I am sure that all of you are familiar with that classic country song “I’m so hungover, I think I’m gonna die “ Sunday Brunch can either be a very low rent event with the hope of elevating you to something just a little better, or a glorious celebration of the fact that it is a day that you can do whatever you want.
TOMASSO’S CANTEEN, 18 Hampshire St, Portland, Maine. The real deal locals bar in the age of gentrification. “Compact, down to earth neighborhood bar”. After sliding up to the bar and sitting next to the old timers in their vintage Carhart’s and weathered watch caps, nursing Nasty Gansets and shot glasses filled with unidentifiable brown liquids, your Nor’easter of a hangover hopefully, is beginning to subside. Their hash is a golden grease laden goo of life saving comfort that you can accompany with a glass of Porta 6 red wine right out of the spigot from the 3 Liter box on the bar.
At $5.00 for a large glass, this easy going red from Portugal is nectar beside the hot, steaming hash. You could say “hey, this is a delightful blend of 50% Aragones, 40%Castelao and 10% Touriga National grapes”, but then it wouldn’t be Tomasso’s, now would it? Damn, it tastes just like a French Beaujolais. Could I get a koozie with that?
CHAVAL, 58 Pine Street, Portland, Maine. For hungover Sunday, I enjoy their breakfast buns (or avocado toast for the hipster set). Their beverages of electricity are their superb selection of that forgotten beverage- Spanish Sherry. They are a Spanish restaurant, after all. When was the last time you had a rare “Palo Cortado” (Gonzalez Byass), $7.00 a glass? “Nobody fully understands its origin” (Sherry Institute). The cellar masters must root through casks to find this rare and delicious sherry. Dry? Sweet? Unctuous? All at the same time. You can sit at their fancy bar, wearing your best flamenco hat, while transporting yourself in your mind to the Plaza de Toro’s in Sevilla. You could bring along that culinary masterpiece Adventures in Taste: The Wines and Folk Foods of Spain by D.E.Pohren, the 1972 edition. Required reading is the Author’s Preface “I must confess that on occasion, one or another of my organs has had cause for open rebellion. Spokesman for the group is my liver, who familiarly calls me “boss” and who is not above the most outspoken criticism when it feels it is being abused.” Cool Sunday.
PETITE JACQUELINE, 46 Market St., Old Port, Portland, Maine. This is where you go after you open your Saturday mail and discover that your 401K just took off in value. It isn’t an expensive place, unless you want it to be, after spending Saturday nite genuflecting over your newfound riches. Traitor’s Eggs (poached eggs, Maine lobster, Hollandaise sauce, spinach on English muffin) $24.00 is my idea for a dish to celebrate the event. Lobster over the top of perfect sauce and gooey eggs deserves special accompaniment. Time for the wine: this is one of the great small French wine list creations you are likely to encounter. It shows care, thought and precision. The hard part is to not get a terrific wine from this list. “The French didn’t invent wine, they just perfected it” (me).
Since you are in a celebratory mood, we can bag the idea of wines by the glass and head directly to bottles (by the way, bring friends).
Nicolas Potel Macon- Villages (chardonnay), 2013, $38.00 bottle. Good introduction to the white wine of the Burgundy region. No oak, light, crisp with a bit of minerals in its flavor. Like a magician showing you a simple magic trick. Good with the dish.
Albert Bichot Montagny (1st Cru) (chardonnay), 2014, $60.00. You have just moved a step up from Macon. The flavors are more defined, the vineyards are better placed. Better with the dish.
Matrot Meursault (chardonnay), 2016, $90.00. Burgundy is defined by place name and producer- paying attention to both won’t save you money (come’on, they are expensive), but if you do your Burgundian due diligence, you can get a much better bottle for the same bucks. The wine brings the flavors of almonds, apples, butter, citrus, hazelnuts, with your lobster and Hollandaise sauce crying all over the plate in a fit of glorious ecstasy. Give it another five years of bottle age and you won’t be able to crawl out of the restaurant due to your wine induced emotional fatigue. (NOTE: I do wish that they would put that astonishing Bourgogne Blanc by Matrot back as a glass pour. Best $11.00 bucks spent. Just saying.)
If your guests want a bit less intense wine brunch experience, you can tone it down a notch.
Eugene Meyer Pinot Blanc, Alsace, 2016, $35.00. Pinot blanc from Alsace is both dry and a little quieter than the Burgundies. They are crisp, delicate and soothing and act as a palate cleanser to both lobster and sauce since there is no Freudian obsession with the flavor of earth here as exists in Burgundy.
Just in case someone wants a duck confit crepe ($13.00), there is the M. Chapoutier Cotes du Rhone by the glass at $9.00. It is mostly grenache grapes and is totally juicy, delicious, cool weather warming wine. The grenache is one of the most user-friendly grapes with duck confit. FYI- they have the iconic IPA Maine Beer Co. Lunch on tap continuously, for the beer geek in your life.
Aside from our 401K thank you brunch, we have attended several of their special regional food and wine pairing dinners. They are awesome.
(EDITORS NOTE: Layne is a professional in the wine business with over 30 years of experience. He can be reached at email@example.com for talks and consulting. His website is https://winemaniacs.wordpress.com/. He will be doing wine events at Port City Blue 650 A Congress St. “Layne’s Wine Gig” is a tasting, rollicking standup beginning February 8th from 4:30-5:30 P.M. Every 2nd Friday of the month. There will be merch. Call them at 774-4111 for info.)