Gumbo and Half Bottle of Riesling for a Lonely Diner at Brennan's

Yesterday evening, when I found myself in the peculiar predicament of having to dine alone, I decided to treat myself to a bowl of gumbo at the bar at Brennan's, a landmark where I still hadn't eaten after nearly four years in Texas.

Beyond the social awkwardness, dining alone for a wine lover can be challenging. Not wanting to order a 750ml bottle that I wouldn't be able to finish and trying to reel in the cost (after all, dining alone is among the least special occasions in my life), my plan of action was to go by the glass.

But as I leafed through Brennan's legendary wine list (among other lore, I've been told that in the wake of the fire that destroyed the historic restaurant during Hurricane Ike, the sommeliers literally armed themselves and guarded the cellar with their lives), I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it includes an ample selection of half bottles (375ml).

Most of the wines were geared to diners who want big, bold, in-your-face wines. But tucked among the dig-wagging labels was a half of Hugel 2009 dry Riesling from Alsace, fresh and steely, with the bright acidity that I crave and enough grit to stand up to the spicy gumbo. It weighed in at just $20 (awesome!), and I couldn't think of a better pairing for my lonely meal.

When the bartender delivered the bottle, he asked politely: "You know that this is dry Riesling, don't you?" To which I quipped, "Do I look like the kinda guy that only drinks sweet Riesling?" He laughed and explained that many of his guests are surprised when they find out the wine is dry. I very much appreciated the care that he took in presenting the wine: Most would have pulled the cork and served the wine without editorial. In my view, it's a sign of an engaged and honest wine program where the servers take pride in the list.

Unfortunately, the sommeliers at Brennan's don't make the wine list available online (something so easy to do in the age of mechanical reproduction). And I wish they would, because I would have been more easily tempted to eat there had I been able to peruse the breadth of their excellent list. But chapeau bas (my hat's off) to them for a wine list that has something for everyone -- even a solitary diner like me.

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