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RestaurantsSanta Cruz
November 22-29, 2006

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The Chaminade

Photograph by Carlie Statsky
Champagne wishes: Chaminade puts on a brunch worthy of the rich and famous.

Birthday Brunch

The Chaminade's elaborate, satisfying and potentially decadent fare makes any brunch a special occasion

By Selene Latigo

My friend Aubrey and I have a longstanding joint birthday tradition that always includes shared celebrations and self-indulgent events, usually centered around large amounts of food and drink. This year was an important milestone for Aubrey, so we decided to really live it up in style. For our opening event, we made the short trip up to the Chaminade's Sunset Dining Room for a Sunday brunch full of decadent cheer.

This year's Indian summer has been a constant pleasure and I couldn't have pictured a better day to sit at this wide outdoor patio overlooking the clear bay, sparkling as brilliantly as the bubbly champagne in our flutes. We toasted each other to commence the luxuriously slow three-hour feast that ensued. The well stocked, temperature-appropriate and continuously replenished stations featured everything suitable for an elaborate brunch, from salads to meats to eggs to ice cream. We made a preliminary pass to gear up for the overwhelming food decisions ahead, and get a grip on the layout. Although the dining room is quite large, seating a huge volume for special occasion parties and hotel guests, the buffet area felt a bit cramped. Our initial mapping proved useful for informed choices that could have been overseen due to the slightly disjointed nature of the stations. However, every single encounter with the extremely friendly staff proved helpful, genuine and of the highest caliber, creating an easy and welcoming flow to the long morning.

We both began with some slices of fresh, ripe pineapple and melon from the rainbow-hued fruit platter as well as a couple of minicroissants, still warm from the oven, flaky and obscenely buttery. These appetizers, accompanied by Earl Grey tea and mimosas, provided a lovely start to pique our appetites.

My next lap was a smattering of antipasto nibbles. The simply grilled eggplant, peppers and fennel needed a touch of salt but were balanced by the thin prosciutto, mixed olives, massive cloves of roasted elephant garlic, various mustards and cheeses that I sampled alongside. I also tried a little pile of Caesar salad, pleasantly fishy and tart but heavily dressed, as well as some baby greens with unique roasted lemon vinaigrette. Delicate ribbons of lemon zest were tossed with the greens as a cheerful garnish and flavor enhancement.

Aubrey's second plate was titled the "carb platter" with a variety of sweet breakfast temptations. The Belgian waffle was crisp, hot and piled with real whipped cream and strawberries that she selected from the waffle bar. Fat, battered slices of French toast were stuffed with orange-infused ricotta filling and drizzled in apple glaze. The cheese blintzes were taut with thick, creamy and rich cheese, slightly lemony and sweetened with a dab of strawberry compote, a nostalgic dish reminiscent of my nana's tender blintzes.

Moving into the savory realm, I visited the omelette station for an olive, mushroom, green onion and cheese concoction, kindly made to order but cooked with too much oil. I also had a small piece of moist salmon with a rich ancho chile sauce and crème fraîche as well as a couple of simple cheese ravioli, lightly coated in a subtle porcini cream sauce with tiny chunks of portabellas. The grilled potatoes were cut into long fingers and mixed with red peppers and onions, which I topped with the spicy blended salsa with flecks of lively cilantro.

For Aubrey's main selections, she enjoyed the juicy prime rib from the carving station and a perky serving of eggs Benedict, doused in a delicately tangy hollandaise and kept hot in a sturdy stainless steel orb. The seafood pasta salad with penne, baby shrimp and a tricolor dice of peppers was heavy with mayonnaise, so she switched over to the perfectly smoked salmon.

After another glass of champagne and some gossipy interludes we were ready for a trip to the vast dessert station. We passed up the more birthday appropriate ice cream Sunday bar for a plateful of petit fours, cookies, éclairs, chocolate mousse parfait and chocolate roulade that we passed back and forth, joyfully nibbling our way to extreme birthday decadence.

The Chaminade

Address: 1 Chaminade Lane, Santa Cruz

Phone: 800.283.6569

Hours: 10am-1:30pm Sunday

Price Range: $27.95, Sunday brunch.

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