Wednesday, April 6, 2016

My Arbitrary Brunch Rules


Brunch is undeniably my favorite meal.  I'm a morning person, so it's at just the right time.  I can still do my normal morning Tim Horton's and f-e-t-c-h routine without being completely starved for time to get ready.  Brunch is also, in my opinion, key to a successful group or family vacation.  What can make a group vacation most difficult are the many different schedules we all naturally operate on.  If A wakes up at 5, B wakes at 7:30, C & D rise at 8:30, E surfaces sometime between 9 and 10, F is rarely seen before 11, and G, well she might be medically labeled as in a coma, then getting everyone to meet for dinner at the same time is a bit like giving all the horses in the Kentucky Derby Quaaludes.  They'll stagger there eventually as there's nowhere else to go, but it won't be efficient.   Brunch puts everyone on the same schedule, mealwise.  It is a gracious dictator's greatest tool.  The early shift can have a little nibble with their coffee and wait.  I have plenty of time to go to the beach with Barbie, play f-e-t-c-h, give her a bath, shower, prep dinner, and run to the grocery for fruit.  The late and unconscious crowd have significant motivation to crawl to the table slightly early.  It gives everyone a chance to plan their separate and together activities without the combative questions at the door will you be home by 12:30? I need the car to get to yoga! -- There will be another car here! -- You know damn well I can't drive a stick! I could kill someone. You take that car. A good plan, eventually, but now someone is late to yoga which will likely lead to passive aggressive comments at dinner that are less than subtle after a generous pour at happy hour.  And you do not want to be the person who has the car I was planning to take to the grocery to get one pineapple for shrimp and pineapple crostini (I never buy pineapples more than twelve hours in advance, too unpredictable).  
Dawn

Sunrise

We wouldn't want our accessories to clash



Vacation brunch is about 11:30

Also, vacation wise, it keeps people out of your way when you're prepping dinner in the morning.  Left to their own devices, people will inevitably be stupid on vacation and use your chef's knife to slice a bagel and accidentally cut 75% of a fingertip off (yes, that happened in 2009.  I was more concerned about my cutting board being ruined, also I hated my friend K's boyfriend so I thought she might dump him if he only had 9.8 fingers. He recovered I think). 
I'm sure you already know the history of brunch, but basically it was invented by hungover Edwardians who couldn't sit up for breakfast until a later hour.  God bless them.  Some contest that theory but it's my favorite so I deem it true. 
Of course, brunch is not just for vacation.  It can be a wonderful way to celebrate a holiday or entertain.  As I tend to do, I have some rules for brunch that I think are matters of life and death.  Take them with a grain of fleur de sel and don't be afraid to disagree.  Just make sure my car is back on time. 
1. Choose a reasonable time to start.  Brunch should be fun and light, which will be impossible if you're fuming because your guests are a half hour late and yawning. 11, 12, and 1 are all acceptable or any half hour between.  If it starts at 10, it's breakfast and you're crazy. 
A most adorable brunch guest
Running out of steam
Brunch accommodates all schedules and can be finished before
 nap time. 

2. Do not cut your fruit the night before.  Buying pre-cut fruit is not okay. Ever.  If you're really terrified of cutting a pineapple or a mango, do all berries and grapes.  Think about fruit for a moment. What is it? Fruit is a rapidly decomposing vessel to perpetuate the species.  The more broken down a whole fruit is, the faster it will decompose and the sugars will turn to acid.  Air + sugar/carbohydrates + moisture=yeast.  You don't want your fruit platter to have a yeast infection, do you? Pineapple, mango, strawberries, and citrus taste much more acidic when cut and refrigerated overnight, almost pickled.  Versus sweet perfection when sliced fresh that morning.  Oranges and grapefruit are best bought the day before, kept at room temperature overnight, and sliced the next morning, and in tupperware at room temperature for 1-2 hours.  It does make more work for the morning of the brunch, but it's so worth it. 
I always serve fruit with Greek Yogurt mixed
with a little honey.  


If whole pomegranates are available, I love to sprinkle the seeds over the
platter. I don't buy the seeds outside of the fruit though.  They taste weird.  

My favorite in the summer: melon, cucumber, tomato salad is perfect for brunch.
In this case, you should douse with vinegar in addition to salt.

3. Do not have the coffee, toaster, or mimosas on the buffet.  Have them in a separate zone.  Multiple toasters are helpful if your group is larger than eight.  I always have something that can be toasted to make sandwiches.  Sometimes bagels, and sometimes buttermilk and cinnamon-raisin rolls (I base my rolls off this recipe, I use buttermilk instead of milk and add about 2T of butter.  For the CR rolls, I heat 1 cup buttermilk barely, and add in about 2T cinnamon and 1 1/2 cup raisins.  The warm buttermilk is infused with cinnamon and the raisins are plumped.  Budget triple rise time as cinnamon is a yeast inhibitor).  I often have the buffet, coffee and toaster, and mimosa station making a U around the table.  This way none of them feel like outposts, but can operate without any bottlenecking. 
Barbie and her esteemed guest, Arnie. Too polite to beg
for bacon but too canine to abandon hope some will fall.

4. Have your buffet and table in front of an east-facing window, if possible.  Okay I know this is a stretch but lighting is important!  Just like you don't want brilliant, bright light for a dinner party, you do want the energy of early light for a brunch.  Brunch food is so appetizing with rays of sun on it.  Think about those glorious early episodes of Barefoot Contessa, what makes those episodes so beautiful?  The light.  The dinners are dark and moody and the brunches are bathed in sun. 
5. Bake your bacon.  In another nod to early Ina, I only bake bacon.  It is so much easier and you can make a lot at one time.  I line baking sheets with foil, spray with vegetable oil, and line the bacon on the sheets.  It's a bit crowded, but obviously the mass reduces.  I do this the night before and put them in the refrigerator uncovered.  The dry, cold air on the surface of the bacon is a good thing.  It makes it crisper.  When everyone arrives, I put it in a cold oven and set it for 350 on convection.  I let it bake for 20-22 minutes and turn the oven off.  Let it sit another ten minutes and it is perfect.  You may need to adjust based on your oven.  I always bake it in my KitchenAid oven, which heats very quickly.  On vacation, I have a Thermador and it takes about 2 minutes longer.  Use my recipe only as a guideline and keep a close eye on it the first time to see how it may differ in your oven.  Once done baking and resting,  remove and place on a plate with paper towels.  I generally do two layers of bacon and paper towels so all the grease is removed.  Also, did you know rolling a package of bacon inward like a jelly roll and then outward the same way makes the slices easier to separate? Save the bacon fat for thinly sliced roasted potatoes with rosemary that night. 
Could there be a brunchier combination than sunny roses
and blue glass? This was for my New Year's Day brunch

FF, do you like the way I handle my ham?
An All Clad fork works perfectly.
I glaze with the juice of two grapefruits, two limes,
a "just look the other way" shake of brown sugar,
1/4 cup ground mustard, and 2 Tablespoons onion powder.
I bake it in a covered dutch oven and only uncover to brown. 

Guest who cant eat pork? Do Huevos Rancheros.
I use this recipe.  If you can believe it, I use less than half
the cheese.  This recipe is perfect otherwise. Warning: the
ATK website is very annoying.  
6. Music is kind of hard for brunch. I think the easiest party music is '70s on 7 on Sirius XM.  However on Saturday and Sunday morning-afternoons, they replay old Kasey Kasem countdowns.  This is bad because people want to hear the anecdotes and stop talking.  So for a weekend brunch, I do a '60s and '70s mix of my own making. One of the best and most appropriate being this, to which my sister used to think the words were You and me and Leslie and that it was about a threesome! 
7.  Though I struggle to make really good coffee and am still mad I bought this coffee maker before knowing this was the best one like Dani did, I think you are better to go too strong with your coffee than weak.  I tend to have half & half and a coffeemate flavored cream.  My favorite is hazelnut.  I just put out real sugar in a china bowl because I think packets are ugly.  Luckily in the Midwest, I don't need to bother with tea.  In the summer or on vacation, I often have sun tea with lots of fresh mint.  Sugar on the side for that, too. 
The Blueberry Muffin recipe from Martha's Entertaining is
failsafe and makes the most beautiful muffins, it's the base
for my banana bread blueberry muffins.



8.  Do you know how to make a proper mimosa?  Often people do a 1:1 ratio of champagne (or prosecco at my house) and OJ.  Incorrect. It's always hard for me when I'm doing wedding hair and I have to watch the bridal party butcher my third favorite drink.  Some say 1 part OJ to 2 parts bubbles.  I say 1 part OJ to 3 parts bubbles. 
9.  I like a mix of silver and white platters with green and/or blue and white accents.  All silver can go a little too fussy, and I don't think fruit looks as pretty on silver as it does on white.  I will torture you all with another entire post dedicated to arranging a fruit platter. 
10. I rarely buy tomatoes outside of July-October when they are perfect at the farmers' market.  I do make an exception for brunch.  Sliced tomatoes are, for whatever reason, essential to brunch.  I have best luck with tomatoes from Mexico labeled as vine-ripened.  The Teets has a deal with the devil and has nice heirloom tomatoes all year.  Slice and salt liberally about 20 minutes before serving. No pepper or vinegar, this isn't a rave.   Bonus points for a tomato server.  Though a fork works almost as well. 

How I love a piece of specialty silver
What did I miss? Do you have any brunch tips to share?  Do you forsake the mimosa for the bellini?  Are you having a Mother's Day brunch?  I have the best muffin recipe that I promise to share before then.   

73 comments:

  1. Gosh you really packed a lot of great tips into this fabulous post! You have inspired me...I think I will host a brunch for our daughters birthday.
    Everything looks so fresh and tasty and I love the variety of dishes that you are serving....mimosa's are perfect brunch drinks and I use those same proportions!

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    1. Thank you so much! That will be fabulous for your daughter's birthday! I wonder if it might be warm enough to have your meal on the patio? It would be so lovely with all the beautiful blooms around you!

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  2. Where do I start? I agree on your treatise on pre-cut fruit. I also don't trust it apart from the taste. Just a cultural note but in east Asia ( differs from southeast) fruit is served always on its own. Otherwise it's like when the French started concocting up various sauces to disguise rapidly decomposing meat. I hate the toast bit. Such a pahlava BC someone will get a round and it's like steak orders. Crispy, barely toasted but only just golden but not chestnut etc. I only serve pastries to avoid this BC I ain't getting another toaster.

    Tea is not optional here so I have builders and earl grey. People don't like the American style coffee here in fact hard pressed to find it so we use the plunger or bialetti. We also don't do flavoured creamer not half and half. We are living in the dark ages!

    You are my tribe SAJ. Your appreciation of the nuances of light and the visceral effect on life is spot on!

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    1. Thank you! Haha oh I would NEVER toast things for people as I would quickly throw them out of the house. I basically take the cheap hotel continental breakfast approach and let people toast things for themselves. I like it because it keeps things lively and encourages a few different conversations when the meal is just getting started. Its kind of a nice accidental mingling session.
      Just yogurt is a conservative condiment for fruit here! It's common to have a "fruit dip" which is like cool whip, yogurt, and pudding. I won't lie it's so good. But I only buy one tub of cool whip a year for my brother's favorite dessert. Oh I'm so glad I don't have to deal with tea. Coffee seems so much easier.

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    2. PS did you see they are auctioning off most of the pots used at tour d'argent next month - copper being half of them?

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    3. Oooooooh I will look! thank you!

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  3. I never serve brunch because I thought I didn't like it but I was so wrong. So inspired by every single tip here. I'm going to click on this post 800 times because it is brilliant, and it is going to be my guide.
    SO many good things about brunch, well daytime drinking for starters. You are completely correct about the mimosa ratio thing. Please write a post about arranging your fruit platters because I lack patience and always end up flinging things.
    I can't believe you gave me credit for the coffee maker, I am such an amateur at this kind of entertaining I deserve nothing. But that will change thanks to you.
    What a treat to read this post today, I have the plague and it has cheered me up immensely. Thank you Darling SAJ. Dying over gorgeous Barbie and her friend too. XOX

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    1. Oh I'm so glad to read this! Thank you! Brunch really is nice because the food is all pretty easy. I often make home fries which are a great addition that can be kept vegan so the mix and match nature of brunch works for everyone. The daytime drinking is perhaps my favorite, too! Since I struggle to stay awake after 11, it's nice to have my full battery of energy to go at the bar. :) if I remember correctly you had two dinners on the 24th and 25th of December, so clearly you're no novice in this department!

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  4. Wonderful post, full of so much information and good ideas. Thank you!

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  5. It's true what everyone says about you. You are fabulous! This should be called The Brunch Bible. I will refer to this from now on. I have always loved your comments on Elle's blog (bless her). Now I am a faithful follower of yours.
    Nina in Michigan (ignore that tacky Google name)

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    1. Hello, Nina! Thank you so much! Haha I have at least two more brunch posts. I'm surprising myself with how many thoughts I have on the matter :)

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  6. Good grief! You are making up for all those times you did not post. Everything is INCREDIBLE LOOKING! I bake bacon too...and the picture of Barbie on the beach with the setting sun is fabulous! You are on such a roll...keep it coming. You get the Oscar for best writing on any blog I've followed.

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    1. Thank you so much! That is so nice of you to say! I love that photo. I got so lucky with the birds! I didn't even see them until a few months after I took it.

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  7. Good tips. I think it is all very helpful.

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  8. O.M.G.
    if paris is a moveable feast then your brunch is a standing orgy of delight.
    the best pineapple of my life was when a half naked young native used his machete to cut slices for me from a totally fresh warm perfect fruit.
    in the instant of four swift flashes of his blade he then speared a piece and offered it. HEAVEN! your platter took me back!
    someday you will own an exquisite tiny elite spa and you'll call and say...
    "tammy. I know you can't afford it... but you've bowed at my feet for so long... why don't you come and have brunch at least!"
    and i'll take two planes a train a bus and a taxi and i'll BE THERE!
    oh yes.
    and barbie's little fuchsia pink tongue is the perfect accessory to her collar!!! XOXO♥

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    1. Hahaha! Tammy you are so sweet and invited any time. Though I can almost promise I will not be embarking on a big spa project! The last thing I want are employees! Too many headaches. Was this pineapple in Hawaii or some other tropical land?

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    2. the Bahamas.
      haven't returned since. love the memory!

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  9. Never commented before....this post is a keeper. Now on to plan a Brunch...

    Ali

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    1. Hello, Ali! Thank you so much! Please let me know how your brunch goes!

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  10. That ham looks awesome!!! Well done you with the superior ham handling! I like brunch and like to do home made rolls and baked ham- so easy.

    I really love your posts and it makes me sad you don't do them more often.

    Everything looks beautiful xxx

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    1. Thank you FF!! You are the ham handling queen and I thank you for your approval. i used to try to write posts when I wasn't inspired and they were so bad so now I only write if I really have something to say

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  11. I tried the 11:00 a.m. for Easter Sunday...mistake, since people came around 12:30, and I spent the time trying to keep things warm...then listen to all the "so sorry we're late", and I had to smile and pretend it was no sweat!!! Yes to fresh cut fruit...always! Bacon in the oven...thank you Ina! Stephen, this was a delightful post with wonderful ideas that I'll include in my recipe journal. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you so much, Cleo! Oh that is so annoying! Things just get ruined when they're kept warm too long! Especially with anything egg!

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  12. All I know is that I definitely need to brunch more often, if for no reason other than that it is the only meal that can be verbed. Also, I've had your coffeemaker, and it sucks.

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    1. Yes yes you do! Brunching is a way of life. Ugh I'm so mad at myself for buying it. I bought it in 2012 before hurricane sandy when they were saying we were going to have a hurricane here! Maybe l just drop it off the counter a few times.

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  13. You do know that I will expect you to come visit me on my new farm so we can do brunch together, right?
    I have a Fresh Market nearby and I discovered that I can buy sliced Challah whenever the hell I want it. BEST discovery! Now my children have been subjected to Sunday French toast for the past two weeks in a row and it will most likely continue until my pants start feeling tight. Then we rest.
    The "you don't want your fruit to have a yeast infection" part is equal to "practically a minimalist".
    You are back with a vengeance!Life just got that much better.
    xo

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    1. Oh I would love to come! I haven't been there! I love a good Fresh Market. It's funny how they can be hit or miss isn't it? Glad you have such a good one! I love challah and am always trying to make it myself and it looks ugly and hideous. Thank you so much!

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  14. I cannot tell you how much I would love to come to festivities that you hosted. Any time, any where. Not angling for an invitation, I swear I'm not;).

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    1. Thank you! When I finally find your twirled leg side table/night stand you can come pick it up in person! I'm always looking for it when I'm antiquing! I know I'll find it!

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  15. I just Loooooove your posts on entertaining. You give Martha a run for her money and make her look positively slack and lackadaisical. Your fruit platters are a work of art, and I'm looking forward to the upcoming explanation on how you put them together.
    I never have people for brunch. This is because you've essentially described a typical weekend breakfast with my kids at home, sans alcohol. Multiple courses, help yourself.. let me tell you that Barbie would be in heaven though - there is such a mess on the floors from the dropped food when my kids make their own, Barbie would put on kilos in just a day.
    I have to say, I also think you're one of the most thoughtful hosts. All the attention to detail and reasoning behind your food prep etc is amazing. I really think you've missed your true calling and should run a B&B or something. x

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    1. Haha can you imagine my b&b? I'd be banging on the doors and barging in and yelling at the guests like "you think you can act like this in MY HOUSE?!" I would have very bad reviews that all ended "but the food was really good".
      Thank you so so much! Oh I can just see a lingering brunch in your house around the pool and garden! How gorgeous! And you have the perfect blue and white plates!

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  16. You have made me want to have a brunch "toot sweet": why haven't I had a brunch for years?

    Love the baked bacon I am definitely going to do this.

    Agree about Prosecco versus champagne...I'm more on the martini/vermouth proportion re Prosecco and orange juice.

    I have a friend who does wonderful fruit plates chopping the fruit just before the guests arrive. (Can any fruit look ugly? but your plates look superb.)

    The very best part of your excellent post was Barbie and Arnie. Having a dog there is instant entertainment and fun: Their sadness at not being fed at the same time as guests but, the wonder of spillages, food accidents, unattended rubbish bins and doting dog lovers.

    Looking forward to more posts on brunch.

    Thank you

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    1. Hello, Sue! Thank you so much! I hope you do have a brunch! I agree with you, fresh fruit is more beautiful than flowers. The colors and the way it glistens is just magnetic. I'll never turn down a glass of champagne but I really do think prosecco has a crisper flavor. And when one buys and drinks en masse as I do, it's much more affordable! Plus I love the blue labels on my favorite brand Lamarca.

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  17. Your brunches look fab! Will definitely be trying some of those recipes!
    Love brunches too, but only do them when the weather is warm enough (but not too hot) to sit outdoors on our covered decking. Always have a huge platter of fruit, freshly cut that morning - and a big bowl of low fat unsweetened Greek yogurt. Then maybe a platter of cheeses and olives and cherry tomatoes with leg ham slices served separately. French bread for people to slice themselves, lots of organic butter. Bottles of champagne and/or white wine, with juice for the non-drinkers. Then croissants and jams and maybe pains aux raisins and muffins. With plunger coffee and pots of tea. Sometimes the magpies join us.
    How wonderful it would be to do a big brunch we could all attend! In spirit anyway! Pammie x

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    1. Oh Pammie I want to come to your brunch! Are the tomatoes good all year in Australia? They almost are in Florida. Although have you ever tried a New York/New Jersey tomato when visiting NY in the summer? People say there really is nothing better than a summer mid Atlantic tomato. But I wonder if it's just because we're so starved for them :)
      You coexist well with the magpies don't you? I think I remember you saying on FF that you feed them so they think of you as part of their family! Have never encountered them but think they are so beautiful with their contrasting feathers and intense eyes.

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    2. PS it would be so fun to have a big brunch!

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    3. No, sadly our tomatoes are only good in summer when we can pick them from the garden. The cherry tomatoes are so sweet and full of flavour it's like eating candy (we'd say lollies). Tomatoes are available here year round but in Canberra they're usually picked before properly ripe so mostly lack flavour. We do try to buy good vine ripened ones but not easy to locate. Have only visited NY in spring so didn't get the chance to try one of their summer tomatoes.

      I also love tomatoes in the Mediterranean in summer. The Provence markets are heavenly - fabulous tomatoes, asparagus, artichokes etc and amazing fruit. The cherries and other stone fruit and the melons! Heavenly! Of course here in summer we also get great fruit, specially the mangoes, papaya and lychees.

      Magpies are our friends. V important to make friends with them or they can be dangerous during nesting time. They're very protective of their eggs and young. People walking or cycling near trees with nests can be swooped. They can damage your face or eyes with their beaks or claws. There are usually signs indicating swooping magpies during the season so people know to be careful. They say magpies can recognise those who feed them and will never attack them. Not sure if true but maggies have never bothered us. They come to our backdoor, tap on the glass and sing to us. Pammie

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    4. Oh I'm so jealous of your worldwide market experience! I'm sure the Australian fruit is heavenly. It's a real gamble buying tropical fruits here. how sweet that they interact with you so nicely!

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  18. Loved reading this post, but then again, I've really enjoyed reading all your posts.
    Just like all the other readers who have commented before me, I would also love to book a seat at your brunch if you ever take bookings. Den xxx
    PS FYI, despite everything being in order and food, drink, flowers and home all perfectly ready for a photo
    shoot, illness at 2am on morning of Christmas party meant I had to cancel the Christmas party. Neighbours all were fantastic and eagerly await the new date. The funniest thing was that the neighbours who were overseas at the time of the party said great, when you reschedule we'll be here. (no recession I discovered in this street as 7 neighbours were overseas touring Japan, Korea, USA, south pacific etc).

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    1. Thank you so much! Oh no!! I'm so sorry to hear that! Can you reschedule it for Greek Easter? I'm sure your neighbors would love that! Especially if they're not Greek! Plus you could still use some red Christmas decor! They're such similar holidays in meaning! Why not?! Well at least you had a fabulously clean house well-stocked with food to get through your illness!

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  19. This was truly inspiring. I'm really glad you're going to go into more detail about your fruit platters because they are stunning...but oh my, what a lot of morning chopping you must have done. I also have to thank you for identifying the tomato server. I have one, and didn't know what it was - looking forward to using it properly this summer! It's not even breakfast time here and you've gotten my day off to a great start - I've been a reader for a long time but this is my first comment. So glad you are posting again : ))

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    1. Hello, Susan! Thank you so much. Tomato servers are so cute, aren't they? And people love using them! They really are wonderful for delicate summer tomatoes. It is a bit of chopping but that's my favorite part of cooking. Well, maybe standing at the range with a glass of wine stirring is my favorite. But I love it.

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  20. WHERE to BEGIN........THANK goodness YOU wereNOT here last SUNDAY!Brunch started with PASTA!AN egg dish pasta.........I AGREE never BUY that pre-sliced FRUIT!YUCK!I cannot wait to try your Melon, cucumber and tomato salad!I ADORE Huevos Rancheros!!!!!SO< much to take in HERE.I will RED FLAG and re-read again...........I do hope Ellie has READ this!!She would APPROVE is MY guess!!!
    XX

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    1. Thank you so much, Contessa! Are you kidding?! I approve of pasta anytime anywhere. There is nothing nearer or dearer to my heart. Don't always have the utmost adoration for eggs, but I'm sure your pasta was fab!

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    2. My eggs come from my HENS........
      They are FRESH.........PROMISE!

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  21. I'm rather late to this party. You are hilarious and these are excellent tips. I've always been a brunch fanatic and now I know why: it's all about preventing passive aggressive yoga-denial scenes. Bravo!

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    1. Hello! Thank you so much! All this time you've been intuitively keeping vacation yoga peaceful!

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  22. That's a tomato server? I've always used mine to serve cranberry slices fresh out of the can with the imprint on each slice! You've turned my world upside-down. Love this post!

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    1. Oh that's such a wonderful idea! Now it's a piece of downright utility! I will remember that when I start writing thanksgiving posts in a few weeks. :) Thank you so much!

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  23. what can i possibly add to this?! i adore brunch bc it is just so relaxing. i got larry back to church just by suggesting we go to brunch afterwards! now sundays are our favorite day of the week.

    i love your platters. you are a perfectionist to love. thank you for taking photos and writing these posts that inspire us all to entertain beautifully and live an elegant life. you are one in a million and need your own tv show stat. xo

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    1. My favorite restaurant does Sunday brunch and I love being there when the church crowd starts coming in. Such a nice ritual! And it's within walking distance of serval lovely churches. Including the most beautiful cathedral in my area.
      That is such a lovely wonderful nice thing to say thank you so so much!

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  24. I adore brunch, for all the same reasons you do. New Year's brunch is so much more civilized than staying up until 2 a.m. drinking, that is no way to welcome a new year. We used to have a beach house we stayed at on vacations and my experiences with people's wake-up times was the same as yours, so brunch really does make the most sense. And I laughed out loud at Barbie's darling green accessories. I'd expect nothing less for her! Looks like a happy, happy time at the beach for everyone.

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    1. I despise New Year's Eve! But in the interest of full disclosure I still welcome the new year with drinking, it's just a little more pastel in the form of a mimosa :)

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    2. I do not like NEW YEARS EVE either!!

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  25. I'm from India and I always wait and read your posts. Haven't got your attention yet, though �� Love your posts,had never heard of a tomato server,what a piece!
    My dog looks just like your barbie and we call call him kaalu. Do you bathe Barbie everyday?

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    1. Thank you so much! Kaalu! What a cute name. Barbie does get a bath every day on vacation because of the sand and the salt. Normally only once or sometimes twice a week. I got very lucky with her coat as it's not an oily double coat like a purebred Labrador, so it's really a lot more like hair than fur and therefore can be washed frequently.

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  26. Your fruit platters are spectacular! I end up being lazy and make a fruit salad instead, with a bit of Grand Marnier to add some zing. I love all of your tips though, and will put them to good use this summer.

    I always make a smoked salmon platter with capers and thinly sliced red onion and lemon wedges. We can get fresh, wood-oven baked bagels everywhere (a Montreal perk), so the platter gets demolished in no time. Also, if I don't make my devilled ggs, I get hell. Apparently it isn't a party without devilled eggs in this house. Super easy recipe - use 1/3 amount of horseradish mayo with 2/3 Hellman's mayo, and that's IT. I add nothing else and they are amazing!

    Sometimes I'll bake a quiche Lorraine, but with chopped ham, not bacon. So rich and so good!

    I'm with you on the mimosas. I make mine with mango juice instead of orange, though. And I'll never waste a good bottle of Champagne on mimosas. A Crémant de Loire or Limoux, or a prosecco or moscato d'Asti is fine with me. Also - you MUST put a bottle of Bailey's beside your coffee machine. Nothing like coffee and Bailey's to round things out.

    So happy to see you posting again. Keep it up!

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    1. Thank you so much! Oh why have I never tried a mimangosa? I need one now desperately. Haha I got hell from my grandpa on Easter for not having deviled eggs! I promised him I'd make them on vacation. Have just never been much one for Bailey's. But that is a good idea, especially for a holiday brunch! So so so jealous of your bagel availability! It's disappointing that where I live despite the strong economy and abundance of people spending money, independent bakeries and restaurants really struggle. A few years ago I came across a gorgeous space for lease that was very affordable and had a vision for a bakery that featured different bakers throughout the week and then brunches on sat and sun with me at the helm. The more research I did the worse the idea seemed. But I still think it's a lovely concept!

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    2. Haha, when you retire you can open a B&B and let your inner host-with-the-most LOOSE!

      We are lucky because amazing bakeries abound here. Croissants - yum - my favorite thing! Everyone should have access to artisan bread. Even our Costco offers up an artisan baguette that has become my favorite of late.

      Any news on the Spode??? Here's to hoping it works out!

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    3. Oh my gosh I meant to include that in my comment! I got all busy thinking about my would be cafe :) I did email her and she wanted $1500 CAD for the set! Plus whoever knows how much shipping would be. If I go to Maine this summer I might see if she still has it and is willing to liquidate it if I come pick it up. It's way too far from Ohio, but slightly kinda manageable from Maine. But thank you so much for finding it! I've yet to see a big set like that anywhere else. H

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  27. I just wanted to let you know that I put this post aside "for when I needed it." Did the trick beyond perfectly. :)
    Your talent knows no bounds...

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    1. I am so so glad to hear that! Thank you so much!

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  28. That food, the dogs the baby.. all fabulous!! xo K

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    1. Thank you! The baby is adorrrrable. And she has two big dogs of her own so she just loves Barbie!

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  29. Stephen, Just reading this post exhausts me! However, I wouldn't mind being a guest at one of your brunches.
    My brunches ... lox, tuna, salad, bagels and all the fixings, croissants or muffins, fresh fruit, nuts, coffee, tea, juice, champagne. I do love a pretty table and all that goes along with it.

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  30. t, I'm not sure why your comment disappeared! It's in my email and not showing up here! Anyway, thank you! Your brunch sounds fabulous and you're right, a beautifully set table goes very far!

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    1. No worries - I love reading your posts...they make me wonder 'when does this man sleep?' You are a marvel.

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  31. Stephen, you are a marvel! Love the fruit platters - maybe I'll make a mini one for my breakfast - much more elegant than dumping fruit and yogurt in a bowl like I did yesterday morning! Love the pictures of Barbie, what a sweetie. You'll be hearing from me soon - I'm starting to look pretty scary with my roots growing out! You're right about bagels - can't find a good bagel in Ohio to save your life! So good to see you back.

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    1. Thank you so much, Donna! I can't wait to hear about your trip!! The big question: did you visit Magnolia market and/or bakery and meet Joanna Gaines?

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  32. Have you written a book yet? I'd like a copy or three... and if not, what are you waiting for? Not kidding.... hilarious, helpful tips... beautiful photos... do it.

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    1. Thank you so much Karen!! I don't know if I could keep focused on writing a book! Haha it would end up more of a babbling encyclopedia I'm afraid

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