Time for Brunch!
Hosting a brunch is a wonderful way to entertain your family and friends! Easter, Mother’s Day, pre-wedding events, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations – these days are all appropriate opportunities to invite people over for brunch. There’s just something about brunch that creates a friendly, informal atmosphere that allows your guests to move around and visit with each other while also serving themselves to the food at your attractive buffet table!
Defined as a “late morning meal eaten instead of breakfast and lunch” brunch may begin at 11AM and extend to 2Pm or even later! Originating in England in the late 19th Century, brunch became popular in the United States in the late 1930’s. The term “brunch” was coined in 1895 to describe a Sunday meal to Saturday night carousers, eliminating the need to get up early. Guy Beringer wrote “brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting. It is talk – compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”
Planning a Brunch
First of all, decide how many guests you plan to invite to your brunch. How will you invite them – send out invitations, use an event “app” or call them by phone? Knowing the number of guests coming is essential to determine how much food you need to buy as well as planning seating arrangements.
Secondly, go through your recipe file and pull out all the recipes that you may want to include on your brunch menu. For a large number of guests, consider using “quantity” recipes, such as those that specify “serves 12” or even more. Decide the categories of food you want to serve – typically some breakfast foods and some lunch-type dishes are provided at a brunch as well as some yummy desserts.
Typical Brunch Fare
Typically, brunches may include some of the following items: eggs and egg dishes, casseroles with eggs and breakfast meats, bacon, sausage, ham, Canadian bacon, fruits, pastries, waffles, pancakes, scones, muffins, coffee cake, French toast, frittatas, omelets, quiche, Eggs Benedict, popovers, crepes, croissants, cheese blintzes, bagels and all manner of yummy desserts.
Beverages may include coffee, tea, specially-flavored iced teas and iced coffees, juices, and “adult” beverages such as Bloody Marys, Bellinis, Sangria and Mimosas, if you like.
Thirdly, select the recipes you wish to serve and create your brunch menu. Once you have created the brunch menu and know how many guests to expect you can develop your grocery list. Incorporate some ready-made menu items so that you don’t have to prepare everything from “scratch.” Choose items that are not all prepared in the oven – use your slow cooker, griddle or other appliances so the oven is not relied upon to cook everything on the menu. If possible, plan to make one or more dishes the day before the brunch to lessen your work load on the day of the brunch. Setting the tables may be done the day before the event.
The Buffet Table
The next step is deciding how to set up your brunch buffet table. If you place the table against a wall, guests will only be able to serve themselves from one side of the table. If you place the table away from a wall, guests will be able to move around the table, able to serve themselves from both sides of the table.
In addition, choose a centerpiece for the buffet table and if you desire some smaller ones for the tables where guests will be eating. A vase of fresh flowers or a bowl of fresh fruit are always beautiful focal points for a buffet table. Other decorative items can be chosen to support the brunch theme or the current season. To create an interesting table, you may wish to elevate some dishes (as they do in hotels and restaurants) by using small cardboard boxes underneath the tablecloth. Make sure the boxes are sturdy enough to hold the weight of the food item you will place on top of it! Varying heights add interest.
Draw a diagram on a sheet of paper illustrating where your serving dishes and other items will be located on the serving table. This is a great visual aid to ensure you have a place for everything. You may wish to place silverware and napkins at each place setting on the table where guests will be eating if space is limited on the serving table. Plates are usually placed so that guests will pick them up first before moving on to the food. If space permits, beverages may be placed on a separate table, which also speeds the movement of guests from the serving table. (Think traffic flow!)
When guests arrive, greet them and show them where they may sit until the brunch is served. Offer them something to drink. Show them where to put their coats and bags. Introduce guests that don’t know each other. Make them feel “at home.”
When hosting a brunch or any event, I always recommend having a “Plan B.” For example, have a cheesecake in the freezer that you can pull out if you run out of dessert. Have an extra bag of ice in the freezer in case your icemaker can’t keep up with the demand. Frozen croissants and other breads can be heated up quickly in the microwave. It’s always desirable to have too much food as opposed to not enough when hosting an event!
If you have a “waffle station” where guests can make their own waffles, make sure you have enough batter on hand and check the site frequently for any spills that need wiping up. If you know someone that’s talented at making omelets, you could provide an “omelet” station with a variety of “add-ins” (grated cheese, bacon bits, etc.) that each guest could choose to personalize their omelet.
Try to relax and enjoy your guests while occasionally checking on the status of food and drinks that may need freshening. Ask a family member to assist you in removing plates, glasses and any trash from the areas where guests are eating. Delegate any duties to willing family members or friends to allow you to enjoy your guests, too. When folks ask “what can I do to help?” make your life easier by allowing them to assist you.
Don’t put demands on yourself that everything has to be perfect or the event will be a disaster! Cut yourself some slack! After all, there is only one Martha Stewart on this planet!
One of the most memorable brunches I ever experienced was at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. They feature a great variety of delicious foods with a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains that is just spectacular! If you’re ever in the area, consider making a reservation for brunch there!
I hope you’ll consider hosting a brunch sometime in the not-too-distant future as it’s truly a pleasing way to make new memories with your guests! If you have some tips you’d like to share for a successful brunch please add them to the Comments section below.
Remember to Savor the Flavor!
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Credit: Photo of brunch dishes and photo of assorted beverages courtesy of Stocksnap.