A champagne brunch.
Brunch, as a word, was probably coined in Great Britain around 1900. Within 30 years, it had crossed the Atlantic Ocean to the United States, where brunch, as a meal, began to be enjoyed privately in a few homes. It went public on April 10, 1941, when the Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York City advertised the first restaurant brunch at $1 per person to be served from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Since then, its popularity has gone in one direction only--up. And its serving hours have gotten longer--from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Brunch is a natural bridge for churchgoers after service, as well as morning joggers ready to eat a leisurely meal following a strenuous workout. And those who work long hours under intense pressure during the week relish the easy spirit this two-meals-in-one offers as a way to spend a Sunday.
Brunch foods are as varied and all-inclusive as the idea of brunch itself. Egg-based dishes, however, are the backbone of most brunch menus: omelets with smoked turkey or pheasant; poached eggs on a baked potato stuffed with chopped ham and chives; mint frittata; crabmeat quiche, lobster souffle; and French toast with a touch of Grand Marnier added to the batter. Dishes without eggs include oyster casserole; marinated shrimp and chicken; apple pancakes; seafood en brochette; and grillades of pounded veal round with grits and green peppers and Creole sauce.
Brunch foods are light, and so are the drinks served with them. Vodka is in many such drinks, such as the Bloody Mary (vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce and ground pepper) and the Salty Dog (vodka, grapefruit juice and coarse salt).
But one of the most celebrative, elegant, versatile and popular brunch drinks is champagne. Champagne-based drinks such as a Mimosa (champagne and orange juice) or champagne punch (champagne poured over lemon or orange sherbet in a punch bowl) are delightful accompaniments to a brunch menu. Mixed drinks and punches call for non-vintage champagnes. Among the many good choices are Moet & Chandon, Charles Heidsieck, Piper Heidsieck, Jacquart, Ayala and Taittinger La Francaise. Prices range from $12 to $35 per bottle.
To savor alone, try a vintage champagne from Pol Roger, Krug, Laurent Perrier, Bollinger, Taittinger, Moet & Chandon, Brut Imperial and Perrier Jouet Fleur de Champagne. Prices average $36 to $90.
If your brunch is a special celebration and the number of guests is small, consider a Grande Marque, the best a champagne house has to offer. Choose Cuvee Dom Perignon, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne, Mumm's Grand Cordon, Roederer Cristal and Veuve Clicquot Grande Dame. Expect to pay up to $100 per bottle and occasionally a bit more.
What style of champagne should you buy? Brut champagne is dry, crisp and classic. Blanc de Blancs is made entirely of the white Chardonnay grape. A rose is rich and fruity and especially good with veal and chicken and other fowl dishes. Whichever you choose, champagne will give an effervescent lift to your next brunch.