Apr 5 10
by cara
at 7:48 PM
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Easter Recap and Tips for a Successful Brunch

Easter Brunch 2010 1

Subtitle: A Control Freak’s Guide to Hosting Brunch

Easter Brunch went off without any major hitches yesterday.  We certainly had plenty of food to eat!  I had an ambitious menu, including five new recipes.  (Since it was family, I didn’t mind doing a little experimenting.)  I was pleasantly surprised that ALL five of those dishes turned out great!  I’ll be sharing those recipes and more food photos in the next few days.

I’m already looking forward to hosting another brunch!  I felt like things were so much smoother this time around.  Usually I’m a complete wreck in the minutes before everyone starts showing up.  This year I was calm and collected, aside from one little snip of “Do SOMETHING!  Don’t just stand there!” to my husband about 30 minutes before guests arrived, which I promptly apologized for after realizing he couldn’t read my mind and didn’t know what needed to be done.

Today I thought I’d share some tips on how to have a successful brunch.  Or at least how I managed to get it all done, as well as some notes to myself on things I could do differently next time.

Easter Brunch 2010 2

Brunch is a tricky meal to host since it typically starts before noon, leaving you without much prep time the morning of the brunch.  Organization, planning ahead, and prepping the day before are crucial.

Planning your brunch menu:

  • Decide whether you want to do potluck or tackle it all yourself.  You’ve got two options:
    • You prepare everything yourselfPros: Fellow control-freaks, rejoice!  You can do everything your way! (Ha!)  Have the dishes you love most!  Best suited to smaller groups (15 people or less: any larger, and you’ll definitely need help).  Cons: Potentially a little more costly.  More for you to do.  You won’t get to experience some dishes you might not otherwise try.  Your guests might not get to have some dishes that they like most.
    • Or you can ask guests to bring a dishPros: This will most certainly cut back on your responsibilities.  It might save you a little bit of money.  You get to try some new foods.   Guests get to bring some of their favorites.  Cons: Probably best suited to an event with family or close friends, since you’re making your guests work!  Also, if you’re a control freak like me, asking guests to bring a dish can create a bit of stress.  (Control freaks, keep reading!  The rest of you can move on to the next bullet point!)  I try to find out ahead of time what everyone is bringing, but getting people on MY planning schedule doesn’t always work out so well.  Also, be prepared for general responses like “muffins.”  I would want to know what KIND of muffins?  If they are lemon crumb muffins, then I don’t want to wind up make a lemon cake, too.  (I’m pretty good at stressing about this stuff and over-thinking it, in case you haven’t noticed.)  So you have to let it go if you’re expecting guests to help by bringing a dish.   If you really have your heart set on certain types of food, then you either need to speak up and request it (“Hey mom!  Those potatoes you made at Christmas were great!  Would you mind bringing those?”), assign categories (egg dish, bread/rolls, fruit, dessert) to guests, or resolve to make those things your self.  This is part of the reason our menu this year was so lengthy.  The Picky Apple really wanted Breakfast Burritos and something lemon-y, meanwhile I wanted shrimp and salad.
Easter Brunch 2010 3

The Pyrex measuring cup is full of Homemade Poppy Seed Dressing waiting to be poured as the guests arrived...I didn't actually use it as a serving dish, I promise!

Figure out what can be done ahead of time and write out a schedule of what to do when:

  • Start with the day of, and work backwards.  Certain dishes need to be served piping hot or ice cold.  Those will be the LAST things you make.  For me, this was the Brie Kisses and adding the dressing to the Chicken Poppy Seed Salad.  Other dishes, like Breakfast Burritos, need to be made the morning of the brunch (though even these could possibly be made the night before), and kept warm in foil or reheated just prior to the event.
  • Plan on spending the day before prepping.
    • If you’ve got kids, enlist your husband to help keep them entertained.  I wouldn’t have been able to get anything done without The Picky Apple keeping an eye on The Littlest Apple.
    • Baked goods like Blueberry Lemon Crumb Bundt Cake or muffins can be made ahead of time.  So can dips, fruit and vegetable trays.
    • Some things MUST be made ahead of time, especially if they need to marinate over night, like Spicy Pickled Shrimp and the chicken for the salad.  I actually marinated the chicken on Friday night then grilled it on Saturday and added it to the salad on Sunday.
    • It’s also important to think about components of dishes that can be prepped ahead of time, instead of using “all or nothing” thinking about your dishes.  Yes, the dressing can’t be added to the salad until just before the party, but you can prepare the chicken and sugared almonds the day before.  I cooked the breakfast sausage for the Breakfast Burritos the night before, and that saved me about 10-15 minutes the morning of the brunch.
    • Get out your tablecloths, dishes, glasses and silverware the day before (or earlier).  Lay out your place settings, if you’re doing a more formal brunch.
    • Prepare your centerpieces.  I actually purchased the flowers for the centerpieces on Friday.
    • Prep the drink station the day/night before.  Get out your glasses/goblets and coffee cups.  Name tags for drinks are helpful, especially when there are lots of people and a limited number of glasses!
    • Lay out your serving dishes with post it notes labeling what will be served in each dish.  I used this tip for a 50 person wine & cheese party when I needed LOTS of serving dishes.  It can be such a lifesaver!  Don’t forget the serving utensils!
  • Finalize your menu 5-7 days in advance.
    • If you’re asking people to bring dishes and want to know what they’re bringing you’ll need to give them a deadline and start early with your invitation, if at all possible.
    • Shop for your groceries at least 2 days before the event.  That way you’ll have time to run back for anything you forgot.  Keep in mind that most stores will be closed on the big holidays, so plan ahead or do without!

Easter Brunch 2010 4

Things to work on for next year:

  • Lower centerpieces.  My flower vases were too tall and got in the way of conversation.
  • I set out napkins and silverware at the place settings, but kept the plates by the food.  Place settings work best if everyone arrives at the same time, or if you wait to eat until everyone arrives.  As it happened, the dining room table went unused, and I swiped the silverware from the dining room to use at the more centrally located kitchen table for those that arrived later.
  • Buy more dessert plates, use disposable (not my favorite option), or be prepared to wash dishes mid-party.
  • Less food?  I like to have lots of options, but we did have way too much stuff.  The control freak in me is having trouble with this one because I feel like I need to roll out a restaurant-quality buffet.  (Note to self: You are not a restaurant.  You are one person.  And your name is NOT Martha Stewart.)
  • Favors.  I attempted to make the Un-baked Cookie Nests again, but they didn’t harden up like they were supposed to.
  • Put more thought into decorations.  Ties/ribbons on chairs, place cards (maybe one that does double duty as a favor), hanging lanterns.
  • Takeout containers to send leftovers home with guests.

Even with all of those suggestions for next year, I was still extremely pleased with how smoothly things came together this year.  Maybe I’ll lobby to host Thanksgiving, too!

What are YOUR favorite brunch dishes?  Any other tips for hosting a successful brunch?

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