Who doesn’t love brunch? It’s one of the few meals where it’s acceptable to arrive with one’s hair in disarray, not to mention wholly appropriate to order both coffee and a cocktail. Whether your personal taste veers toward the sweet or the savory, bloody Mary or mimosa, brunch reliably sops up the remnants of the prior night’s excesses in a crispy, creamy, greasy swipe, and if there are bottomless mimosas involved, the hangover meal has all the makings for breeding some excesses of its own. Only, in the case of brunch, you’re typically left with a significant chunk of Sunday to sleep it off. Genius.
Now, as any big-city dweller will attest, hollandaise sauce and a bloody do not a brunch make. Sure, perhaps technically that’s all you need, but Sunday Brunch should be an event. And in this respect, Santa Barbara has been sadly lacking. Which is why the recent invitation from Blue Agave’s manager Gabi Barysch-Crosbie and bartender Gabe Lackner, gauging my interest by participating in a Dim Sum test-run, had me so excited. In addition to the promise of killer food-this is Blue Agave, after all-there was talk of a deejay, a trunk show, and even henna tattoos. But honestly, they had me at “brunch.”
Stepping inside the restaurant at high noon on a recent Sunday, I found myself in unfamiliar environs. While I’ve been to the Agave countless times-it’s firmly in my Top 5 (I’m a sucker for the fish stew)-this was my first foray during the daylight hours, and it’s a whole different world. The normally dimly lit, romantic upstairs was bathed in sunbeams, flooding in from the enormous skylight. A fire roared in the fireplace while Gabe spun the tunes, but not before disappearing-and reappearing-with a perfect bloody for me and a Guinness for my date. And thus began the food parade. Gabi appeared with the first of many (many, many) courses-steamed vegetable pot stickers-and told us about the inspiration to take this midday party East: Blue Agave, it seems, was a Chinese restaurant before it was the Blue Agave, and, prior to that, it was : another Chinese restaurant. So maybe the walls exuded some sort of culinary memory that infused Sunday’s brunch with the taste of authenticity; or maybe the Blue Agave’s chef just knows what he’s doing. Another bloody Mary later, I certainly didn’t care why everything was so perfect, I just wanted to know what was up next. How does one top crispy chicken and cabbage spring rolls, jalape±o-orange hoisin seared tofu, fried shrimp toast, pork spareribs, and mango pudding sound? How about, in a nod to the home of the agave itself, a taste of the most divine chilaquiles ever to cross these lips?
While Gabi was noncommittal as far as whether we can expect Sunday Brunch at Blue Agave to become a regular fixture, it was clear that she was thinking about it-and that she’d made fans of everyone who was there. And it was equally clear that it was time for me to go home, and sleep it off.