CSULB Alumna Serves Seasonality and Sustainability at Wide Eyes Open Palms Pop-Up
WORDS & PHOTOS BY: GABRIELA MUNGARRO
I’m sitting near a giant window that beautifully lets in rays of sunlight, illuminating the east wing of a Korean BBQ restaurant on a Friday morning. With the soothing sounds of Peggy Lee and Bella and Sebastian records softly playing in the background and the welcoming smell of herbs, coffee and freshly baked food lingering in the air, I’m all the more sure that this is where I was destined to eat.
Although I’m not here for the BBQ or tofu Sura Korean BBQ is known for, instead I’m here for a completely different type of food— incredible coffee and mind-blowing organic cooking that Wide Eyes Open Palms has become widely recognized for. Chef Kat McIver and barista Angie Evans, who is a Cal State Long Beach alumna, run the amazing WEOP.
But why did I come to a BBQ place to eat WEOP’s food you may ask? Well that’s because WEOP has been housed here for the past 6 weeks operating as a pop-up and, lucky for me, I got to catch them on one of their last days here.
Warmly greeted and handed a menu, I can easily visualize how WEOP’s brick and mortar will look like in a near future and I already dream for that day to rapidly approach, but for the time being you can find them at their weekly pop-ups at the Alamitos Bay and Bixby Park farmers markets.
As a newcomer and overwhelmed by the many possibilities the menu offers, I began with their crowd favorite the Simple Egg + Toast, but this was anything but simple. Consisting of an exquisite soft-boiled egg, straight from the farm, and accompanied by a handmade biscuit and a truly exceptional salad, this was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. As I take a bite into the soft-boiled egg, there is a perfect consistency of bold flavors and natural savor.
Personally, I do not enjoy the taste of soft-boiled eggs and have probably only ate two in my 23-year existence; however, after tasting this one I have become a devoted fan. The spinach, parsley and arugula salad is mixed with cherry vinaigrette that compliments the sprouted lentils, radishes and carrots making for an extraordinary blend and enriching taste with the egg and biscuit. This plate will surely make a salad lover out of anyone.
While I’m finding the will power to seem as if I hadn’t purposely starved myself to eat here (which I did) I spot Evans pouring a concoction that I believe my taste buds were not prepared for— the Shmancy Coffee Soda. This brilliant drink is made as a cold brew concentrate with sparkles, a Luxardo cherry, bitters and orange zest served in a mason jar. Yes, coffee and soda intertwined resembling an Old Fashioned. The aftertaste of the sparkling soda and hints of coffee were the cause for my immediate happiness. To all you whiskey lovers, this is one you MUST try.
As if this all weren’t enough McIver then proceeds to bring another plate, at this point I’m not nearly finished with the Egg + Toast when I have yet another exquisite plate awaiting me, the Seedy Almond Granola + Yogurt. With the perfect balance of bitter and sweet taste prepared with gluten free, bee-gran granola and Straus yogurt topped with apples, this dish is incredibly satisfying and filling.
I am now halfway done with the Shmancy and the rest of my tasty food when Kat places a third dish, one that I had never encountered before—the Sweet Fall Tartine. I’m in heaven, and if this isn’t it then it’s pretty damn close. Tartine, which is French for open-faced sandwich, is created with freshly baked bread delivered daily with handmade ricotta spread over it and topped with slices of persimmons, scattered hazelnuts, pomegranate and buckwheat honey. But what else can accompany this incredible dish to make it even better? Yup, you guessed it…more coffee!
Angie brings me WEOP’s top crowd-pleaser, the Rosemary Latté. It’s easy to see why the Rosemary is such a hit, being that its also cold brewed and served on the rocks, which helps preserve the taste rather than being blended—which they don’t do to any of their drinks. The latté has the perfect amount of rosemary syrup that fuses with the coffee in a refreshingly new way. Housing award winning roasters and rotating between Kuma, Four Barrel and Ritual, she has now gone as far as to exclusively make me a warm cup of Columbian and Kenyan holiday mix, and I’m so thankful she did for it was the perfect ending to a delicious morning.
Now, it’s important to keep in mind that all the ingredients WEOP uses are entirely fresh, organic and handmade. This means everything used is seasonal and therefore prone to change— which makes it all the more enticing to try. The quality of the food is superb, making it a tour de force that will undoubtedly make you a loyal patron.
Not only is this wonderful duo exceptional at their craft but their humble attitudes are also inspiring. The two highly believe in a healthy and innocuous environment and try their best to promote it by composting all of the food, coffee and tea waste at a local farm.
Regulars come for the food but stay for the company, while newbies place their complete confidence in the hands of Kat and Angie. As much as I’d like to keep this as my secret breakfast joint, it is impossible to do so. Wide Eyes Open Palms will make it unbearable for you to resist telling everyone about them, the food, the coffee and the service. Good luck finding a better breakfast eatery, I dare you to try!