The Perfect Brunch

Brunch is my favorite meal of the week. Hands down. Eggs Benedict, Florentine crêpe, bowl of fresh-baked granola with yogurt, a plate of cheese and a never-ending plate of bread… I could keep going. Sunday brunch with a couple girlfriends always puts me in a good mood for the week.

In Beijing, there are really just handful of good spots for brunch, so when the weather is warm enough (as it is finally starting to), I let my passion for entertaining loose and invite all my girlfriends over.

Entertaining doesn’t need to be stressful, but it does require some preparation. As a devout party planner, I am a firm believer that when it comes to food, great food requires great ingredients. For brunch, you don’t need hours slaving over the stove (though sometimes that can be worth it too), you just need to buy fresh, seasonal produce, fresh bread, fresh cheese. You get the point. The fresher the better.

In Preparation
1. Check the weather and air quality to make sure clouds are far away, especially if you plan to entertain outdoors. Even if you’re hosting indoors, rainy skies in a city like Beijing means hours spent waiting for cabs and irregular bus schedules.

2. Select a theme, it will help with planning the menu. For the last brunch I hosted in the autumn, I took inspiration from Sprouted Kitchen’s cheese platter (above). I made that a centerpiece at my brunch and used it to entice friends over. It worked!

3. Send invites out at least a week in advance and have people respond at least 2 days before the meal. A simple email will do with date, time, location (map if you can), and what you expect friends to contribute. By having an RSVP policy, you won’t be caught scrambling last-minute because an extra person decided late.

4. Plan your menu with consideration of local and seasonal produce and ingredients. Keep the menu simple and hassle-free so your morning can be just as peaceful as the afternoon should be.

5. Accept your friends’ offers when they want to bring something. This is a great way to discover new bakeries, restaurants, and recipes. My friends either contributed a bottle of wine, or a sweet dish. Through this, I found a fantastic bakery and bread shop that made beautiful pear and peach danishes, the most chocolate-y cake from Awfully Chocolateplus enjoyed a few glasses of wine that paired so well with the cheese selection.

Day of
6. Wake up early to get fresh early morning produce from the fresh market or Farmer’s Market. Of course for those of you who don’t have that available, it’s not going to ruin brunch.

7. Get hands on! Turn on some soothing music, and enjoy the preparation process. That’s easy to say, and I, myself, get anxious in the kitchen, but hopefully you already have a plan. (See #4)

Cheese platter 101: At my brunch, I had planned an abundant selection of cheeses from Le Fromager de Pekin, a local artisan cheese maker who studied the art of cheese making in France and other imported cheeses available at Chez Gérard. The Cheeseman uses high quality Whole Milk (that’s the brand) for all of his cheeses that are produced locally

in Beijing. His Camembert and goat chevre are my favorite, and take on a unique texture. Chez Gérard sells imported goods from the US and Europe, including many dried herbs, beans, and rice that you may not find at Chinese supermarket chains. Tip: They also deliver in the Andingmen area. (Chez Gérard  near Guozijian at Dongcheng District, 40 Jianchang Hutong)

Spice up your melons: The summer time also has a great variety of melons farmed from China’s Northwest region of Xinjiang Province. From cucumber-like rounds the size of an eight-ball, to scaly hami melon, there isn’t a shortage of refreshing crunchy fruit. To jazz up the melons, I tried a Minted Melon concoction. Precision not a requisite here, I prepared the melons into bite-sized chunks, chopped up a handful of fresh mint, and mixed the two with freshly crushed red pepper flakes and a splash of lime.

8. Smile! Even if something takes more time to prepare, or if you’re missing an ingredient, brunch can never be too ruined.

Photo by Sprouted Kitchen

11 comments

  1. Melissa says:

    Ha! That is such a Natasia face in the lower right corner of the last picture :) Your brunch sounds amazing. Can’t wait to try that melon-mint- red pepper concoction. I tend to add crushed red pepper flakes to everything, and it sounds delicious. If only the weather would make up it’s mind over here!

    • Natasia says:

      They’re very simple but besides good ingredients, it boils down to having good company to make any event right? The Minted Melon is super refreshing. Imagine a non-alcoholic mojito with pepper… actually this would be a great drink! Muddled mint and melon with pepper infused rum. I’m going to the bar!

  2. Jeno says:

    It’s nice to know that although we’re in opposite corners of the world we’re all giddy and looking forward to similar activities with the welcome of spring. I’m going to reread this post for my next hosting to remind to remind me to enjoy.

  3. Gemma says:

    I’m frothing at the mouth. This all looks incredible – thanks for the insight and wish i wasn’t so far away. I love the whole process of waking early with the sun – geting spruced (usually involves something shamelessly floral and a spritz of perfume), and collecting an amazing variety of produce at the markets (and of course in the process talking to the stall holders and listening to their stories/tips). What music do you suggest? Personally I like a bit of Little Dragon or the Footloose soundtrack for food prep.

    • Natasia says:

      Definitely something chilled out for Sunday brunch. I like it as sleepy as possible. Iron & Wine, Simon & Garfunkel, other duos with ampersands, etc.

    • Natasia says:

      Last time I went to suppenkuche and I had so much of that endless bread and fresh jam that I gained 5 lbs even before I got my mains. Anything new/hole-in-the-wall that has great jam/bread/eggs/coffee?

  4. Dan Leshem says:

    @Natasia:
    Mediterranean breakfast: Tomato and cucumber in olive sauce (/w feta cheese), Olives and eggs. Pita bread and labaneh yogurt cheese. Some Hummus if you’d like.
    Eat this and you’ll feel the Mediterranean sun even in the coldest days of Beijing :)

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