If there’s one thing I’ve discovered San Francisco and New York have in common it is definitely the enjoyment of brunch. During my 9 years living in NYC, brunch took on an almost religious routine in my life: the weary and ravenous gathering together for a hodgepodge of sustenance and the hair-of-the-dog. Brunch in San Francisco is equally regular and revered albeit a shade or two more healthful. Personally, I love the brunches at Nopa and Foreign Cinema and am always impressed with the balance on the menus of sinful and more saintly options. However, what’s a new experience for me, is that it’s an event hosted at home. Eating in an apartment in New York is a bit too close quarters for most people, especially for the fully pickled rough-and-ready residents of the boroughs. But in San Francisco where square footage is more plentiful, though certainly not less expensive, it’s an opportunity to share home cooking in an intimate and unhurried setting.
Accomplished amateur mixologists notwithstanding, often I’m being employed to choose wines for such occasions, whether it be my own or for one of my customers. Here’s what I’ve enjoyed during weekend brunches past which I hope will be a source of inspiration for upcoming late-morning, weekend meals.
This past weekend my beautiful wife surprised me with last minute brunch plans with friends at our house. Though I love being the head chef of the family, her plans roughly translate to me being booked as a personal chef in the morning hours before I go to work. When I need to make a meal for a group in a pinch that is easy, has minimal ingredients and holds well, I turn to Tortilla Espanola. One of my favorite tapas when I was living in Spain was room temperature wedges of simply seasoned potato and onion held together by egg. It’s a subtle, but filling dish that provides a rich base for a number of adult morning beverages.
My choice for a morning that the more egg-centric brunchers will enjoy is a fruity Lambrusco, the often misunderstood sparkling red wine of Italy. On this occasion, we drank the 2017 Medici Ermete Lambrusco Concerto, a bright sparkling purple wine filled with fresh, ripe flavors of juicy strawberries, soft raspberries and blackberries, with a gentle touch of sour cherry at the end. If you have a sweet tooth in the morning use a lambrusco instead of a still wine to make an AM Sangria. Swap out the brandy for a half-bottle of blood orange vermouth if you can find it.
I’m all for going against the grain with wine pairings, but one I will happily not is breakfast and riesling. Riesling, with its spring-like floral, fresh fruit qualities, invigorating acidity and touch of residual sugar is almost a breakfast in itself. Take the 2017 Muller-Catoir “Haardt” Riesling for instance. Though this bottling is a dry trocken style, it has tightly wound, but still ripe, meyer lemon and tangerine notes that juxtapose nicely with a whole range of brunch favorites. In a previous post, I celebrated the bounty of citrus winter brings to San Francisco. What better meal to feature such peak of the season produce than a brunch salad of bitter chicories, Cara Cara oranges and honey-spiked citrus mustard vinaigrette. The fruit and acidity of the wine meet the bitterness of escarole and Castelfranco radicchio at its apex, which has the effect of taming both extremes.
Finally, for those, like myself, are more savory brunchers the sweeter beverages served often feel inappropriate. I love Bloody Marys and micheladas as much as anyone but those also don’t feel like a symbiotic and seamless pairings for dishes like chicken fried steak or a medium-rare breakfast burger. If the occasion calls for it, I don’t think we should be afraid of entertaining a red wine for brunch. Something light makes the most sense, particularly something with gentle fruit and minerality like the alpine wines of Italy.
Giuseppe Mascarello’s 2016 Langhe Freisa “Toetto” is one that I thoroughly enjoyed recently that would work. Freisa is a relative of Nebbiolo that produces tannic, but still delicate wine with a remarkable nose of strawberries, violets and roses. On the palate, the fruit is translated to a mineral-nuanced flavor with touches of briar and herbs making it a textural complement to rich dishes with beef or pork.
If it’s a meal shared with friends then it’s a meal that deserves wine, no matter the time of day. Now that I’m fully starving and my own Saturday brunch plans are still a full day away I wish all of you a happy weekend and delicious brunching.