Brunch and Breakfast Tips

How to Host a Successful Brunch
You can have an elegant brunch with little effort.
You can have an elegant brunch with little effort.

Partaking in a household breakfast or brunch can be a weekend favorite or a weekday treat, but hosting one isn't always a piece of cake, pancake or not. To avoid the breakfast blues, check out these great tips and tricks for hosting a successful brunch or breakfast without the hunger pains.

Serving Brunch, Buffet Style

A buffet is probably the easiest way to host a brunch. There are none of the worries about serving food in courses or seating folks or displaying fancy table linens.

In other words, it's less work for the hostess. Plus, the menu is usually pretty standard, and the dishes aren't complicated to prepare. By following a few simple guidelines, a buffet can be almost as simple as arranging the food on the dining room sideboard and sounding the dinner bell.

A buffet can seem like an overwhelmingly dramatic presentation of food, but it really doesn't take much effort to get it to look beautiful. Mixing and matching is perfectly acceptable and completely fashionable.

What to Make

Brunch menus obviously draw on foods from both breakfast and lunch. There's usually an egg-based dish, a dish incorporating traditional breakfast meats, pastries and cheeses.

Lunch is usually represented by an entrée such as a casserole or meat-based dish, sometimes served over rice. Fruit salads and vegetable salads are typically served.

Choosing dishes that can be served at room temperature is another option to consider when selecting the menu. Unless you plan to seat the guests at a table, select foods that don't need to be cut because plates and drinks probably will be balanced on laps.

Desserts are simple -- cupcakes, cookies, bars, pastry. And beverages include juices, coffee, and tea but also typically feature one or more alcoholic beverages, such as mimosas, Bloody Mary's, sparkling wine, or champagne.

Where to Put the Food

Place the food on the buffet table in a logical order: main dishes first, followed by side dishes, salads, and breads.

The trick to successful entertaining is to serve dishes that you can prepare easily and with confidence. If you can scramble an egg, slice a bagel, and pour orange juice into a pitcher, you can do a brunch buffet.

Any surface can double as a serving table. A brunch buffet is a casual affair, so feel free to use several surfaces to hold everything. As a matter of fact, it actually works well to group the main and side dishes together on one table, beverages on another and desserts on yet another; the traffic keeps moving and your guests can avoid gridlock.

Breakfast and brunch should be relaxing, not taxing. Check out tips on how to host a stress-free brunch.

Before you set up, consider how you want the brunch traffic to flow, and then place the tables accordingly. Ideally, tables should be approachable from all sides so there can be more than one line of guests serving themselves at the same time.

If you don't have the space to put all of the tables in the same room, try putting the coffee, tea, and desserts on a table or two in the room where everyone is likely to gather to eat.

Where to Put Your Guests

If guests will be eating at a table, lay a background of plain linens or subtle patterns to help accentuate the beauty of mismatched pieces. A simple and inexpensive way to show off these pieces is to use "chargers": large decorative plates that sit under dinner plates.

Try to make foods where individual servings are possible.
©Edyta Pawlowska

And speaking of eating at the table, if that's in the cards for your buffet, keep the main table's centerpiece short. Guests are going to want to converse with-and see- the other guests.

Leave plenty of room in front of the serving dishes so that guests can set their plates down while they serve themselves. If guests will be eating at a table, set flatware on the table in place settings. If there won't be a main serving table, put flatware at the end of the buffet line.

Make Utensil-Friendly Food

By the way, go easy on the flatware. Food should be cut into individual servings where possible so that knives are unnecessary. And if coffee will be served afterward and/or elsewhere, provide spoons near the coffee service so guests don't have to carry them around throughout the meal.

Lastly, go easy on yourself. Cook ahead. Arrange and set tables and decorate the day before. Purchase foods you don't have time to cook. Relax, and remember that your friends are coming to see you and have a good time, not to scrutinize your china.

Turn to the next page for some tips on making time for breakfast.

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