Most mornings flow by in a river of low-fat milk burbling with whole-grain cereal, as dull and brown as the Mississippi. Practical. Utilitarian. Sensible. Then there's brunch, which encourages you to sleep in with its lackadaisical hours and suggests you have sweets for the main substance of your meal. Devil-may-care brunch even invites you to have a drink, though it's not yet noon.
The folks at La Dolce Via do Sunday brunch just right. Sure, at fancy hotel buffets you'll find silver chafing dishes as far as the eye can see and toque-wearing chefs manning made-to-order-omelet stations, but who needs all the pomp and circumstance on Sunday morning? Then again, some places just have the same ol' eggs and toast from their weekday breakfast menu and call it "brunch." With items like seasonal berries and cream, and egg and bacon sandwiched between a cheese-and-green-onion scone, La Dolce Via strikes the perfect balance of ease and indulgence.
La Dolce Via's brunchtime cocktails -- fresh-squeezed orange or grapefruit juice mixed with either sparkling wine or Campari -- aren't about getting you tipsy. (You're likelier to catch a buzz from the espresso.) Drinking at brunch is more about softening the blow from last night's festivities than about reliving them, anyway.
At this charmingly laidback café, many brunchers arrive looking a bit rumpled. Several look as though they were forcibly removed from their beds, faces still pillow-creased and bleary-eyed, thrown into the back of a windowless van and deposited at the curb. The former should perk right up with a nice little cappuccino. The latter should start with a Campari and OJ.
Served in a short juice glass, the drink is the color of Tang. Campari's bright red electrifies the orange, and its bitter flavor plays beautifully against the sweet-tart juice. It hits every region of your tongue with mouth-filling intensity, announcing, "Time to wake up!" The sugar and vitamin C from the OJ will arrive in your bloodstream shortly, soon to be followed by the palliative effect of the alcohol. Next thing you know, the world is a kind and forgiving place again.
The science behind the "hair of the dog that bit you" concept is solid. Vaccines sprang from the same idea -- a small dose of something that does you harm in large quantity can actually make you feel better. While effective against smallpox and morning-after headaches, there are situations where this does not work at all. The phrase originated quite literally, from the accepted treatment for a rabid dog bite -- placing a few of the dog's hairs in the wound. Never mind the problem of getting hairs off a rabid dog, it seems unlikely that this was a very successful cure.
Likewise, if you are recovering from a painful breakup, bumping into your ex in the grocery store will probably make you feel altogether worse than you felt before. Sometimes just a little of something is still way too much. Gabriel García Márquez describes this ailment:
...[H]e had the weak pulse, the hoarse breathing, and the pale perspiration of a dying man. But his examination revealed that he had no fever, no pain anywhere, and that his only concrete feeling was an urgent desire to die. All that was needed was shrewd questioning, first of the patient and then of his mother, to conclude once again that the symptoms of love were the same as those of cholera.
Cholera was eradicated by vaccine long ago, but love persists. If you spent Saturday night drinking to forget, have yourself a late brunch on Sunday, where at least you can find some relief from the hangover.
La Dolce Via 4470 Arco Avenue 314-534-1699
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