I’ve been cooking breakfast professionally for more than 25 years. In fact, I’ve cooked so many breakfasts, the smell of maple syrup makes me a little queasy and the sight of a waffle iron makes me want to lie down with a cool cloth on my forehead.
So when reader Joan Duncan wrote and asked about the best wines to serve with a holiday brunch, I thought it would be a snap.
Not so much. I started with a simple omelet, with a bit of cheese and a few vegetables. After cooking it, I sat down at the restaurant and poured samples of six kinds of wine.
Not one of the wines I tried was particularly good with the omelet, and a few were awful. All the reds I sampled (merlot, cabernet sauvignon and syrah) weren’t egg friendly, stepping on the more delicate flavors of the dish and creating an odd mouth feel.
The whites fared better, with chardonnay picking up a bit of the buttery flavor of the eggs and sauvignon blanc a tart counterpoint to the richness of the eggs. But they still weren’t terrific. The goal of pairing food and wine is to make both the food and the wine taste better.
It was time to go back to the drawing board. Eggs have a mouth-coating quality and a distinctive flavor, whether they’re in an omelet, frittata, eggs Benedict or an egg casserole. I shook down everyone I work with for suggestions and ran an admittedly unscientific experiment, using Johnson & Wales students as a control group.
We decided that eggs Benedict was the quintessential brunch dish, so we tried the dish with five white or blush (rose) wines, and for fun, two mixed drinks. Among the wines, the blush wines were the clear winners, with white zinfandel (which has a bit of sweetness), and a dry rose the hands-down favorites, beating out chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and a sweet Riesling by a landslide.
The pink wines, whether sweet or dry, seemed to find the right balance. They were intriguing with the dish and could stand up to the eggs, but didn’t overwhelm them.
But I must confess that the best pairs of the day were Mimosas and Bloody Marys. I wish I could have found the perfect breakfast wine, but no luck. I reported to Duncan that her best option would be a pretty pitcher of Mimosas.