Savory Oatmeal

Hungry and looking to try something new, we stumbled upon the Oakhurst Inn, a boutique hotel just off JPA by UVA’s campus. They’ve been serving breakfast and coffee since May, but just recently branched into lunch (grab and go sandwiches, mainly) and weekend brunch (until 2 p.m.).

I enjoy a lot of options in Charlottesville, and I love the broad access to high quality food, but I’m always left a little uninspired by my options. There aren’t that many places in town that are inventive and good (especially not at moderate price points).

Until now.

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The menu was well-curated, with both savory and sweet brunch options. It is rare that I am interested in every. single. item. on the menu, but I would have ordered anything they had on offer. Some were classic items (bacon, egg, and cheese on an Albemarle Baking Company butter roll), while others offered a slight twist on tradition: buckwheat shortcakes with vanilla-marinated berries and ginger whipped cream, for example. And a few were just…different.

Oatmeal is normally associated with sweet, right? Oatmeal with brown sugar, oatmeal cookies, etc. But, just like rice and corn, it can go both sweet and savory routes. Oakhurst Inn offered a savory twist: buttered steel cut oats topped with black beans, harissa, golden beets, curried yogurt, and avocado.

Michael immediately said, “OH, I know what you’re getting! This has everything you like!”

And, it did. Buuuuut….on oatmeal? What the what? I was apprehensive. What if it was too weird? (And this, my friends, is why I loved Oakhurst Inn – never, at any other restaurant in Charlottesville, have I seen something that intrigued me, sounded delicious, and simultaneously made me a bit uncomfortable at how different it was. Sometimes you want comfort food, and sometimes you want a restaurant to show you things you never thought of and impress you with how amazing they are.)

After a moment of reticence, I ordered it. And of course I ordered the optional poached egg. Did you really think I’d pass up an opportunity to “put an egg on it”? Please.

And it was divine. Michael finds too much savory a weird thing for breakfast, but I love concoctions. I love having lots of little flavors floating around, being able to try them individually, and then smoosh them together into something new and different, yet still the same. It’s why I love breakfast hashes and putting eggs on top of things.

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I liked it so much I even tried to recreate it at home this morning! (It wasn’t nearly as good, but it was still delicious). If you do go the DIY route, here are my suggestions:

  1. Use steel cut oats or whole oat groats if you have them, and generously salt and butter them. You want them more like you would make grits. The steel cut or whole oat groats have some heft and texture to them.
  2. To make the curried yogurt sauce, use plain yogurt and mix in curry powder, salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste. Lightly toss your beets in this.
  3. Harissa – there are a bunch of recipes online or you can buy pastes in the store. I tried a jarred paste that I didn’t care for (too salty). Whole Foods sells a jar of dried harissa spice blend that you can mix with olive oil to form a paste; this may be the best option for when you want to control salt and only want a small amount!
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