In a world that moves at warp speed, most of us can’t seem find the time to take a few hours out of our day to indulge. We wake to a blaring alarm, turn on the TV to bring us up to speed on the latest atrocities, take a quick shower, throw on our clothes and faces and run out the door. We jump in our car or catch a train, bus, or BART while woofing down a power bar, or drive thru a plastic box to eat plastic food with our hands or plastic utensils while gulping down a version of caffeinated swill so that our already whirling brains can keep up to speed with the rat-race. Most of us stir and repeat at lunch (and don’t kid yourself if you brought your homemade Kale salad in your non-BPA container). By the time the Flintstone Toucan bird screams closing time, it’s yabba dabba doo back to the nest, where we will either stop for a bite, or pick up something edible to make at home, and of course...don’t forget the snacks. Either way, I’m betting alcohol is somehow involved in the process. In one form or another, it’s just how it’s always been done. It’s no wonder why most of America is bloated, stressed and alcoholic. The gods looked down on its pathetic people and said “Let’s give them Brunch”!
Okay, so maybe that last part is not exactly true, but along the way, brunch has become that one ritual that allow us to slow down and savour a meal where we will generally find an overabundance of decadence. It’s a time when we are served, rather than serving, socializing with actual, live people, and an opportunity to pair new flavors with familiar tastes. It’s also a time to get out of our comfort zone, try new gastro creations, acceptably drink before noon, and relax.
For many, this is a foreign concept, and you’re right. Brunch originated in the 1890’s in England, where after a Sunday morning of hunting and riding, the royals and upper echelons would enjoy a midday meal of their recently roasted kills and port. Almost 30 years later, it became a guise to drink during prohibition in America, Chicago to be exact. Without the luxury of transcontinental flight, New York to California required a stop at the halfway point, and Chicago had plenty of booze to pair with brunch. Champagne hidden in orange juice, vodka cleverly disguised in spicy tomato juice and whisky in coffee quickly became the standard libation, and it stuck. It is still the staple of our modern day brunch, but there is so much more.
Start your brunch raw. Go ahead and warm up with a crisp sparkling wine like Iron Horse Ocean Reserve. This sparkling wine with small, lingering bubbles smells like green apples and lemon zest. It’s the perfect compliment to oysters and littlenecks on the half shell, cold lump crab and Chèvre cheese. A percentage of the profits goes to National Geographic’s Campaign to preserve and restore the world’s oceans. After all, it is Sunday and this can be your personal contribution to a day of gluttony and decadence.
For the traditionalist, shake things up a bit. So you want your corned beef hash, fried eggs and home fried potatoes. The salty, fattiness of the corned beef, along with bay leaf and peppercorn flavoring, will pair nicely with a light bodied, fruit forward Grenache or perhaps a Sonoma Pinot Noir, or even a dry Columbia Valley Riesling.
Feeling a little nutty? Try a Nutella stuffed French toast made with ladyfingers, layered with bananas, topped with candied hazelnuts and peanut mousse. A California Zinfandel aged in American oak will bring out the banana and vanilla flavors and the jamminess of this wine will compliment the peanut butter mousse...think gourmet PB&J with tons of protein and big juicy alcohol.
A twist on the classic eggs Benedict made with crab cakes instead of English muffins, lobster in place of Canadian Bacon and sweet chili corn, doused with Hollandaise sauce calls for a big, oaky Napa Chardonnay. I can’t sing the praises of Richie Allen’s Rombauer Chardonnay enough. It’s buttery, big and creme brulee flavor will put a smile on your face.
Soul food has come back on the scene with style and more flavor than ever before. Chicken and waffles have long been a favorite. The crispy, breading of good fried chicken, the sweetness of buttermilk waffles, the vinegar bitterness of fresh collards topped with a farm fresh poached egg will confuse even the most savvy sommelier. Light bodied reds like Gamay or Grenache Rose will not overpower these distinctive flavors, but a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is the wine to go to. The zesty lemon/lime and subtle ginger, jalapeno notes will enhance this cornucopia of flavors and be the perfect compliment.
Meat lovers will have a field day pairing wine with bacon, pork sausage, Canadian Ham, Spanish Jamon, Neutze lardon and pork belly. Juan Gil Monastrell is loaded with blue fruit and spicy, cured meat, fennel and cardamom, and smoke. This “Swine and Wine” brunch requires bold flavors with enough acid to cut through the fat. Southern Italy’s Aglianico is just that and more: pepper, black cherry, smoke, game and spiced plum...yum. California Cabernet Sauvignon can be a little tricky. Too much fruit and big tannins may overpower this fat-filled, high protein dish, but a well balance Petite Sirah or Malbec from Argentina will give you all the structure and flavor of a bold red without driving the bus.
As you wind down your food coma, save room for a Late Bottle Vintage Port. Aged for four to six years before being bottled, these delicious after brunch fortified wines are aged twice as long in oak, and half the price of vintage port. They have beautiful plum, berry and caramel notes and pair perfectly with chocolate desserts, fruit tarts and creamy cheeses. Why not go out with a bang.
Now that you are titillated by the possibilities, there are just a few rules to adhere to when indulging, relaxing, and pampering. I know this is hard to understand, but you deserve it.