Sept. 20 2011 06:25 PM

Del Mar spot offers million-dollar people watching and a breakfast value

The wild-mushroom scramble
Photo by Jenny Montgomery

I love September in San Diego. Tourism has relaxed a bit, the Santa Anas have yet to kick in and the bright and mild real summer weather begins. It's the perfect atmosphere for taking in a meal on the water to remind you why we all pay the sun tax to live here. Del Mar isn't my usual haunt, and perhaps not yours, but a breakfast on the terrace at Pacifica Breeze Café in the Del Mar Plaza Shopping Center just might change your mind if you're looking for a relaxed and civilized morning.

After you're done shopping at the head-scratchingly named Peaches En Regalia (wait, you don't shop there?), PBC is waiting to fill your belly with fare that's a bit more casual than its sister restaurant, Pacifica, on the upper levels of the center.

Order your food and get your own drinks at the counter, but settle in to relax and enjoy the ocean view while waiting for the friendly PBC crew to bring you your food. It's fun to pop a squat among the informal, yet well-heeled, locals and engage in good, old-fashioned people watching (aka “judging”). I'm partial to quietly huffing to myself like an old lady about “these young gals in their designer dresses that they definitely can't afford on their PR-assistant salaries—now where is my mocha?” But, you know, do your own thing.

The sugar-spiced salmon hash is a don't-skip on the menu, with dark, caramelized sugar drizzled over fresh hunks of bright-pink salmon and salty nubs of feta cheese. Green onions and cilantro give the whole thing a bit of bite, and it's topped with two quivering poached eggs, the yolks from which eventually coat the dish in a luscious, velvety sauce.

I'm wary of restaurant omelettes, as they tend to be oversized and overloaded, and by the time they're cooked, the delicate eggy pocket it should be is now covered in smelly brown spots and sporting a chewy and unappealing texture. Not so at Pacifica Breeze Café. The spinach-and-brie omelette is a great example of how to do it well, with a Popeye-pleasing quantity of spinach cooked throughout the egg, not just folded inside of it, and a healthy layer of gooey brie giving every bite a nice tang. What made the omelette extra fun was a light, yet impactful, drizzle of orange-hollandaise sauce. The sweetness of the orange was a unique twist on the traditional tangy lemon, and a hint of cayenne in the sauce gave the creamy dressing a bit of heat, a lovely and unexpected addition to a plate with a lot of bitter spinach on it.

The basic scramble also gets thoughtful treatment here. Now that we're heading into mushroom season, be sure to check out the three-egg wild-mushroom scramble. Again, there are great contrasting flavors on the plate that most breakfast places don't have to bother thinking about, but PBC takes the time to turn up the volume a bit on your morning meal. The dusty-tasting (in a good way) mushrooms pair quite well with peppery arugula and sweet caramelized onions. Mixed up with tender, scrambled eggs and tied together with a tastes-like-a-garden pesto hollandaise, this is a hearty vegetarian dish that doesn't feel lacking in beefiness.

I've pondered the breakfast and brunch question before and feel that our town is lacking in variety and quality for early-in-the-day dining options. Pacific Breeze Café fills the bill in terms of taste, variety and a million-dollar setting that won't set you back an arm and a finely tanned leg.

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