Chisme y Chicle (foodie gossip)

I don’t brunch. Brunch offends me. It’s leisure at its worst — expensive, sprawling, and overstuffed. But somehow one of my favorite recurring memories of this winter involves reclining on the Monterey’s sun-dappled patio, listening to the Pretenders, and soaking up a Brown Coffee Americano with miniature, Technicolor pan de dulce.

At the time of our full restaurant review (See “From Big Red to bone marrow,” November 10, 2010), the little gastropub that could was only doing dinner service. While they didn’t (and don’t) have plans to offer lunch, the Sunday brunch is bringing out the hungover dead in droves. More importantly, the kitchen is in top form.

Brunch is the lighter, daytime companion to the Monty’s typical porky and savory fare. The French toast with espresso syrup, for instance, is an ideal counterpart to the salty pork belly. Beef cheeks with cheese grits, humble-sounding enough, is now officially on my shortlist of preferred last meals.

If that all sounds too rich, I’d direct you to the stunning fontina, mushroom, and spinach omelette. There’s more in the works, too. When we brunched a fortnight ago, Chef Albert Vasquez sent us out a secret dish — a miniature Nutella & fig panini served alongside a hunk of soft raw cheese.

Because brunch is just as much about the beverages as the food, there are the perfect notes for both caffeine and alcohol. The Cheap Cava mimosas are perfect paired with the super-strong coffee brewed one cup at a time.

In addition to brunch, the Monterey is also making Happy Hour a foodie-friendly affair. Served from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., the Monty offers bargains on stellar beer ($2.59 for Southern Star, etc.) in addition to classic low-high samplings, like Frito pie and crispy pig head, neither of which is available on the standard menu.

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