The Breakfast Club
Brunch. For the unadventurous, that means some variation of eggs and bacon, eaten in your pajamas. But this late-morning meal can give you just as much reason to celebrate as evening cocktails, and it’s a great twist on a typical get-together.
With some creative tips from local chefs and party professionals, brunch is a good reason to get up early.
Brunch. For the unadventurous, that means some variation of eggs and bacon, eaten in your pajamas. But this late-morning meal can give you just as much reason to celebrate as evening cocktails, and it’s a great twist on a typical get-together. After a long, cold winter spent entertaining fireside, why not welcome spring by taking the party outside with an elegant brunch? And we do mean elegant (can you say croquet?). With some creative tips from local chefs and party professionals, brunch is a good reason to get up early.
Rise and Shine
You don’t have to be a morning person to host brunch. Invite guests for around 10:30 a.m., says Paula Mollov, an event coordinator at All About Parties in Boxford. That will give everyone time to arrive at his or her own pace.
You’ll want your guests to know that this is going to be so much more than just breakfast, so it’s up to you to set a formal stage. If your patio furniture is of the green-plastic variety—or not big enough to seat all of your guests comfortably—consider renting a table and chairs (check out Peterson Partycenter in Winchester).
With spring flowers blooming, you’ll have a naturally pretty backdrop with plenty left over for centerpieces. “Spring bulbs, like daffodils, are great choices for the different shades they come in,” says Mollov. Or, she suggests, try arrangements of different-colored tulips at each table.
The rest of the table needs suitably formal flair, so spread a tablecloth—if you’re afraid of grass stains on your formal linens, you can rent those as well (Table Toppers in Newton and TableFashions in Canton carry beautiful linens, or stick with Peterson for one-stop shopping). “Pale pink linens are a beautiful background to spring flowers,” says Judith Phillips, an event designer at the Catered Affair in Hingham and Boston.
Keep your everyday dishes in the cabinet and break out the china. “A mismatched theme would be the best, especially with events including 12 or more people,” says Mollov. Mix two sets and alternate the pattern at every other place setting, or just swap out one piece, like a charger. Pretty napkin rings are a great finishing touch for a ladies’ luncheon, says Mollov, and can easily pick up on a theme or color scheme. Another great way to dress up the table (and provide an instant gift for your guests), is to put an 8-ounce silver mint julep cup at each place setting with a single flower inside. You can even go all out and print menu cards.
Food for Thought
It just wouldn’t be brunch without champagne or mimosas. Phillips recommends greeting your guests with a flute of the bubbly right at the door. “That sets the tone for a festive time,” she says. “And you can also hand them a croquet mallet straightaway and lead them out back for a game of croquet during cocktail hour.” Croquet is a great way to lend a European day-at-the-country-manor flair to your gathering, and also gives guests something to do besides sit around and drink.
And because you want to enjoy the festivities along with your guests, Chris Schlesinger, chef-owner of the East Coast Grill in Cambridge, suggests setting up a make-your-own drink bar. “Otherwise, trying to keep up with drinks is just a nightmare,” he says. “It’s always a big hit with the guests, and it looks nice.” Set out the makings for bellinis or try a Bloody Mary bar, a brunch specialty at Schlesinger’s restaurant. “I’d have a pitcher of V-8, a couple of different bottles of hot sauce, some cracked black pepper, some horseradish, some celery and carrot sticks, and some olives,” he says. “Have a pitcher full of ice and a bottle of vodka and do a little rimming section so they can rim their glass with salt and pepper.”
While your friends are swinging their mallets, give them something to nibble on. “A good brunch needs a signature breakfast pastry,” says Andy Husbands, chef and owner of Tremont 647 in Boston. His almond-peach coffee cake can be adapted to whatever fruit happens to be on hand and in season: apples in fall, rhubarb in spring, peaches in summer. He recommends preparing it the night before and baking it the day of the brunch.
In case you’re not a morning person, most of the menu can be prepped. “I think that this is a perfect Sunday brunch menu, for the simple reason it is easily made and most can be predone,” says Keith Pooler, executive chef at Harvest in Cambridge. The only time you’ll need to step away from your guests is to do the final preparations for the soft-boiled eggs. “If you’re having a hard time cracking the eggs, just serve them in a bowl. That’s how I used to eat them as a kid,” he says. If you can’t find molasses and cornmeal Anadama bread, a New England classic, substitute any bread.
For dessert, Schlesinger stays with the fresh-produce theme with a strawberry-rhubarb crisp. “Cobblers and crisps are great for spring,” he says. “The berries are in and I just love this dessert.”