Brunch ideas
June 21, 2006 8:06 AM   Subscribe

Planning a tasty and attractive brunch...

I'm overseeing the brunch buffet portion of an event for about 100 people and trying to come up with ideas for great tasting food that presents well. I'd really like to do something that looks elegant and somewhat original, but I'm stumped. It's close enough to lunch that I'd like to put some more filling food out, so I want to avoid just loading the table up with carbs (muffins, bagels, croissants, etc), though there will be some of that.

We're doing the cooking ourselves, so things that can be made in advance are best. Any suggestions for recipes or presentation techniques to make boring food look prettier?
posted by jheiz to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ever tried melon wrapped in prosciutto? Man!

Jab them with a toothpick.
posted by jon_kill at 8:15 AM on June 21, 2006


Quiche. Be sure to include vegetarian options with a crowd that size. It can be prepared the day before and heated up day of, or there are some pretty good frozen quiches you can buy. You've got the choice of having several pie-sized quiches, cut into slices, or smaller single-serving size dealies.

Also: fresh fruits like strawberries, blueberries melons, sliced bananas and apples, separated oranges -- arrange them on a big platter or a mirror and leave some tongs nearby.

Maybe yogurt next to or near the fruit, could be served in individual serving containers in a big glass bowl filled with ice.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:20 AM on June 21, 2006


Oops, yes, I meant to mention that vegetarian options are required, and I want to avoid nuts as much as possible due to allergies in the group.
posted by jheiz at 8:25 AM on June 21, 2006


Frittatas aren't always the most beautiful (you can dress them up with parsley) but they are scrumptious and so very convenient because they actually taste better at room temp.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:26 AM on June 21, 2006


Fruit Noodle Kugel. I've got a killer recipe at home if you're interested.
posted by Lord_Pall at 8:27 AM on June 21, 2006


Make a pryamaid of mimosas in champagne glasses.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:36 AM on June 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


Mini-sandwiches. Or sandwhiches with the crusts cut off at least. I go for the fresh mozarella + avocado + tomato + basil, but, hey, pretty much anything will work. A little pyramid of these on a tray often looks quite nice.
posted by zpousman at 8:41 AM on June 21, 2006


Spring/summer rolls?

You'd have to exclude the shrimp, and use a mayo/lime/whatever dipping sauce instead of a peanut based one, but if you do, I'll come. Especially if there is a mimosa pyramid.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:01 AM on June 21, 2006


Seconding frittatas. For that quantity, you could probably even make them in jelly roll pans (heavy, deep cookie sheets), each of which would feed (I'm guessing) 20 or so. Big paella pans would be more attractive to serve in, but they're expensive.

As an alternative to mini-sandwiches, maybe "pinwheels"--wraps cut into inch-or-so slices. Pinwheels made with cream cheese wrapped in smoked salmon are also tasty.

Another interesting and easily mass-produced appetizer is simply to boil a big batch of store-bought tortelloni (bigger than tortellini), but instead of serving them like a pasta dish, put them on a big plate, top each one with a dab of pesto or something, and put a toothpick in it.

And you can't go wrong with cheese cubes.
posted by staggernation at 9:11 AM on June 21, 2006


With 100 people, you'll want something that you can prepare en masse. Prosciutto and melon is delicious, but I tried making enough for 8 and got infuriated with separating the prosciutto slices and trying to wrap those suckers around the melon. (Watermelon is not the only watery melon!)

My favorite is the following strata. It's easy and can be prepared the night before. This recipe makes nine slices. Each slice is pretty hearty, so I figure an average of one slice per person (vegetarians won't eat it, feasters will eat two):

1 lb mild breakfast sausage (ground, not links)
6 large eggs
2 c milk
1 t dry mustard
1 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
6 slices of white bread, cubed

1. Brown sausage in pan, drain and set aside to cool.
2. In large bowl, beat eggs.
3. Add next 4 items to eggs (milk through pepper) and mix.
4. Add grated cheese and sausage and mix.
5. Add cubed bread and gently combine (hands work better than utensils).
6. Pour mixture into lightly greased 8" x 8" baking pan.
7. Place in refrigerator for several hours (e.g., make the night before and leave overnight).
8. Bake for ~ 60 minutes at 350F degrees.

You can double the recipe and use a 9" x 13" pan, but the baking time will be increased by 15-30 minutes.
posted by GarageWine at 9:29 AM on June 21, 2006


Any suggestions for recipes or presentation techniques to make boring food look prettier?

Use different elevations on your table: take sturdy but smallish boxes of different sizes, and place them under your tablecloths or runner to disguise them. Arrange lightweight things on top of them, so that there is some visual variety on the table.

Core a pineapple, and use the rings for your fruit platters, but return the leafy top to the cored shell, and anchor it with toothpicks. These always look dramatic and lovely on a brunch table.

Get or rent tiered platters for serving pastries and muffins.

Fill inexpensive glass vases with fake fruit, real fruit, glass beads, flowers or greenery. Put these on the back of your service tables, or in the center if you are serving from both sides. Use glass carafes for your juice services. A few of these tall glass items go a long way toward creating visual interest.

A pyramid of glasses looks pretty but is really tricky with stemmed glasses and usually ends in disaster. Plus, replenishing them after the food service has begun would be a nightmare, with 100 people. Instead, get interactive: make a "mimosa bar" where people can pour their own champagne or sparkling cider, alongside orange juice, cranberry juice for poinsettias, and sliced fruit for garnish (ex: blood orange wheels, sliced strawberries, raspberries).

Or a "bloody mary bar," with vodka, tomato juice, and all the fixings: olives, celery stalks, celery salt, Tabasco, Worcestershire, lime wedges, lemon wedges, cocktail onions. Put out plenty of picks and spoons.

It's close enough to lunch that I'd like to put some more filling food out

GarageWine's idea of strata is a perfect one. They can be prepared the night before and cooked the following morning. I've made this one, with ham and asparagus, several times and successfully doubled it as well.

Eggs benedict can be done en masse if you have the right tools; here's the how-to from Domino mag.

Lox bar, if it's in your budget, is both filling and impressive-looking: pre-sliced bagels, smoked salmon, and then sides of chopped hard-boiled egg, red onion rings, capers, cream cheese for everyone to serve themselves.
posted by pineapple at 10:11 AM on June 21, 2006


Another thought that would serve many people and help with advance prep -- make savory biscuits ahead of time, maybe a cheddar and herb recipe this one (which would keep in airtight containers for a day, easily), and then serve them with a cold spiral-sliced ham and selection of mustards.
posted by pineapple at 10:18 AM on June 21, 2006


Choc coered strawberries are pretty easy. I did them and drizzled white chocolate stripes. And they look great and always seem to be a hit. Trickiest part might be finding a spot in the fridge to let them chill.
posted by beccaj at 10:51 AM on June 21, 2006


How about a Middle Eastern style brunch? Couscous, hummus, cucumber and tomato salad with feta, cucumber and yogurt dip, pita bread? Dress it up with nice olives, olive oil, lemon wedges and herbs. It's vegetarian friendly, and for the meat eaters maybe you can do some sort of chicken or lamb. Serve with mint tea.
posted by hooray at 11:41 AM on June 21, 2006


Do remember that fruit like bananas and apples may not look too good after within an hour of slicing (they can oxidate and turn brown).
I like to make fruit salads with "like" fruits; so "stone fruit salad"=cherries, peaches, apricots, plums (all with a pit); mixed berries=strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc. FWIW, "like" fruits blend together very well. Fruit parfaits made with like fruits and plain/vanilla yogurt layered in tall glasses can be beautiful and quick to make (you can prep your fruit ahead); the yogurt has protein value, and the fruits are nutritious and not just carbs.
posted by dbmcd at 12:24 PM on June 21, 2006


There is an organization, I think with a really self-explanatory name like "Fruit displays" that makes lovely centerpieces out of sliced fruit that people can simply pick off.

Also, how about mini-sizes of carby stuff, like mini bagels and muffins?
posted by clairezulkey at 12:55 PM on June 21, 2006


Fresh herbs as garnish can prettify a dish nicely. I use ones appropriate to/contained in the dish in question (eg rosemary for lamb, cilantro for salsa, etc.) One suggestion I've read is to slice a lemon length wise and arrange herbs by sticking them in the pulp, but that may be more fussy than you want to get. Also, it's amazing what a difference a sprinkling of paprika or finely chopped parsley can do.

For food, cream cheese (as suggested above) is very easy to jazz up. I've had great success with cream cheese, bbq salmon tips and dill run through the food processor with grated lemon zest stirred in after, and with whizzing the cheese with roasted garlic and sundried tomatoes.
posted by elizard at 1:45 PM on June 21, 2006


All great suggestions, thanks. Anyone happen to know if there are there certain fruits that will refrigerate overnight better than others?
posted by jheiz at 1:57 PM on June 21, 2006


What's your budet? Sable, smoked salmon, kippered salmon, candied salmon and smoked whitefish (and, for the right crowd, herring) are the first things that pop into my head when I think brunch. Good bagels, cream cheese and onion would compliment all of that. And all you'd have to do is open the packages. That kugle would also be a perfect match.
posted by stuart_s at 2:02 PM on June 21, 2006


Melons - Honeydew, canteloupe, watermelon refrigerate well.
Berries will probably be OK overnight, but don't generally do well.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 2:21 PM on June 22, 2006


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