For those of you who have been following Halftime’s Brunch Bracket, you’ve probably been wondering, what is Castano’s Backyard?
Well, so were we. We had to go.
It was an ordinary Sunday at Georgetown. After a night of merriment, I (Graham) rose early, and received a text from Kenneth, querying “Are we still on?” and a text from our Executive Editor, Christopher Castano saying, “We’re getting a later start.”
“Of course,” I responded to Kenneth, “Ok,” to Castano, and fell back asleep. At around 10 AM, Kenneth and I met up and began the long, treacherous trek to T Street.
Upon arrival at Castano’s humble abode, we were greeted by an irate looking chef (“Was that Castano at 11 a.m.?” we wondered), who let us in and demanded to know why we insisted on starting “so goddamn early.”
Not a great start to the brunch, we suppose.
The setting of Castano’s Backyard was actually quite impressive. The table was set atop an elevated balcony, which provided a sweeping (in relative terms) view of Burleith on that tranquil, Sunday mid-morning. An umbrella provided shade from the overcast sky. There were even Christmas lights for anyone who wanted to have brunch at night.
If you were up for it, you could probably spend a maximum of 20 minutes on the picturesque balcony contemplating some serious philosophical stuff, like why ducks do not grow on trees, or why your favorite movies keep disappearing from Netflix.
Unfortunately, we found the hygiene standards of Castano’s Backyard to be disappointing, to say the least. We found an unwelcome used tissue on the ledge of the balcony. The tissue remained unnoticed throughout the entire duration of the brunch by Chef Castano. It was quite worrying. We wondered what kind of dried-up liquid the tissue contained.
We were also worried about our own personal safety. When we inspected the kitchen, we heard some ominous words from Chef Castano: “Don’t light anything. There’s a shitload of natural gas in the room.”
Chef Castano’s assistant, Liz Baker (Castano’s partner-in-crime in the kitchen), was far more amiable than Mr. Castano. She summed up her approach to brunch in one succinct line: “You need a blend of good brunch cop and bad brunch cop.”
Truer words have never been spoken, as Mr. Castano gladly accepted the role of “bad brunch cop.” I politely requested a glass of water while waiting at the table, to which he responded, “Get off your ass and do it yourself. It’s a unique interactive experience.” Furthermore, Mr. Castano’s treatment of Ms. Baker left much to be desired. When Ms. Baker could not locate the salt and pepper to season the delicious scrambled eggs she was preparing, Mr. Castano informed that they were, in fact, “right in front of your goddamn face, Liz,” to which she responded, “This is a hostile work environment.”
However, all was not lost, as both Mr. Castano and Ms. Baker sat with us and made pleasant conversation after serving us the food. This is not a completely redeeming factor, but was nice to experience.
The criteria by which Halftime requires us to review Castano’s Backyard include food quality, food presentation, originality, and “diversity of menu.”
Well, first of all, there was no menu. We didn’t really have a choice of what the eat. And neither were the choices original. Chef Castano and Chef Liz Baker offered us pancakes with Safeway Select® maple syrup, omelettes with cheddar cheese, and some mysteriously fizzy orange juice (the origins of the fizz cannot be revealed in a place like the Georgetown Voice).
Truth be told, the pancakes were amazingly light. You’d know what we would be talking (writing?) about if you’ve ever had a mouthful of half-cooked Betty Crocker batter for breakfast. There was a perfect combination of buttermilk powder and air in the pan-fried cake.
The eggs, too, were tasty. We loved the pleasant addition of the tangy cheddar to the savory yolk. We swear that we wouldn’t be able to reproduce this in the kitchen.
Chef Castano was wise about one thing (surprisingly): Castano’s Backyard is indeed an “unique, interactive experience.” Spending Sunday morning on his balcony made us reconsider what brunch really meant.
Did we really need make deep cuts into our wallet just to savor some “brûléed pink grapefruit” from Farmers Fishers Bakers or “Joghurt Müsli” from Kafe Leopold, or could we settle for a simple, home-cooked plate of eggs with friends around the dining room table?
If food is the window to our souls, then which variation of brunch can really open up our hearts?
Food Quality: 9
Food Presentation: 3
Diversity of Menu: N/A
Brunch Bracket Update: With a final score of -2, Castano’s Backyard beats out Leo’s (-18) and will move onto the next round.