This week I've been sharing a spring brunch I hosted for my book club, a dressed-up daytime party spent gathered around a pretty table talking books, sipping sparkling wine cocktails and coffee, and eating quiche with friends.
Here's a look at the full party and the recipes I used, beginning with fresh strawberry-basil cocktails and ending with a buttery lemon cake with elderflower whipped cream. Can you think of a better way to spend a sunny weekend morning?
The Week of the Brunch
In addition to working for The Kitchn, I'm in graduate school full-time, so smart time management throughout the week was key to hosting this party without a hitch. Later this week, I'll be sharing my detailed approach to hosting a brunch that is almost entirely made ahead of time, but here was my general prep list during the week before the gathering.
Several days before, I roasted tomatoes for the quiche, rolled out and froze the quiche crust, mixed the strawberry-basil syrup for cocktails, and started the coffee concentrate. The day before, I made the salad (minus dressing), baked the cake, and finished the coffee concentrate.
Setting Up the Party
Because I had already planned it all in advance with my friend Beth, the table setting and decor did not take long. She arrived about an hour early, which was more than enough time for us to set and decorate the table together and for me to take care of a few final tasks in the kitchen. I made the coffee (from a concentrate I made the day before — I'll have a full how-to tomorrow!), made a vinaigrette to dress the salad, and kept the quiche warm in a low oven.
Once guests began arriving, I started pouring cups of coffee and mixed the strawberry-basil syrup with a chilled bottle of sparkling wine for a round of light, refreshing cocktails to start the party. (I also had some cold soda water on hand in case anyone wanted a non-alcoholic version.)
Once I had dressed the salad, we were ready to start eating! I had debated adding another dish like a grain salad to make the meal a little more substantial, but since I was serving a very buttery cake for dessert and there were no hungry dudes on the guest list, a lighter main course of quiche and a crunchy salad felt right for a spring day. We even had plenty of leftovers for my own hungry dude husband to eat later in the afternoon.
Book Discussion & Dessert
After the plates were cleared and we spent some time discussing the book we read, I popped into the kitchen to finish up the dessert while everyone else continued the discussion. The elderflower lemon cake, baked the day before, just had to be transferred to a platter and decorated with a few lemon slices and dill fronds. (Never underestimate the decorative power of a dill frond.) I also slipped on an apron and quickly whipped some elderflower whipped cream, made with half a cup of whipping cream sweetened with a tablespoon of St. Germain. It took just a couple more minutes to mix another round of strawberry-basil cocktails and boil water for a pot of fresh coffee to accompany the floral, lemony, buttery cake.
A Book Club Brunch
And that was our book club brunch! The party was exactly what I had hoped for: a chance to get dressed up, eat a special meal and talk books at a gathering that was elegant, yet still warm, fun and not fussy. Although the meal took some pre-planning, I was able to fit it all into a packed school and work schedule without having to wake up at the crack of dawn to get it all done.
Planning your own brunch party in the coming months? On Friday I'll share some practical tips for throwing your own make-ahead brunch.
Anjali is a former private chef who is currently pursuing a graduate degree in nutrition, with plans to become a registered dietitian. She lives in Los Angeles. You can read more of her health-focused writing at Eat Your Greens.
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