Our delightful friend Susan who manages Oaklandlocal invited us to an event at Cafe 817 in Old Oakland, our old stomping grounds. Cafe 817 has been of the stalwart businesses of Old Oakland. In fact my first real experience of Old Oakland was eating at Cafe 817. I was at Creating Change, a conference for LGBTQ activists years and years ago when it was held in downtown Oakland and me and a few friends were sick of conference food and happened upon Cafe 817. At that time I thought it was a nice place to get a breakfast pastry and a sandwich. It’s been a fairly solid place to eat and a good place to take mothers from out of town who don’t eat much and want something light for breakfast.
But upon leaving Old Oakland, Cafe 817 kind of went to the further reaches of my mind. One of my things about it was the service was efficient but that was it. Being only open for breakfast and lunch it was hard to go there if I didn’t live there. Cut to – Cafe 817 changing ownership last March and then Susan inviting us to a get-to-know-you brunch the owners were throwing for Oakland bloggers.
I’m so glad I said yes to the invitation because the food, which was already solid, went up a notch. There’s more hearty fare on the menu and I think the flavors are less European continental and more Bay Area. Owners Scott and Emily Goldenberg use their skills as line chefs at the legendary Zuni cafe to up the flavor ante.
On the table was crusty levain bread with three different kinds of toppings – kiwi jam, pear butter, and apricot marmalade. These were definitely interesting flavors that you wouldn’t get anywhere else. We then were treated to meal of the breakfast offerings.
First up was the homemade honey yogurt with homemade granola. This was perfectly executed. The yogurt was creamy and rich without being heavy and it wasn’t too sweet. The granola was nutty and crunchy and not too sweet as well. After that, was the poached egg, toasted levain, and olivada (a tapenade-like olive paste). I am REALLY picky about my egg yolks. I can do scrambled eggs any which way and be fine but I HATE cooked egg yolks. I really hate the nasty pasty texture of a cooked egg yolk. So hooray to Cafe 817 whose Italian egg steamer made a perfectly poached egg with a completely runny yolk. It was perfect with the olive paste.
Next was the home brined and cured corned beef hash with poached eggs. This was a great addition to the menu which had previously been a bit spare and insubstantial. This dish was a bit salty but full of flavor. Quick note – this is on their Friday and Saturday menu.
Finally we were served the warm ham and cheese sandwich with mostarda di frutta. Boy o boy was this well balanced. The saltiness of the ham paired well with the sweetness of the mostarda and the nuttiness of the local gruyere. And it was served panini style but the bread was much more tender than your regular panini.
Actually the final bit of food was chocolate chip cookies in gift bags. J swears by them.
P.S. Here’s what Oakland local had to say about the brunch.