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.
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 Chocolate, plus enjoyed a few glasses of wine that paired so well with the cheese selection.
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)
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.
Photo by Sprouted Kitchen