It all began as a hangover cure. In 1895, English writer Guy Beringer coined the word—a portmanteau of breakfast and lunch—in an essay, “Brunch: A Plea.” His idea that this hybrid meal could begin with breakfast-like foods to ease the digestive system into richer dishes that followed, and, most importantly, could be acceptably chased with a little hair of the dog, didn’t catch on in America until the 1930s. Now, it’s hallowed fare that can come in the form of a groaning buffet augmented by action stations where omelets, pancakes and other favorites are made a la minute…and as a weekend menu that can range across lox, bagels and cream cheese and Oysters Rockefeller to huevos rancheros, and country ham and grits. Here’s a brunch sampler from leading hotels.
Auberge Du Soleil, Rutherford, California
The Michelin-starred dining room at this destination hotel overlooking Napa Valley offers an impeccably sourced, three-course brunch that begins with house-made pastries and artisanal breads, proceeds to preparations such as sauteed foie gras with pineapple, pain perdu, cashews and ginger, and then veers to either sweet (buttermilk pancakes with blueberries, applewood-smoked bacon and maple syrup) or savory (duck confit hash and slow-cooked farm eggs topped by red wine sauce).
The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida
Ocean views, high frescoed ceilings, a strolling harpist and free-flowing champagne are part of what makes Sunday brunch at this Italian Renaissance-style property’s The Circle so over the top. Then there’s eggs Benedict, baby lamp chops and carved beef. And Alaskan king crab legs, sushi and caviar. Oh, and save room for the 30 or so decadent desserts. It’s a tradition that dates back more than a quarter-century.
Four Seasons Hotel Chicago
At Allium in this distinguished landmark on the Windy City’s Gold Coast, a bottomless mimosa would be a good way to start…and finish. Perhaps accompanied from the a la carte menu by Lobster Nachos, Brioche French Toast (with cardamom whipped cream) and Maine Lobster Benedict. A sinful Surf & Turf Burger features a crispy lobster claw, Angus beef and pork belly over a fried egg, topped with avocado mayo.
The Carlyle, New York City
Brunch at the famed Fifth Avenue hotel starts with sparkly prosecco. Then, may we suggest Carlyle Lobster Bisque or chef-selected East Coast oysters on the half shell? Afterward, are we in the mood for classic Croque Madame (Parisian ham, gruyere cheese and Mornay sauce on brioche, plus a sunny-side egg)? No? Then perhaps a Belgian-style waffle. Then, among eight desserts, who can resist Chocolate Bombe (chocolate and hazelnut mousse with hazelnut dacquoise)?