What’s Panera without the bread? No cure for a hangover, that’s for sure.
As it unfailingly does at this time of year, fall has come to New England, and so this morning Mr. Slattern and I rose before dawn to head north for a squint at the leaves. As the alarm sounded at 6 am, it occurred to me that undertaking a 500 mile drive just a few hours after returning home from a festive evening wedding was perhaps ill-advised, but we were committed to this course, and so there was no question of not pursuing it, hangover be damned. And I had one goddamned hangover, let me tell you.
Of course, at a wedding — especially one that involves two superbly matched, uber-fun queens of fabulosity like our pals Robin and Jen — the champagne should flow like water, and though Mr. Slattern refused a tipple from my slipper, a good time was still had by all. I even allowed myself a big old slice of wedding cake (an indescribably sinful and delicious homemade coconut confection with cream cheese icing, sigh) in direct contradiction of the Feelbad diet plan, aka dinner at Gitmo. I figured I’d probably be incapable of eating for a couple days anyway, so what the heck, I had a brownie and an éclair too.
So anyways, by about 11 am, Mr. Slattern and I both felt like we’d been up for about a week and decided that a little sustenance was in order. Unfortunately neither of us was fit for public view for reasons previously alluded to, so a leisurely lunch at the Old Port Sea Grill was out of the question. Besides, we were in a hurry. So we decided to drop off the highway and go foraging for reasonable fast fare, which is how we ended up at Panera Bread at the ungodly hour of 11:30 am.
Mistake number one. Well two actually, since I guess you’d have to count my appropriation of a full champagne bottle from the waiter and subsequent request for a straw the night before as the first step on this particular trip to hell.
In any case, it’s been a while since we were on this kind of meal schedule, like about sixteen years, which is why I guess we had forgotten that when you eat lunch well before noon your fellow diners will mostly be under five or over 90. Kids I don’t mind so much, provided they’re cute and silent, but as previously documented, the active seniors tend to get up my nose, unless they’re built along the lines of my Grammie Florence, who is still a head turner and party favorite as she approaches age ninety. But of course, she’s the exception rather than the rule.
We spent about eight hours in line behind a foursome with a combined age of about 420 who had lots of querulous questions about free refills and senior discounts. (They all ordered soup in bread bowls, the mere thought of which nearly made me vomit as wet bread disgusts me.) Finally though, we put in our order, received our complimentary Panera vibrator and picked our way across the dining room to a reasonably clean table by the window, which was a tad bright for my liking, but at least was well off the flight plan of the cookie-fueled preschooler whose mother was deeply involved in a phone conversation about what Stan was going to do with all that money and why he shouldn’t spend it on that whore he’d gone ahead and married even though his entire goddamned family had told him it would be a mistake verging on a crime to do so. Maine, the way life should be.
Anyway, the vibra-pager eventually lit up and we retrieved our food. Mr. Slattern’s turkey and avocado sandwich was entirely acceptable, even tasty. It came with a pickle and an apple, which made for a satisfying lunch that left him fueled up and ready to drive the remaining three hours. My Panera dining experience, however, was considerably less spectacular, consisting as it did of chicken and avocado atop a Cobb salad made of previously frozen romaine, tasteless tomatoes and some kind of chopped egg product, in which the texture of both the yolk and the white reminded me more of Peeps than anything chicken-related I have ever encountered. Perhaps it’s a seasonal thing, putting Peep eggs into a salad; however, one would expect to see that at Easter rather than harvest time. And as the gag inducing egg bits were both indistinguishable and inseparable from the bleu cheese crumbles, I eventually just gave up and lunched on the chicken and avocado. Don’t even get me started on the “vinaigrette.” The apple, however, was delicious.
As for the hangover, a day of green tea and Alka Seltzer eventually put paid to the nausea, which is a good thing because we’ve got party guests at the cottage, and they always stop at the wine store before they arrive.
Will it really make any difference if you put off that health kick for just one more day?
Today’s Wall Street Journal features a lengthy and informative article on Champagne, mostly the good stuff. It’s written by the always informative and eminently readable Lettie Teague. If you don’t subscribe, I think you can read it online. Or just gaze longingly at the lovely photos until the sun goes down and you can decently pop a cork. A word of advice: for your own sake and the sake of the children, skip the Tiger Mother article also in today’s paper. No good can come of it.
Time to make the Christmas Eve pot pie and snow pudding! Party on, readers!
I drink champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.
~ Madame Lilly Bollinger
Well that about sums it up for me. In fact, if I had to choose only one drink for the rest of my life it would most certainly be champagne. As such, I have devoted a not inconsiderable amount of time and energy to the search for a drinkable bubbly priced at $20 or less. I mean I have really put my back into this one, and I am pleased to report that my efforts have been crowned with success. Now don’t get me wrong, I love me some Bolly and I never turn down a glass or three of Veuve Cliquot when it comes my way, but in these times of economic hardship, sacrifices must be made, belts tightened and expensive wines relegated to special occasions – weddings, birthdays, conditional releases and suchlike.
This is my current favorite, Gruet Brut. It’s lovely and dry, but not a lip puckerer. Nice delicate bubbles and you can order it online for $13.75 a bottle. Plus, it comes in pink! Here’s what the good folks at the Gruet Winery in New Mexico have to say. (No really, New Mexico. Apparently the soil is similar to that of France’s celebrated Champagne region, or at least that’s what the nice guy at Fat Cat told me.)
Our flagship sparkling wine. Known for its classic, crisp style with rich complexity and a fine mousse.
Quite honestly when it comes to a wine’s mousse, fine or otherwise, they might as well be talking about Bullwinkle for all I know. I can say with certainty, however, that this is by far the best under $20 bottle of bubbly I have found in a very long time. They’ll ship a case directly from the website and apparently they make the really good stuff, too, if your budget allows. If not, you’re still sitting pretty.