Ah, brunch. Truly, nothing brings to mind relaxation on a weekend morning more than the thought of a leisurely brunch with friends. If I’m ever on vacation on a Sunday, one question I always ask is “Where should we head for brunch in this town?” Even at home, and especially at Easter, one of my favorite things to do in the spring and summer is host a brunch.
Today, Courtney Lake is back for his monthly contribution on the topic of how to stage a simple and stylish brunch for your friends and family.
Please welcome Courtney on the subject of How To Brunch in Style!
“Summer is the season of alfresco dining. Simple, easy and care free meals with friends and family at a leisurely pace are one of the season’s little perks. I can’t imagine a meal better suited for this type of entertaining than brunch - that wonderful combination of breakfast and lunch. Brunch is the perfect opportunity to break out of your formal entertaining rut! Here are a few quick and simple steps to creating an effortless brunch for six on a budget.
Look at the people coming to your brunch and ask yourself a few important questions. What time does the brunch start ? The general rule is the later the brunch, the hardier the menu. Do any of your guests have dietary restrictions? Food allergies, low-sodium and gluten-free diets are becoming more prevalent, so think about dishes that can hit multiple categories.
How much food should you prepare? I go by the rule of having two additional servings for each dish. Since the number I typically expect for brunch is six, I plan that the dishes should feed eight. It guarantees that those bigger eaters in the group will have plenty, and also that you will not be stuck with a fridge full of leftovers.
When I serve brunch at my own home, I love using this menu for its ease and ability to please a variety of palates:
1) Baked Eggs with Tomato Compote: So simple and versatile, this dish has earned an honored spot on my brunch menu. It can be morphed into any number of variations but I found this particular version is especially tasty. Add crumbled feta if you like an extra layer of cheese.
2) Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato & Avocado Platter with Flavored Aioli: Rather than assemble the BLTs prior, here’s and idea: let your guests make their own!
Prepare a platter with choice cooked bacon, lettuce, heirloom tomato, avocado and flavored aioli such as garlic or wasbi. Arrange a basket slices of sourdough, wheat bread and rye bread next to a toaster. With this setup, your guests can experiment and create their favorite combinations with the flavors they love!
3) Vegetarian Thai Breakfast Spring Rolls: With the simple addition of egg, you can turn this Thai classic into a quick and easy brunch dish. They are gluten-free, nut-free and low in sodium. If you want to step it up a notch for the meat eaters, add in ground lamb to create a main entrée. These versatile rolls can be made in minutes and are always a crowd pleaser.
To round out the menu, serve a medley of salads like a seasonal fruit salad with fresh mint and a light mixed green salad with a good quality store bought ot homemade vinaigrette.
MENU QUICK TIPS:
1) Don’t cook or bake more than two dishes and limit the brunch to five dishes in total. Focus your energies on preparing two great dishes and everything else is either bought or assembled.
2) Dishes must taste great at room temperature. A dish can start out hot but it must still taste great for those mid-brunch nibbles that always tend to happen.
3) No individually prepared dishes. You don’t want to be become a short-order cook at your brunch, so as much as you love making pancakes for breakfast, avoid the temptation unless you love standing at the stove the whole time watching everyone eat.
I am non-conformist in many ways, but when it comes to drinks at brunch, I think one reigns supreme. The combination of orange juice and sparkling wine, aka the mimosa, is my all-time favorite. Simplicity is my friend – no open bar or complicated breakfast smoothies that have you running between the freezer and a blender.
However, if you want to introduce a twist on the traditional mimosa, then I would set up a “Mimosa Bar” which is stocked with sparkling wine or Prosecco along with pitchers of fresh fruit juice (orange, mango and strawberry) and corresponding fruit garnishes. Guests can then help themselves throughout brunch.
DRINK QUICK TIPS:
1) Assign a guest as the designated “bartender” whose job is to make sure the bar remains stocked. When the guest arrives, show him or her where the extra supplies are and how to restock. As a thank you, it’s kind to give them a bottle of wine or champagne upon their departure. Assigning a guest as bartender is a a quick and easy way to keep you from performing double duty, and also keep the party going with the help of a good friend!
2) Stick with one drink outside of coffee and/or tea. There is no need for a full bar at brunch, it’s more work, stress and expense on you. A simple mimosa bar or juice bar is all you need.
3) Assume two to three glasses per person and plan ahead. For a party of six, assume about twenty clean glasses. People have a tendency to lose their glasses so either provide charms or labels, or have plenty of extras on hand. You don’t want to be stuck on dishwashing duty when brunch is in full swing.
TABLE SET UP:
The theme here is keep it simple, and brunch is rarely a sit down meal at my house. I set up a buffet on the kitchen island and let people serve themselves. Place settings are stacked at one end of the buffet with silverware rolled in napkins already so guests just have to pick up and go.
All the table needs is a stylish vase filled with flowers. Don’t ignore the décor completely, but don’t make it a huge production. Simple blooms coupled with whimsical branches, or a few stems in bright colors are really all you need.
The beauty of brunch is that it’s a relaxed and leisurely meal so consider that most of all when preparing for guests. Think simple, quick, and easy and you will be sure to have a brunch that not only your guests but you will enjoy.
In the end, anything that brings friends and family together is a good thing so don’t over think or over plan. Cheers!”
Thanks so much Courtney for your tips on hosting a stylish and successful brunch! I’m loving that lily and branch centerpiece, and that mimosa bar idea too! Be sure to hop over and say hello at Courtney’s blog Life Out Loud.
More articles by Courtney:
What are your favorite brunch dishes to eat or serve?