Food & Drink

Mother’s Day brunch recipes from SLO County restaurants

Brunch recipes include red peppers and polenta with fried egg, asparagus tartine with chevre, radish, soft-boiled egg and chive blossoms, an El Pinky Bisco cocktail and crème brûlée.
Brunch recipes include red peppers and polenta with fried egg, asparagus tartine with chevre, radish, soft-boiled egg and chive blossoms, an El Pinky Bisco cocktail and crème brûlée.

To show Mom some special pampering on Mother’s Day, why not serve up a festive Mother’s Day brunch? These recipes from four Central Coast restaurants will cover you for the meal, from main dishes to dessert. And — because it isn’t really brunch without a beverage — there is also a recipe for a celebratory pink cocktail.

Main dish: Red peppers and polenta with fried egg

Kari Zeigler, chef/owner, Comfort Market

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Red peppers and polenta with fried egg by Comfort Market in Arroyo Grande. David Middlecamp

Two years ago, when Kari Zeigler opened Comfort Market in the Village of Arroyo Grande, it was more market than restaurant and open only for order-at-the-counter lunch.

Since then, though it still sports shelves with a well-curated array of gourmet ingredients, Comfort Market has decidedly become more of a restaurant. It now offers sit-down service for both lunch and dinner from Wednesday through Sunday, as well as a recently added weekend brunch menu.

“My best memories are after a hard week, going out with friends for fun, creative breakfasts and mimosas,” said Zeigler. “We have great places for brunch all down Branch and Grand; I wanted to take our few items we already had on the menu and expand it with fun hashes, polenta bowls and French toasts to die for. Our brunch menu is fun and different, and is all made-to-order with love."

For a Mother’s Day brunch made with love, Zeigler suggests her recipe for red peppers and onions on polenta and topped with a fried egg.

"I am a big lover of the egg, everything tastes better with an egg on it,” she said.

Red peppers and polenta with fried egg

Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, sliced in strips

3 cloves garlic, minced

5 red bell peppers, cut in  1/4 -inch strips

1 tablespoon (or more) sambal (a spicy Southeast Asian chile paste)

Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the peppers and onions until they start to get tender. Add the rest of the ingredients, and stir occasionally for 5 more minutes.

Drink: El Pinky Bisco

Joel Schneider, bar manager, Luna Red

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El Pinky Bisco from Luna Red David Middlecamp

With the explosion in farm-to-glass craft cocktails, “it’s an exciting time to be a bartender,” said Joel Schneider, the new bar manager at Luna Red in San Luis Obispo. “Especially here, since we’re all about the fresh ingredients.”

Schneider started bussing tables at the restaurant about four years ago and worked his way up as a food runner, kitchen expediter, barback, server and bartender. After holding that position for two-and-a-half years, he stepped into the management position at the beginning of this year.

Just as with Luna Red’s food menus, the bar program showcases fresh produce and preparations from scratch. That approach is most evident in the six ever-changing seasonal cocktails, but it’s also evident throughout the beverage list with such ingredients as local honey, house-infused lavender vodka and housemade citrus cordials.

One of those cordials is used in Schneider’s El Pinky Bisco, a bright, refreshing cocktail that’s perfect for Mother’s Day brunch (and uses a brandy from WineShine in Paso Robles). He has also suggested a non-alcoholic strawberry-mint soda that’s just as festive and just as refreshing.

Joel Schneider, bar manager for Luna Red in San Luis Obispo, demonstrates how to make an "El Pinky Bisco" cocktail.

El Pinky Bisco

 1/2 ounce lemon juice

 1/2 ounce Lemon Cordial (recipe follows)

 1/2 ounce St. Germain

 1/2 ounce WineShine (from Paso Robles) Hibiscus-Lemon Brandy

1 ounce Hibiscus-infused Blanco Tequila (recipe follows)

Build your drink, shake with ice for 15 seconds to combine and dilute, add about 3 ounces sparkling wine, strain into chilled champagne flute. Garnish with a lemon zest; twist over the glass (exterior facing down) to express the oils and rub on the glass rim before dropping in the flute.

Lemon Cordial

Makes about 25 ounces

Zest of 2 lemons, as little pith as possible

16 ounces lemon juice, strained of pulp

16 ounces sugar

1-2 ounces Citron vodka (Schneider uses Hangar 1 Buddha’s Hand because the vodka will help preserve the syrup and give it an extra layer of citrus flavor)

Prepare an oleo-saccharum (a sugared oil): Finely chop the zest of the two lemons and combine in a clean jar with 8 ounces of sugar. Let sit for at least one hour, but the longer the better. The sugar will pull oils and flavors out of the zest. All that’s left now is to combine the oleo-saccharum with the 16 ounces of lemon juice, the remaining 8 ounces sugar, and the vodka.

“I do not use heat at all for this syrup,” said Joel Schneider, Luna Red’s bar manager. “Combine in a metal container and whisk until it dissolves. You do not need to whisk constantly; I will let it sit and dissolve while I get other things done. I have found a larger metal container will help the sugar dissolve faster. Once the sugar is dissolved, strain out the lemon zests and skim off any foam from the top. Transfer to a labeled and dated mason jar. The cordial should keep for at least a few months refrigerated.”

Hibiscus-infused Blanco Tequila

“Use as much tequila as you like — I do 2 liters at a time,” said Schneider. “For 2 liters of tequila, I use about 1 1/2 -2 cups loosely packed dried hibiscus flowers. Combine tequila and hibiscus in a clean glass or metal container; do not use plastic containers to infuse spirits. Dried spices/herbs/teas/flowers etc. only take about an hour to infuse. After an hour, I taste. If it’s not to my liking, I will taste every 10 minutes or so. An hour and a half is usually good. Strain through a coffee filter into a labeled jar or bottle. Keeps indefinitely.”


Vegetable: Asparagus tartine with chevre, radish, soft-boiled egg and chive blossoms

Tim Veatch, executive chef, Thomas Hill Organics

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Thomas Hill Organics chef Tim Veatchâ’s asparagus tartine with chevre, radish, soft boiled egg and chive blossoms. Joe Johnston

Last November, executive chef Tim Veatch joined the team at Thomas Hill Organics in Paso Robles. The move brought him back full circle to the Central Coast.

His impressive culinary experience began here as a sous chef for mentor and friend Pandee Pearson at Windows on the Water in Morro Bay and Adelina’s Bistro in Nipomo.

“She was the first person who taught me how to shop the farmers markets and change a menu seasonally,” Veatch said.

His next move was north to the Bay Area and to the sweet side of some very high-end kitchens.

Veatch’s first position in pastry was at Sausalito’s Cavallo Point Lodge. He then became the executive pastry chef at the prestigious Saison, a three star Michelin restaurant in San Francisco. A move to the Farmshop in Larkspur brought him back to savory, where he added pizzaiolo (pizza maker) to his resume.

That experience translated to working the wood-fired oven at Camino in Oakland, where chef/owner and Chez Panisse alum Russell Moore became another of Veatch’s most influential mentors.

For Mother’s Day brunch, Veatch suggests an asparagus tartine with chèvre, radishes, soft boiled egg and chive blossoms. The dish celebrates spring with its use of the seasonal asparagus, and the recipe showcases the stellar products of local bakeries such as Hush Harbor Artisan Bakery & Cafe in Atascadero.

Asparagus tartine with chèvre, radish, soft-boiled egg and chive blossoms

Serves 4

1 loaf of crusty bread from Hush Harbor (

1 bunch of asparagus (approximately 12 spears)

8 ounces of chèvre goat cheese (at room temperature)

1 bunch of red radishes

4 eggs

1 lemon

olive oil

grey sea salt

blossoming chives

Pre-heat your oven to broil.

Temper goat cheese on the counter for at least three hours and if possible overnight.

To blanch asparagus, place a 4-quart stock pot filled with water on the stove and turn on high heat. When the water comes to a boil add enough kosher salt to make the water taste like the ocean. Remove the woody ends from the asparagus by gently bending the tip of each spear until it snaps naturally. Cook for approximately 2 minutes or until the asparagus is tender crisp. Run under cold water to stop the cooking process.

For the soft-boiled egg, fill a saucepan with water enough to cover four large eggs, bring it to a boil. Using a spoon, cradle the eggs into the boiling water as gently as possible, so as not to crack the eggs. Reduce the heat to a champagne simmer (the bubbles should look like the ones found in a nice glass of champagne; don’t allow the water to come to a rolling boil during the cooking process) and set a timer for seven minutes. After seven minutes have elapsed, drain the eggs immediately and run them under cold water until they’re cool to the touch. After the eggs have cooled, they can be peeled and quartered.

Slice four pieces of crusty bread across the hemisphere, around  1/2 -inch thick. Place the bread on baking sheet and drizzle two or three tablespoons of a nice California olive oil on the bread and season with grey sea salt. Toast the bread in the broiler, being careful to turn and rotate the bread for even browning.

To assemble the tartine, spread the tempered goat cheese on the warm toasts. Arrange the spears of blanched asparagus and quarters of soft cooked egg on top of the cheese. Slice the radishes thinly into round with a sharp knife and mandolin. In a separate bowl, dress the radishes with olive oil, lemon juice and grey sea salt. Top the asparagus and eggs with the dressed radishes and cut the tartine into pieces. Garnish with chive blossoms, olive oil and freshly cracked pepper.

Dessert: Crème brûlée

Ian McPhee, chef/co-owner, McPhee’s Grill

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The crème brûlée at McPhee's Grill in Templeton Joe Johnston

Chef Ian McPhee has been serving his signature wine-friendly cuisine to Central Coast diners for more than three decades. Most know him from McPhee’s in Templeton, which he and his wife, June, opened 22 years ago in a historic circa 1860 building.

Known for his bold but approachable flavors, McPhee has developed an enthusiastic following with such dishes as ancho chile duck quesadillas, top sirloin served with chimichurri sauce, and jambalaya pasta with shrimp, chicken and Andouille sausage.

As appealing as the savory dishes are, however, this is definitely one of those places where you want to save room for dessert. Among the most popular is “June’s Famous Crème Brûlée,” which McPhee felt would be the perfect end to a Mother’s Day brunch.

Crème brûlée

Serves 8

4 cups heavy cream

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

Pinch of salt

8 egg yolks

 3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons “Sugar in the Raw” Turbinado sugar

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

In a medium saucepan, cook the cream with the vanilla bean and salt over moderate heat until the surface begins to shimmer.

In a large heatproof bowl, blend the egg yolks and the granulated sugar with a wooden spoon. Slowly add the hot cream mixture, stirring gently. Strain the custard into a large measuring cup; skim off any bubbles.

Arrange 8 8-ounce ramekins in a roasting pan. Slowly pour the custard into the ramekins, filling them almost to the top. Set the roasting pan in the center of the oven and carefully pour in enough hot water into the pan to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan loosely with foil and bake for about 1 hour, or until the custards are firm at the edges, but still a bit wobbly in the center.

After the custard has cooled, sprinkle the top of each ramekin with “Sugar in the Raw” and caramelize the sugar with a blow torch (or under the broiler).

Comfort Market

116 West Branch St. (in the Village)

Arroyo Grande


Hours: Wednesday-Sunday 10 a.m.- 8 p.m.

Luna Red

1023 Chorro St.

San Luis Obispo


Hours: Brunch Saturday-Sunday 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Lunch Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., Dinner nightly 5 p.m.-close.

Thomas Hill Organics Bistro & Wine Bar

1313 Park St.

Paso Robles


Hours: Daily; lunch Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; brunch Sunday 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner Monday-Thursday 5-9 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5-10 p.m.

McPhee’s Grill

416 S. Main St.



Hours: Lunch Monday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., dinner nightly at 5 p.m.