Friday, December 12, 2014

Postcards from Bunny: Max's Wine Dive Saturday Cartoon Brunch

A few weeks ago when Bunny was gallivanting around town looking for great places for a drink, she noticed something she thought should be brought to Brandy's attention.  "I know you said you'd been to Max's Wine Dive, but did you ever go back for their Saturday Cartoon Brunch?" Bunny asked Brandy.  "You know, I haven't yet," Brandy mused, "But honestly, how special can a Saturday brunch be?  Everyone knows the good stuff is served on Sunday."  "I'm not so sure about that," said Bunny, "It looked to me like they had a bunch of special items that were only served on Saturdays.  Dishes I have definitely not seen anywhere else."  "Is that so?" Brandy responded, "Well then, I had better check it out."

Not having grown up in American (nor, indeed in the age of television), Brandy had to have some elements of the cartoon brunch explained to her by Max's General Manager Kate Bocson.  It seemed that the concept of all the Saturday morning specials originated from the idea of a child's fantasies come to life and made more adult.  To add to the theme, cartoons played throughout the restaurant and classic games like Hungry Hungry Hippos and Don't Break the Ice had been set out for the patrons to enjoy.  "Well, my idea of a nice Saturday morning usually involves some needle point and a nice cup of tea, but what do I know?" Brandy shrugged.

First off, there was the mind blowing Candy Mimosa Bar, which instantly brought out Brandy's inner child.  The idea behind the mimosa bar was that Max's, being wine focused, originally didn't plan on stocking other spirits, and therefore could not make the brunch staple cocktail that is the Bloody Mary.  Taking all the fun of a make-your-own-Bloody-Mary bar, Max's converted it to fit their signature mimosas and gave it a cartoony twist.  There were carafes of Kool-aid, containers of gummy bears, Swedish fish, and other rainbow colored confections, and a tall glass with bunches of red licorice whips.  At first, Brandy was a little skeptical of adding such sugary sweets to her fairly high quality mimosa, but after plopping in a couple of peach flavored gummy rings, she started to see the fun of it.

After delighting her senses with candy, Bunny dove into the special Saturday brunch menu.  First up was the Pizza Bagel; a Red Hen Bagel toasted and coated in gooey cheese and pepperoni.  Though unfamiliar with the American tradition of pizza bagels ("Why would you want a hole in your pizza?" Brandy kept asking), Brandy did like that the bagel was very tender and soft, making it easy to eat.  The slightly spicy pepperoni had a nice bit of chew to it, complimenting the brilliantly melty cheese.

Setting a foot on either side of the sweet and savory line were the Pancake Dippers; strips of bacon coated in pancake batter and served with a side of maple syrup for dipping, hence the name.  Brandy found herself wishing the bacon used was a little bit thicker, as the pancake element seemed to take over.  The pancake itself was firm enough to keep its structure as Brandy dipped it into the syrup, though it did have a slightly grainy texture that Brandy didn't enjoy as much as she would have liked to.

After that came the house French Toast, which Brandy had sampled during her previous visit, but had been revamped to account for the season.  Now, the French Toast came topped with lots of cinnamon, sugar, and macerated clementine segments, which Brandy thought was a very interesting choice.  She sort of liked how the acid of the oranges cut through the sweetness of the sugar and when combined with the cinnamon provided a very old fashioned flavor combination that definitely did remind her of Christmas.  The toast itself had the same great texture Brandy had enjoyed the first time around with a good bit of crispiness on the outside and a soft, custardy inside.

The Scooby Snack was the next dish to the table, and the mere sight of it had Brandy swooning with delight.  The plate was a mile high stack of chocolate chip pancakes smothered in fudge sauce and topped with graham cracker pieces and a toasted marshmallow fluff.  Not entirely understanding the cultural reference of the dish's name, the waitress kindly directed Brandy's attention to the classic cartoons playing on the televisions above the kitchen.  "But you couldn't give these pancakes to a dog!" Brandy exclaimed in horror, "They're not supposed to have chocolate!"  As expected, the dish was decadent and rich, though the pancakes were actual quite light in texture.  The glistening chocolate sauce had been finished with just a little hit of salt, which really elevated what could have been a tooth achingly sweet dish, and the bits of graham cracker kept everything lively with a bit of crunch.

Just when Brandy thought she couldn't take any more, Chef Jessica Brumleve emerged from the kitchen with a devilish grin on her face, carrying what looked to be a small mountain contained inside a punch bowl.  As it was set down in front of her, Brandy suddenly realized what it was: The Six Person Sundae.  Looking like something out of a movie, the monstrosity came topped with everything imaginable, including colorful cereal, crisp bacon, potato chips, brandied cherries, peanuts, more marshmallow fluff, chocolate sauce, and enough ice cream to satisfy a football team.  There was even what appeared to be a chocolate lava cake in the middle of the thing, possibly added for a little more wow factor or for structural stability.  Brandy could hardly believe her eyes.  "Am I supposed to eat this or swim in it?" she asked.  Had she not already been so stuffed full of deliciousness, she might have faired better, but Brandy did her level best to make a respectable dent in the colossal masterpiece, a thing truly born from the imagination of a child.

"Well, how was it?" Bunny asked the next time she was on the phone with Brandy.  "My dear, it simply needs to be eaten to be believed," Brandy said, shaking her head, "I may not have experienced the typical Saturday morning cartoon thing in my youth, but everything about that brunch made me feel like a child again, especially that magnificent sundae, mostly because the damn thing was so big that it made me feel about three feet high!"

The writers of this blog were invited to dine by the restaurant free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

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