I get wildly excited by the prospect of going to brunch because very little effort is required on my part. All I have to do is eat; people watch, give and receive gossip. I’ve called a friend to join me and she’s obliged without much persuasion. Folks, you need a sidekick like that, one who doesn’t need cajoling to do things with you. Her only requirement is that the restaurant serves mimosas. I think we can manage that. You want to be like the cool cats and girls who brunch, wearing oversized sunglasses, socially conscious tees that say things like “Hands off our Elephants” or “Free Tibet” even though you don’t know who or where Tibet is, flirty sundresses with sandled feet showing French manicured toe nails or jeans.
We are meeting at 360 Degrees Pizza and I’m a little early. The brunch thing is recent for them, about three weeks old and I’m stoked to try it out. It’s a beautiful place to eat, the decor my kind of thing, part industrial part modern. There’s the wall gallery of intriguing photos of steering wheels and blueprints in black and white and sepia. The light fixtures look like they are powered with gas not electricity. It’s hard to miss the behemoth that’s the wood burning oven. I walk up to the guy who’s working on it, feeding it wood and pizza dough. His name is Gilbert and he’s the pizza don here. He knows all there is to know about pizza and I’m surprised that there’s quite a bit to know. He calls me around to where he is and tells me about the month he spent in Italy learning his craft. The difference between good pizza and shit pizza is the flour, and the variety he uses, Caputo, has been named by some as the ‘godfather of flour”. Gilbert loves it because it is finely ground and has the consistency of baby powder, things I’ve never cared about when eating a pizza but I now feel compelled to because of Gilbert’s enthusiasm in describing it. I almost want to dab some flour under my armpits to feel its baby powder consistency. The end result of course is a nice, thin, crackly crust that’s crispy on the edges and chewy where it needs to be.
But wait, there’s more, the tomatoes too are special. Also imported from Italy, they are grown in the volcanic ash that is spewed from Mt. Vesuvius. A claim to fame that’s hard to compete with. You can say anything and add Mt. Vesuvius to it and you win hands down.
-I flew over Mt. Vesuvius
-I proposed to my girlfriend at the base of Mt. Vesuvius
-I took a dump on Mt. Vesuvius
You get the drift, it’s an important place.
So these tomatoes are tangy and acidic, deeply red in colour and possibly blessed by the Vatican and make the delicious pizza base. And the cheese rounding up the assembly is made from buffalo milk. How do you even begin to milk a buffalo?! Where do you find it? I think National Geographic needs to pay me to do a show on that very subject. It’s in this trinity of ingredients and other toppings that Gilbert wants you to say with every bite of his pizza, “f**k, this is the best pizza”. My friend arrives in time to pry me away from Gilbert and his increasingly hot oven.
Air kisses and compliments follow suit. We pick a strategic table inside so we can maximize on the people watching. Our waitress comes by with the menu as we prattle on. Our eyes quickly zero in on the cocktail section, drinking at 10am is an acceptable almost required part of brunch culture, one that we are loath to change. We order the mimosas and I wonder to myself if they serve them in doubles, you know like when you order a Tusker Lite, the waiter brings you two bottles because of how quickly he assumes you’ll drink them. This assumption should be applied to mimosas too. There’s something seductive about drinking mimosas, it’s either the champagne flutes they are served in or the bubbles rising hypnotically in the glass and exploding in your mouth. It’s difficult to be in a bad mood while drinking mimosas.
Our waitress slithers away to get those while we mull over what we shall eat. We chat importantly about everything and nothing. Like what we did for the holidays. She spent part of hers in Nanyuki at Mt. Kenya Safari club, the nights were chilly and bonfires were lit and what a wonderful place it is over there. I spent mine in Kigali, attending a wedding conducted in languages I didn’t understand, but was epically beautiful all the same. On spouses, she left hers watching their kid, I left mine wondering how soon I’d be back with some food because there was only a dried out lemon in the fridge this morning. Being a new year we are also committed to a diet and fitness regime that will finally exorcise the cellulite on our thighs that is diminishing our market value.
This diet is going to have to start after today though because the first of the brunch spread has come out. Eggs Benedict served on a bed of English muffin and potatoes, with ham and hollandaise sauce. The perfect hollandaise sauce is an emulsion of butter, egg yolks and water, whisked together into a perfect almost satin-like creamy sauce that you might want to do two things with. One: apply on yourself and have someone lick it off, you know like foodie foreplay. Two: drink it straight out of a shot glass. Unconventional applications, true, but who’s judging you? Then there’s the vegetable frittata, a triangular and pillowy wedge of spinach and eggs that trembles when you move it or touch it, now that’s a good frittata. There are so many variables to consider when making a frittata and it’s tricky but the person who prepared this one is a wizard who has made me forget about Gilbert and his pizza. We taste and chew and as we take in the flavours, it’s silent like a graveyard between funerals. Delicious is an understatement. The manager comes by to see if we are doing alright, we nod and at the same time point at our empty mimosa glasses, he knows what to do with them.
In between bites, I tell her the tantalizing tale of the week I have had at work. I got a visit from a couple, a baby and an older woman for a routine paternity test. The man meticulously dressed was sweaty and fidgety. The baby sucked generously on his mother’s tit while she chewed absent-mindedly on her gum. The older lady with her wig hat slightly askew was the mother’s aunt. They sat there staring at me like I had the keys to the kingdom. I had met the man prior to this visit where he explained in exquisite detail the dilemma he was in. He was engaged to be married, to someone else not the baby mama. He had gone through the rigmarole of visits and dowry payments and his wedding was 3 months away. Then baby mama and her brothers turned up, demanding that he do right by her and he wasn’t even sure that the baby was his because he’d only been with this chic that one time, or maybe two but the times were few. I told him the only way to know for sure was to do the paternity test. The test results that they came to pick up this week, revealed that he was the daddy. The guy was in a furu furu condition as the colour drained from his face and suit. The aunt and her wig hat each thanked a deity, the baby mama lolled internally. Hectic!
This story is proof positive that as humans we willingly invite suffering into our lives, just like the one we are about to experience from the caramelized banana crepes that our waitress has just brought. Forget all the glorious things I didn’t say about the frittata and eggs, these lacy, nutella filled ensembles are the truth. If you ever find yourself on death row, like the meticulously dressed baby daddy who might have to kill one of the women in his life to hide the truth, then these crepes should be your last meal. You’ll have this silly smile about you like you’ve just been laid, making for a painless execution.
We also ordered a calzone, a stuffed pizza which is baked in the wood burning oven which I have nicknamed Lucille… (the mimosas have made their way to my brain). Our calzone is stuffed with bacon, eggs onions, chilli flakes and cheese. I think we would have enjoyed if more if we weren’t already stuffed from everything else we had eaten. We basically toyed with this one and didn’t give it the proper reception that it deserved. I was also comparing this calzone with one I had had several years ago. The latter was saucier, more cheese and sauce and one meat. I liked that version better.
It’s about 2pm when we slowly peel ourselves off the seats, the first time we are moving since we sat. Our waitress is trying to get us to stay a little while longer by offering their homemade gelato with caramel sauce. Tempting but we decline, we will simply have to come back to try it. That won’t be difficult to do, there’s more on this menu that’s on my to-try list, food pics to take and post on FB or IG and make friends jealous at all the new money I seem to be spending on mimosas and gelatos. Like Arnold, I’ll be back.