Champagne Brunch

Galley and Garden’s Sunday brunch is a time-honored classic.

By Jan Walsh

Growing up, my hometown had no Sunday brunch offerings. Few restaurants were open on Sunday other than the Dairy Queen. So, my first restaurant brunch experience was as a teen, at a little hole in the wall, in Birmingham. Here cheap sparkling wine was promoted as “Champagne Brunch.” And although it was not impressive, the idea of bubbles with brunch became hardwired in my brain that day.

Today’s champagne brunch is at Galley and Garden, one of the most beautiful restaurants in the city and state with an award-winning wine list. We are warmly welcomed, as always, by Maître D' Stan Reynolds, who is a fixture here. His delightful personality and attention to the smallest detail is the cherry on top of every dining experience at Galley and Garden.

Galley and Garden is the only Birmingham restaurant to be awarded Wine Spectator’s Best of Excellence 2023. The restaurant has received this award annually since 2016. It is the second of their three tier awards. “These wine lists display excellent breadth across multiple winegrowing regions and/or significant vertical depth of top producers, along with superior presentation. Typically offering 350 or more selections, these restaurants are destinations for serious wine lovers, showing a deep commitment to wine, both in the cellar and through their service team,” Wine Spectator. Thus, finding bubbles at Galley and Garden is a delightful read of their wine list. Among the 26 champagnes is my favorite Delamotte Blanc de Blanc, 11 sparkling roses including my favorite, Schramsberg Mirabelle, and 19 sparkling wines including my favorite of Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc.

We are also greeted by General Manager, Virgil Morris and Ali Williams, Marketing Director. And as always, as we are seated a cold bottle of sparkling water is poured for the two of us with fresh citrus. Nice. My preference for sparkling water was noted in Stan’s mind, and likely the restaurant’s system, the first time I requested it years ago. It is kept tableside in a Champagne bucket. The option of sparkling water is exemplary of the unexpected touches of class Galley and Garden is known for.

Galley and Garden also tempts with many sparkling wine brunch cocktails. Today among the six sparkling cocktails we select handcrafted Blushing Mimosa and Peach Bellini. We pair our fruity sparklers with our first course of Soupe du Jour and Pickled Shrimp. Both beverages and food are always served at proper temps at Galley and Garden. Today’s piping hot, daily soup selection is so new it has no name. As we compliment Executive Chef, Jessica Lindeen on this amazing bowl, she describes it as “full of comfort.” Indeed. This colorful, mix of ground beef and vegetables, is one of the most delicious soups ever and is highly recommended. It brings back comforting memories of my Daddy’s Beef and Vegetable Soup. He made it for us on cold days in his kitchen and would beam when I raved over each bite. Galley and Garden’s annual Christmas Eve Supper menu has just been published. I see French Onion Soup on it, so we quickly make a reservation. In the cold dish, perfectly curled, icy, succulent shrimp are pink in color, firm and crisp in texture, and bursting with the flavors of the Gulf. And they are further enhanced by pickled onion, capers, mixed peppers, and a squeeze of lemon.

For entrees, Kev opts for the Slow Braised Certified Angus Beef Short Rib. For me, it seems that every dish I desire this fall is filled with mushrooms. Yet the kitchen graciously offers to make a Garden Vegetable Frittata without them. So, the frittata it is. Kev’s tender, melt in the mouth beef in demi-glace is served on a warm plate and is accompanied by scrumptious parmesan whipped potatoes and crisp haricot verts. My frittata is a fluffy dish of eggs enriched by Roma tomato, caramelized onion, and spinach, served in a cast iron skillet it was baked in. It comes with options of house potato hash or my choice of fresh fruit cup. To pair with our main entrees, we order Pierre Sparr sparkling wine. What would brunch be without “Champagne?” The wine is chilled to the perfect temp, but also is served in proper, tall stemware with a thin rim, same as the mimosas. I understand and appreciate not only the expense but also effort it takes to keep these flutes pristine, which is the reason many restaurants serve sparkling wine in short, thick glasses. Yet Galley and Garden’s wines deserve the best. From the touch to the hand to the cremant’s aromatics and flavors, these stems express the beauty of the wine.

For dessert, Kev excitedly selects Hot Chocolate. And I have today’s Crème Brulee. The marvelous mug of hot chocolate is topped with layers of marshmallow Chantilly cream and tiny marshmallows. And my crème brulee is today’s selection of a beautiful butterscotch. Both desserts are rich, creamy and make a delightful end to today’s brunch.

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