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Ideas/help for a festive champagne brunch

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Fatemeh Dec 3, 2004 02:18 PM

I'm having some friends over for a champagne brunch, and trying to come up with dishes that will (a) use some of what's in my CSA delivery this week, (b) be festive & upscale and (c) be easy to prepare so I can actually spend time with my guests.

So far, I have the following ideas, but they don't pair well with each other, and seem rather disjointed. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated:

- spinach, sausage & gruyere frittata
- french toast bread pudding with poached pears
- citrus salad with mint & orange blossom dressing

see what I mean? disjointed!

Also - can I serve brunch in "courses"? Or do I bring everything out at once and let people serve themselves? Have never done a brunch before!

Thanks!!

  1. c
    Caitlin McGrath Dec 3, 2004 02:46 PM

    "Also - can I serve brunch in "courses"? Or do I bring everything out at once and let people serve themselves? Have never done a brunch before!"

    It's entirely up to you. You can certainly serve in courses, and especially if you're planning a sit-down brunch, this will make a classy meal. If doing that, you could start with a heartier dish and end with the fruit salad for dessert (maybe with some cookies), or you could have the fruit first as a starter, then the frittata with a little green salad, and finish with smaller servings of the bread pudding as a dessert course. Of course, you can do it in courses if you're serving buffet-style, but I'd separate a "main" group and a dessert group; doing things one dish at a time in that situation is a bit silly.

    As far as the dishes, for brunch I think a balance of sweet and savory and of filling and light is always good. Your citrus salad would definitely be a perfect light complement to heartier dishes. whether sweet or savory. My inclination would be to skip the bread pudding and the pears, unless you want it to be a stand-alone dessert course, and to have the frittata with some dressed greens and something like scones or coffeecake (you could make one with your pears in it) and the fruit salad before or after, since fritatta and bread pudding are both filling and eggy dishes.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Caitlin McGrath
      f
      Fatemeh Dec 3, 2004 03:34 PM

      Thanks Caitlin -

      I do like the idea of 3 distinct courses, and I think I'll serve the citrus as a starter. I think I'll do the frittata with a nice peppercress salad... but what to do for dessert? I do agree the bread pudding sounds too heavy... and poached pears on their own seem too "evening".

      Will keep searching for recipes! Many thanks.

      1. re: Fatemeh
        c
        Caitlin McGrath Dec 3, 2004 04:52 PM

        Hmm, borrowing from the yogurt idea posted above, what about Greek yogurt with a flavorful honey and nuts? It's both brunchy and desserty, simple but sophisticated. Or roasted pears with a dollop of Greek yogurt or mascarpone and a drizzle of honey or orange liqueur?

        1. re: Caitlin McGrath
          f
          Fatemeh Dec 3, 2004 05:30 PM

          ooooh... roasted pears w/mascarpone... and i HAVE mascarpone!!

          Yes, I believe this is it.

          1. re: Fatemeh
            c
            Caitlin McGrath Dec 5, 2004 09:14 PM

            Please tell us how your champagne brunch turns out!

    2. s
      Sallie Dec 3, 2004 03:00 PM

      I do a brunch for 50-100 every spring--always buffet. Buffet is easiest unless you have a much smaller (i.e., less than ten) group.

      Mimosas should be do-it-yourself--people are picky about their ratios. Bloody Marys should be made the night before so that they have a chance to marinate in the fridge. It's like a regular party--you'll need more ice than you think you will. Things that people bring on their own unasked will tend toward sticky buns and croissants, so you don't need to worry about that element. If people ask what you want them to bring and they insist, say "cheap champagne for mimosas." You'll need it.

      Past menu items include:

      Garlic Cheese Grits (they bake, so can be left in the oven while you get yourself ready)
      Chilled blanched asparagus with some sort of dip--wasabi mayo, garlic aioli, hollandaise (can be made ahead)
      Quiches (super-easy and can be made the day before and reheated)
      Ham biscuits with onion butter (a lot of work, but very popular. You can do this with those pre-made dinner rolls instead and save yourself two steps.)
      Watercress salad or similar
      Broccoli cornbread (can be made ahead and reheated)
      Fruit salad--blueberries, strawberries, and peaches (make ahead)
      Shrimp and grits (work-intensive)
      Salmon cakes (like crab cakes, but you use canned salmon)
      Fried zucchini and boursin (hard at a party, because it has to be freshly fried)
      Sausage balls (cheese, sausage, and bisquick--can make ahead, freeze, and bake)
      Pasta salad with asparagus and smoked salmon (not recommended to make ahead)

      Let me know if you want recipes for any of the above and I'll post them.

      One last warning: brunches have a way of dragging on. The last one I threw lasted for 6 hours. It was fun, but be ready.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Sallie
        f
        Fatemeh Dec 3, 2004 03:31 PM

        Thank you SO much... This is a small gathering, just 8 people. We regularly entertain between 8 - 12 for dinner... I'm just finding a brunch menu harder to put together than the tried and true "hors d'oueuvres + soup/salad + entree + course + cheese + dessert" formula dinner.

        I would LOVE your recipes for the grits, broccoli cornbread and salmon cakes.

      2. a
        Athena Dec 3, 2004 03:22 PM

        I wouldn't say your ideas are disjointed, what you're doing is offering the choice of savoury or sweet, which I think is fine. You might want to replace the two fruit dishes with one glorious fruit melange that just reeks of 'feast'. And maybe an assortment of really good croissants, pain chocolate and little brioches with butter and preserves.

        1. m
          Melanie Wong Dec 3, 2004 03:34 PM

          Some smoked fish with champagne feels the most luxurious to me at brunch time. Maybe Thomas Keller's recipe for salmon rillettes?

          You might want to do a buffet instead of courses. Saves your fussing. Some people only eat sweets for breakfast/brunch and others only want savory.

          1. c
            Carb Lover Dec 3, 2004 03:44 PM

            I enjoy having people over for a leisurely brunch. Because I like to keep it more casual, I serve everything at one time. Also, I like to keep it simple for myself so that I'm not all stressed out, so def. take shortcuts where you can. Not sure how many people you're having, but my recs pertain to a smaller group (4-6).

            Your frittata and salad sound great, but I might nix the french toast since it seems to compete w/ the frittata. In fact, I usually make a frittata as the main dish since it's easy and a crowd-pleaser.

            To round out the frittata and salad, I would add a potato dish. I like home-style potatoes pan-fried w/ onions and red bell pepper; seasoned w/ chili powder, paprika, and parsley towards end of cooking. For a lower-maintenance cooking method, bake in oven. For bread, I serve an assortment of bakery-bought items (croissants, bread, muffins) w/ European-style butter and Bon Maman jam (I like that brand).

            For a light "dessert" served separately: plain French-style yogurt w/ vanilla, honey, caramelized pears or apples, and toasted pecans. YUM!

            Bev. options besides champagne: coffee, tea, mulled spiced cider OR really good apple juice. For a twist on the usual mimosa, use cranberry or pomegranate juice instead. Good luck!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Carb Lover
              c
              Carb Lover Dec 3, 2004 04:01 PM

              Hmmm...got all excited about the idea of brunch that I somehow didn't quite register that you wanted more upscale. Also saw below (after my post) that you were having around 8 people. In that case, buffet sounds good.

              Along the lines of what Melanie mentioned: I once served "toast points" (fancy way of saying sliced crustless bread cut into small triangles and toasted lightly) w/ smoked salmon, creme fraiche, and chives. Went really well w/ champagne. Dollop of caviar if you're going ALL out. Gravlax on rye w/ mustard, red onion, and dill is an alternative.

              For upscale potatoes: potato gratin w/ mushroom, leeks, and parmesan (I usually use gruyere but you already have that in frittata). Can make this ahead a day or two and slowly reheat.

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