Anne Marie Panoringan

Voice of OC’s food columnist — reporting on industry news, current events and trends. Panoringan’s prior work includes writing about food for eight years at the OC Weekly in which she interviewed more than 330 chefs, restauranteurs and industry professionals for her weekly “On the Line” column. She has been recognized by the Orange County Press Club and she also is a recurring guest on AM 830’s SoCal Restaurant Show.

When I compare brunch to breakfast, a significant difference has to do with the social norms associated with each. Breakfast is functional, as it is a time when one breaks the fast from last night’s dinner before continuing with one’s day. Doing brunch is a much more leisurely experience, granting a group of friends carte blanche to order champagne and cut loose.  Regardless of your preference, these three new establishments all focus on updated morningtime sustenance. 

Boil & Bake

270 Bristol St., Suite 114, Costa Mesa | no phone number

Wanting to distinguish itself from a typical bagel shop, Boil & Bake, as described by owner Carlos Perez and chef Luke Bramm, is a California deli offering selections customers don’t usually see at a bagel shop, such as classic side dishes and liquid refreshments of beer and wine.

Perez’s industry experience began in high school with his father, an owner/operator of a trio of Shirley’s Bagels. From there, he learned how to cook at Costa Mesa’s Arc and Newport Beach’s Pizzeria Mozza. Chef Luke previously worked on the cooking line at Corona del Mar’s Farmhouse Restaurant before joining the opening team at Michelin-starred Knife Pleat

Their paths crossed thanks to mutual friend Carlos Jurado after Perez tried recruiting him to work on his concept. Jurado was busy with his own project, but recommended he meet Bramm due to Bramm’s fascination with curing fish and lox. The two personalities meshed well, thus beginning the dynamic duo of Boil & Bake. According to Bramm, “When it comes to creating menu items, Carlos and I bring our ideas together and collaborate on most things. I like food that rides that line of being fun and elegant.”

The two tested and refined their menu through a series of pop-ups at beverage bars including Gunwhale Ales, Semi Tropic Wines and Neat Coffee – the latter being where I finally caught up with them and tried the Heirloom: a bagel plus cream cheese adorned with capers, dill, extra virgin olive oil and sliced tomato. 

“The pop-ups were a fun learning experience for sure. You have to be constantly adapting and learning from your mistakes,” Perez said. Fortunately they had relatives and friends come out to support and provide feedback while the duo tested flavor combinations.

What makes Boil & Bake’s bagels special is the labor-intensive recipe, beginning with a sourdough starter that’s naturally leavened. “It’s roughly a three-day process, which takes a lot of effort, but we believe it shows in our final product,” Perez explained. The dough is then hand-shaped and fermented for eight hours. They classify the bagels as “California style” since batches aren’t boiled with standard baking soda, malt syrup or honey – just water. “The fermentation process and natural leavening creates a crust all on its own, which we think is really special. Baking them in a pizza oven also adds that crust and uniqueness,” Perez said.

Boil & Bake is currently on track to open before the end of May.

Paragon Cafe

3313 Hyland Ave., Suite A1, Costa Mesa | (657) 247-0101

The concept for Paragon Cafe stemmed from one individual’s love of brunch. Chef and partner Dean Isom appreciates the ambiance, lively daytime dining (also drinking) and gathering with friends at a dedicated place after a night out to regroup. “Why can’t we have the vivacious day drinking and dining while also having a more refined experience?” Isom asked. Paragon was his way of directing that narrative. 

Born and raised in Fullerton, Isom began his culinary career in the DTF bar scene working inside the kitchen and behind the bar. He moved on to Pie Dog, where Isom would work alongside Markuz Valdez, his future business partner. Behind the scenes Isom did everything from dishwashing to expediting orders, eventually being cross-trained in administrative duties. 

After three years he moved on to be head chef at Shuck Oyster Bar – a role he wasn’t quite ready for. “I researched and tested everything I could, spending a lot of my free time teaching myself as much as I was able to about the culinary arts,” Isom said. Four years later he was  more experienced and ready for a change. 

Originally conceptualized as a high-end burger joint, Paragon had Isom changing gears when given the opportunity to utilize Shuck’s space before its normal operating hours. In July 2020, a brunch-themed Paragon Cafe began limited pop-up service. Less than two years later, it has transitioned out of Shuck and is about to launch in the former Tackle Box space at South Coast Collection (SOCO).

Dishes will be scratch-made, often incorporating organic produce sourced from the Saturday morning farmers market at SOCO. Isom’s development in the kitchen is apparent in entrees such as Paragon’s twist on biscuits and gravy, utilizing duck fat to cook herbs and citrus before incorporating additional ingredients to give the rich sauce a depth of flavor.

The beverage program will include 15 local beers on draft in addition to a full bar and comprehensive espresso menu. (Note: Isom suggests matching Paragon’s espresso martini with an order of cheesecake French toast.) A special locker program will be available for guests wanting to house their own wine or a special spirit to be incorporated into a house cocktail.

Further separating itself from other brunch spots, Paragon will feature live jazz on the weekends. Lounge-style dinner service is forthcoming. “We want to wow our guests in every aspect, from the high-quality product and precise execution to the art of plating, ambiance and fine service to make everyone feel like a million bucks without breaking the bank,” Isom said. 

Paragon Cafe will be in soft-opening mode before the end of this month.

OEB Breakfast Co.

1104 Irvine Ave., Newport Beach | (949) 438-7337

Based out of Canada, the meaning behind OEB’s acronym is lengthy yet encompasses its core values. “O” is for outstanding people at all levels of the company, from its leadership to the vendors the company works with. “E” equals embracing evolution by continuous improvement, pushing culinary boundaries and adapting to change. Lastly, “B” means bold food integrity with a preference for seasonal ingredients, a balance of classic fare and progressive cuisine plus a commitment to fostering farm-to-table relationships.

OEB Breakfast Co.’s extensive use of Santa Ana-based Bread Artisan Bakery’s products is featured throughout its menu from country French rye, the multigrain loaf and its brioche, used in both the French toast trifle and Double Trouble plates. In addition, the local purveyor bakes both ciabatta buns as well as a signature brioche burger version for OEB’s sandwiches. 

When I inquired about the “Breakfast Bowls” category and why it doesn’t use the Canadian term poutine, corporate chef Mauro Martina elaborated by sharing the difference between proper poutine and what was served stateside. “Traditional Canadian poutine consists of french fries, cheese curds and gravy, while OEB’s breakfast bowls consist of duck fat fried wedge potatoes, California cheese curds, brown butter hollandaise and poached free range eggs.” Regardless of how one refers to it, I do recommend ordering a bowl for some cheesy goodness (I ordered the Gold Digga which featured Berkshire roast pork and black truffles).

Upon entering the restaurant, diners are greeted by a floor-to-ceiling “Fill the Soul” chalkboard, reminding individuals of the importance of making time to nourish oneself, whether that’s with friends, co-workers or as a party of one; OEB wants people to value breakfast the way one values his or her well-being.

To Martina, breakfast means so much more than just the first meal of the day. In fact, he believes that OEB can be the first one star Michelin breakfast restaurant. 

OEB Breakfast Co. is now open.

Note: Franchisors are currently seeking a restaurant space in Irvine.

Anne Marie Panoringan is the food columnist for Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. She can be reached at ampanoringan@voiceofoc.org.


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