While I’m deeply attached to Brunch Club’s longstanding tradition of trying a new bottomless brunch in SF every weekend, I recognize that going out drinking every Saturday or Sunday afternoon can get pricey. Doubly so if brunch leads to karaoke, which then leads to bottomless dinner at shabu shabu (post on that coming eventually – my love for shabu runs almost as deep as my love for brunch).
Cost aside, there are some weekends you may not want to leave the house at brunch time – maybe your college is playing a football game that’s not important enough for bars to show or you just moved into a new house and want to christen it with brunch. That’s cool; while going out for bottomless brunch is great, it’s also incredibly easy to do yourself at home.
There’s not a lot of stuff you need to get right to throw a successful brunch, but it’s imperative that you not screw up the few critical things.
First off, get some RSVPs. You know as well as I that people will flake at the last minute, but you at least need to know whether the group is going to be closer to 5 or 20. No need to send out save the date cards – just create a Facebook event or send out a quick email and ask people to respond. You’ll want to schedule brunch around noon to make sure people have time to get up and get there. Beyond that, if you’re doing brunch for some sort of special occasion, definitely include that in the invite as well.
Second, get people to bring stuff. If you’ve got friends with culinary skills, let them craft their own breakfast dishes or come over early to help with your prep. For those who you don’t trust near an open flame, there’s still lots they can bring:
- Other juices
- Coffee cake, croissants, other pastries
- No really you can’t have enough champagne
- Fruit salad
Now all you really need is a table and chairs. These things sound simple, but I’ve shown up to a lot of hosted meals where the host forgot that his small table with two chairs won’t actually fit his guests. Don’t be that guy. Make sure you have a table that’s a little bit bigger than you need. If you can’t find one of those, get a folding table or two to supplement your main one. Then make sure you have enough chairs – again, beg/borrow/steal folding chairs (or buy them I guess) as necessary – including a few extras in case people bring unexpected guests.
Cooking a delicious brunch doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, I’ll give you a couple of options to choose from based on your culinary expertise.
Buy a bunch of bagels (fresh, obviously) and bread plus some cream cheese and jams to go with. Get a fruit plate. Buy some coffee cake. Scramble up a dozen eggs (or however many you need for your group… figure two per person to be safe). Cook bacon, but not in the microwave because for the love of god have some standards. Voila – you’re done. Nobody came over expecting Michelin dining anyway, and if you’re a terrible cook your friends will probably just be excited that when they show up they find your house is still intact and not just a pile of ashes.
I’m using the word “professional” loosely here, because the bottom line is cooking isn’t actually that hard, and if you can follow simple, step by step instructions, you can impress people. The key here is to hit the right ratio of classiness to effort. You’d be surprised how many foods look really impressive but are easy to make – lots of those below.
First, get your breads. Delicious, carb-filled, alcohol-absorbing-so-your-guests-remember-the-end-of-brunch breads. Honestly, fresh bagels are still the best idea here. Everyone loves fresh bagels. Croissants are great too, as is a fresh loaf of bread or two. Unless you’re a great baker, you should just go to your local bakery and buy these things, because baking is actually way harder than most other brunch cooking.
Next up, you’re gonna want your egg dishes. Lots of options here, including the aforementioned huge plate of scrambled eggs (but maybe throw some cheese in them just to be classy).
- Omelette Bar – This requires more time and effort, since you’ve gotta crank these things out one by one, but omelettes aren’t that hard to make. If you’re going to go this route, prep your ingredients beforehand. Cut up veggies (mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, avocado), meats (sausage, bacon, ham, salami) and cheese and put them in bowls, so folks can see their options and make their choices.
- Baked Eggs – These fall under the category of things that are easy but classy. All you have to do is get a muffin tin (if you don’t have one, get this one – silicone is way better than metal for this). Now you’re basically just going to scramble a bunch of eggs, mix in ingredients, dump into the tin and throw in the oven. This is a good recipe to follow, but you can swap out the ingredients for whatever you want.
Alongside your eggs and breads, you’re going to need meat. Here’s the good news – meat is easy. Buy breakfast sausages and bacon, throw in a pan on medium heat until cooked, then serve on a big plate.
Last but not least (arguably most, in fact) is the sweet stuff. In my humble opinion (kidding – I’m very vain and hold my own opinion in high regard), the best choice here is waffles. If you don’t have a waffle maker, you can get one for <$20. Once people start to arrive, you can start cranking these out – once you get the timing down, they require almost no attention. “But I don’t know how to make waffle batter,” you say. Here’s the trick – waffles are always delicious as long as you don’t burn them, so instead of using a fancy waffle mix recipe, buy Bisquick and follow the instructions on the side, which are all of three steps (make sure you have eggs and milk).
If you don’t want to go the waffle route, you can also use Bisquick for waffles’ inferior cousin, pancakes. You could also get much fancier and do french toast, but that’s too time consuming to be practical. Coffee cake is a good option that you can make or buy ahead of time and just heat up the morning of.
Go with your staples here – mimosas and Bloody Marys.
For mimosas, remember that the correct ratio of champagne to juice is in the 95/5% range. You want almost entirely champagne with a little juice for color, so it makes for a better Instagram picture. Bonus points if you get some raspberries/blueberries/strawberries and drop one in the bottom of the glass to make things look extra classy.
On the Bloody Mary side of things, while it may be tempting to make your own BM mix from scratch, there’s a ton of options and that can get overwhelming. I definitely won’t fault you for doing that, but there are also some great pre-made mixes you can buy. Definitely stay away from the cheap stuff in the alcohol isle of the supermarket that comes in a big plastic jug – instead, spring for something like this stuff, which is awesome. Also, grab some of their pickle spears and drop those in your glasses as a delicious garnish. Instead of pickles (or in addition to them), a slice of cooked bacon in a Bloody Mary is never a bad choice.
In both cases, for ease of serving I recommend making these by the pitcher.
The other drink of great importance is coffee. Some people manage to survive without this, which I don’t understand at all, but for those non-morning/very hung over people, it’s a necessity. If you don’t already know how to make coffee, just call up your local Starbucks the day before and tell them you need to pick up coffee for however many people – they’ll hook you up with a big container of it.
When people show up
I’ve told you what you need to do here, but just as important is when you do it.
5-7 days before
Invite people! Create a Facebook event or send out a text to at least get a high level idea of whether it’s a good weekend for a brunch of if everyone’s going to be out of town for something.
3 days before
Confirm your invites – follow up and ask people who haven’t already given a definite yes to let you know if they’re coming and/or respond to the FB invite. Do this in the morning, so by the end of the day you have a rough headcount.
2 days before
Make sure you have all of the aforementioned supplies. As a reminder, these include:
- Enough table space for everyone
- Enough chairs for everyone
- Plates, cups, silverware (disposable is a great choice here to save you having to clean up)
- All of your ingredients and lots of champagne
The day before
Remind people! Shoot everyone a text and let them know that if they don’t show up everyone will talk shit about them at brunch (or maybe some other, nicer reminder if this isn’t how you interact with your friends).
Pre-make anything you can. You can scramble and chill all the ingredients for your baked eggs plus get your waffle batter ready. If you’re baking anything else, you can either prep it beforehand and bake in the morning or just bake ahead of time and heat up (though baking in the morning makes your house smell great, which never hurts).
One hour before
Start cooking! Start baking things as necessary, and if everything’s already baked, then put your oven on low and use it to keep things warm. That way you can start cranking out eggs, bacon and sausage without worrying about the temperature.
30 minutes before
Get your first pitchers of drinks ready, set the table, and then start cranking out waffles or pancakes.
The appointed time
When guests start to arrive, ply them with liquor (I mean, offer them a beverage). Let folks mill around until you get a critical mass of people, then start putting food on the table – people will follow the smell. Once everyone’s seated, your main job is to make sure that empty pitchers get refilled immediately. Beyond that, eat, drink and be merry!
Too many options for me to cover here, so I’ll leave you with the easiest one – take a nap and leave the cleaning for future you.