This past weekend I was in DC in case you didn’t see from my Instagram feed, which you should all be following. My host, Justin, who’s written for ATOB before, proposed we go apple picking because #fall, and I suggested we brunch beforehand because I had never done a DC brunch. He immediately said he’d make reservations, which struck me as funny since he’s type B.
Me: “What do you mean, reservations? Where are we trying to go?”
Lesson #1: You must reserve your brunch spot in DC.
Justin chose a tapas bar and restaurant somewhere in DC (I won’t act like I know the neighborhoods; maybe we were near DuPont?) called Boqueria. We got a table for eight, and he made a Facebook event called “Brunch w/ Cazey.” I clicked “Maybe” in regards to attending.
A couple of days before the brunch, Justin dropped the brunch’s price tag. In DC, brunches are frequently bottomless – for two and a half hours. (Nothing in this life is infinite.) This means all the food and drinks (yes, alcoholic) you can consume in all your gluttonous glory for a hundred and fifty minutes, tick tock, for $39.
Hold the pancake batter. $39? Are we getting brunch or groceries for the week?
Justin: “Cazey, that is, like, the cheapest DC brunch there is. Unless you want to go to McDonald’s.”
Me: “I could make the whole table brunch for $39.”
Justin: “But the alcohol.”
Me: “For another $39, I’d have everyone’s head in a toilet by noon.”
Inevitably, I sucked it up, or else this post would be not be being written. I just drank extra heavily to forget my wallet’s hemorrhaging. The night before brunch, too.
For brunch, we all dressed #fall. This means boots, scarves, dead leaves in our hair, and sunglasses even though it was forty degrees and ain’t no one gonna sit outside voluntarily for two and a half hours, let alone if you’re paying the cost of two Olive Garden meals to be there. We also thought we’d go apple picking after brunch, but you can skip ahead to lesson #7 (actually don't).
Lesson #3: Tell everyone to be 30 minutes earlier than they really need to be.
On our commute to Boqueria, they called us and asked if we were still coming.
Justin: “I mean, it’s 10:10 AM. You don’t open for another 20.”
And then, once we arrived, they wouldn’t seat us because we were missing half our party. I’m not going to call out names, but I will remind the souls that were late to our brunch that we planned this two weeks in advance and we made a Facebook event (you know they got a notification on their phone).
Hostess: “Are you sure the rest of your party is coming?”
Justin: “Yes, they told us they’re on their way.” 30 minutes ago. (I’m not resentful, never.)
Thankfully, once we were seated, we didn’t have to wait for the inconsiderate truants to start ordering off the menu. The whole table gets one sheet of paper that lists all brunch items (Figure 1). From this, you order in bulk all the tapas you want. And you get another sheet of paper for each round, which is great, because I wanted to tell them, “This is going to be like a baseball game. We’re having nine rounds (innings, whatever), because I’m paying $39 when eggs cost $3 for 18.”
Lesson #3: Strategize.
It seems easy enough to ask for everything on the menu (there are fourteen food items just in themselves), but your stomach can only hold 32 ounces and you paid $39. Make the ounces count. For example, is pan con tomate (grilled bread rubbed with tomato, garlic, and olive oil) really worth it when there is torrija (caramelized French toast, seasonal fruit aka apples, and caramel sauce) or huevos benedictinos (do I capitalize that B?)?
Here are the fourteen items and my thoughts:
Sutrido de tapas: Manchego cheese, Jamón Serrano (thinly sliced ham, not a man’s name), Spanish omelet, and olives. Served with country bread and Majorcan potato allioli. We got this first, and it’s decent, but my great-aunt would serve this if I came over for tea. You can pass.
Beicon: Bacon. Fork yes. Order at least three plates. Maybe extra napkins if you want to wipe up the excess grease because you count calories like me.
Patatas Bravas: Crispy potatoes, salsa brava, and roasted garlic allioli (which I thought was straight mayonnaise). You should try this, but remember, potatoes are cheap, so don’t gorge on this.
Torrija: The caramelized French toast. It comes out with three half slices. Order enough for everyone to have a slice each! Like, don’t stop ordering until you’ve all tasted this. Then again, I never order or make French toast, so I might be overselling this.
Revuelto de Setas: Soft scramble of organic eggs, wild mushrooms, goat cheese, Idiazábal cheese, and basil. OMG. Yes. I’m all about my eggs, so this made me respire fast and order seconds – that I couldn’t finish because I was full from everything else. But this is why I’m advising you now.
Huevos Benedictinos: Basically, it’s eggs benedict, which is a dish I’ve never enjoyed. So order if you like eggs Benedict. (Three English muffin halves come out with each order, so plan accordingly.)
Verduras con Romesco: Seasonal vegetables with hazelnut romesco. Um, so we ordered this, and it never came, so no advice here. But you probably should order this because vegetables have fiber.
Ensalada de Remolacha: Roasted beet salad, frisée, orange segments, pistachios, Valdeón blue cheese, Sherry vinaigrette. We just straight up didn’t order this because we’re millennials.
Mejillones con salsa verde aka STEAMED MUSSELS: Order this, order this, and order it again. Because you’re paying $39, and these are mussels, and it’s really good and it costs mucho outside a bottomless brunch menu.
Albóndigas: Lamb meatballs, tomato sauce, and sheep’s milk cheese (I’m going start calling mozzarella “cow’s milk’s cheese”). This was good, but I’m not a fan of lamb, but everyone else liked it? Lamb is also expensive, so probably do order this.
Soldaditos de Pollo: Chip-crusted chicken breast with labne remoulade (which is…?). Anyway, we didn’t get this, but it sounds poppin’.
Cocido de Garbanzos: Garbanzo bean cassoulet, chorizo, pork sausage, panceta, pimentón. We didn’t try this.
Coca de Recapte: Catalan flatbred, goat cheese, fresh herbs, and seasonal vegetables. Eh. If you like goat cheese.
Okay, so maybe order everything except for the boring bread. I think that’s what I’m saying.
Lesson #4: Drink up.
There are six drinks on the menu: Sangría tinta (red wine), sangría rosada (rosé wine), limonada de Jeréz (spiked lemonade), mimosas (because duh), leche de Pantera (spiked iced coffee), and draft beer.
We all started with the spiked iced coffee, and holy cow, I couldn’t walk after the first sip. But it’s that good. But it’s pretty heavy, so I recommend switching over to a fruitier drink afterward.
But you have to be careful! The waiters try to refill your glass when you aren’t looking, and you can only have one drink at a time, so I got stuck with iced coffee for one round more than I wanted.
Also, there is no fruit in the sangria. I know. Is it really sangria? I’m waiting for my lawyer to get back to me.
And don’t order beer. It’s brunch, not a college town bar.
Lesson #5: Make friends.
Our table was situated between two other brunch groups. The group on our right seemed to be in our age range, but either they were siblings whose parents had just announced a divorce or someone at the table was sleeping with another someone and everyone knew except for a third someone and everyone was trying not to talk about it or anything at all. Their table kept looking over at us jealously and then they would look at each other and not say anything.
On the other hand, to our left was a table of four women who represented the squad goals I would like to emulate in 15 years. In fact I asked my seat partner, Anne Marie, to take a photo of them to put as an objective on my CV. She then took a picture of me with them in the background.
Me: “No, no. Pretend to take a photo of me, but actually just get them.”
An hour into our marathon brunch, we worried we had to be bothering these adults (since twenty-somethings aren’t adults). Abruptly one of the woman appeared at our tableside with her phone: “I hope you don’t mind, but I have to show off my kids.”
Cue this suburban mom flipping through her photo stream and showing off her three boys. When she found out I wrote a blog, she explicitly requested they make it into this post so here they are:
We then watched a video of her three kids in their Halloween costumes. The mom narrated as her oldest son (I think?) – dressed as Optimus Prime from Transformers – conquered the Grim Reaper (another son) and finally a Ninja Turtle (the third son).
Me: "I didn't know you could kill death."
The mom: “Watch, watch, he’s about to transform!”
Another one of the women joined our table: “We’re having a competition. Do you think her kids or my cat is cuter?”
Now, readers, wait until you see this cat. I won’t comment any further.
Before we left, we got a photo of our table with these four women.
Lesson #6: Don’t forget dessert.
As the final half hour closed in on us, we started playing waterfall where each person has to drink as long as or longer than the person sitting beside them. We obviously are not adults like I stated above.
This is when one of our group piped up: “I think there’s dessert on the menu?!”
The table: “Did we overlook dessert?”
Don’t commit this cardinal sin and overlook extra calories to add to your weekend gorge.
Boqueria offers two dessert options: Piña inopia (golden pineapple and molasses) and churros con chocolate. Skip the pineapples because all it is is pineapples, which you can buy in a can, and get the churros. You get three churros for every order, so remember lesson #3: Strategize. Aka order three plates.
Also, the chocolate sauce that comes with the churros could probably be used to dip your bacon in, too, so order them together. I didn’t try this, but I would like to hear the results if anyone does try this.
Lesson #7: Brunch is an all-day affair.
Once we rolled out of Boqueria at 1 PM, I’m pretty sure the restaurant clapped at our eviction. But look, we paid our rent – all $39 of it – on time.
For a few minutes on the sidewalk, I thought we had a chance of still making it to apple picking. Alas, that dream died as our fellowship fractured off into those who were going to another bar (bless them) and my group who was going home to nap.
All in all, this brunch is worth the $39 despite all my griping – as long as you bring your best brunch friends. Everyone should indulge in a bottomless brunch once in a while.