've gotten your food.
The food, of course, is what it's really all about. "Ambience" (decor + cute girls) may help me enjoy my visit more, but the quality of the food is what determines whether or not I'll be back. Besides, with Cat (a cute girl) as my regular dining companion, my evaluations of ambience are usually limited to the decor.
The food at Plums Cafe, then, is what keeps me coming back. There's a careful attention to product quality and freshness that shows in everything they serve. A simple slice of toast, served complimentary with almost every dish, is the perfect example. Thick and crusty, with a chewy crumb and excellent texture, their whole grain bread is the perfect vehicle for the tart, Northwest berry preserves. Scrape on a little butter if you're feeling particularly naughty.
My favorite dish is the Campfire Trout. An entire trout is butterflied, dredged in cornmeal, and pan fried to crisp, golden perfection. A squeeze from the adjacent lemon wedge, cleverly cut to control the direction the juice falls, completes the picture. It's served with two strips of thick-cut, maple-cured pepper bacon from Oregon, a heaping pile of country potatoes laced with rosemary and parsley, and two eggs cooked to order. I like getting my eggs over easy so that the runny yolks ooze over the crunchy, fluffy, perfectly salted potatoes when broken.
For those in the mood for something more nostalgic, the Buttermilk Pancakes, with their crisp edges and delicate, airy crumb, are a real treat. Lightly dusted with powdered sugar, both the sugar and the pancakes melt away on the tongue, leaving a slight twang from the buttermilk. The maple syrup provided is practically redundant, as is the pat of butter that only serves to weigh down this otherwise heavenly confection.
Of course, what's brunch without a tasty beverage? Cat prefers their Lemonade, a refreshing concoction that avoids being too sweet, too tart, or watered down.
On the other hand, I like to start my weekends with something bracing and, preferably, alcoholic. Unfortunately, I can't recommend the Bloody Mary at Plums Cafe. It may have an attractive combination of colors, but it's lacking in tomato flavor, is in desperate need of more celery salt, and is made with such a strong brand of vodka that it feels like you're sipping ketchup-flavored rubbing alcohol. This was the only strike-out that crossed our table when I took the pictures for this review. I was able to redeem the experience by contemplating what I would normally have been doing in the office but wasn't, one of my favorite weekend pastimes.
Fortunately, I also had this fragrant pot of Ginger & Ginseng Green Tea, which helped wash away both the bitter aftertaste from the Bloody Mary and any remaining thoughts about work. After all, I still had the good part of a day ahead of me, glittering with promise in the spring sunshine.
Plums Cafe - Where both the food and the scenery are first rate. This is the brunch place in Central Orange County. It's worth the wait, but you might want to bring a book, just in case.
Bill (for two)
Lemonade - 2.50
Side of Bacon (2 strips) - 3.00
Buttermilk Pancakes - 8.00
Campfire Trout - 15.00
Brunch Entree Upgrade (Coffee or tea and your choice of a glass of champagne, a Bloody Mary, or a Mimosa) - 5.00
Tax - 2.52
Tip - 5.00
Total - 40.02
369 E 17th St Ste 8
Costa Mesa, CA 92627