A Book Club Brunch: The Party Plan

Gatherings from The Kitchn

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Last month we launched a new monthly series, Gatherings from The Kitchn, showing you our own dinner parties, large and small. We started off with Faith's cozy and communal Italian polenta party, and this week I'll be sharing a brunch I hosted for my book club, a bright weekend gathering full of fresh spring flavors, make-ahead recipes, and a fun, book-themed table setting.

If you're ready to shake off the winter blues with a weekend brunch — whether in celebration of a new baby on the way, an upcoming wedding, or just a sunny day — follow along for tips and inspiration for organizing your own pretty, no-fuss daytime party.

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The Party Idea: Book Club Brunch

My book club typically meets on weekday evenings after work, but we thought it might be fun to change things up with a weekend gathering during the day, one that would give us an excuse to dress up a little, share midday cocktails without feeling like lushes, and talk for as long as we liked.

I was going for a casually elegant vibe, more formal than a show-up-in-your-sweats game day brunch, but not at all stuffy, and decided on a menu and table decor to match. This included freshened up versions of classic brunch dishes like quiche and green salad, and a book-themed table centerpiece made with hardcover books.

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The Book: Poor Man's Feast by Elissa Altman

The menu also happened to mesh well with the book we read, Poor Man's Feast, a memoir by writer and editor Elissa Altman, who has a James-Beard-Award-winning food blog of the same name. The book revolves around her touching story of meeting and falling in love with her partner Susan, a woman whose ideal dinner is a pile of garlic-sautéed garden greens on toast, the opposite of what Altman likes to cook, namely complicated, towering dishes made with Manhattan's priciest and most prestigious ingredients.

It's a story about learning to find beauty and satisfaction in simplicity, and the complicated, sometimes painful ways food, family and love get tangled up. Recipes are sprinkled throughout the book, including elegant yet uncomplicated dishes like Onion Panade, Matzo Brei Tarte Tatin, Ramp Frittata, and Simple Sunday Roast Beef. I think the quiche I made for this brunch would fit right in.

Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon:
Poor Man's Feast: A Love Story of Comfort, Desire, and the Art of Simple Cooking by Elissa Altman

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The Party Menu: Quiche, Salad, Cake, Coffee

I'm a morning person, but that doesn't mean I want to get up at four in the morning to start making brunch. I put together a menu of brunch classics that can mostly be made ahead of time, so I was with my guests instead of stuck in the kitchen on the day of the party. (I'll be sharing tips later this week on putting together a make-ahead brunch.)

Drinks

  • Coffee (made from cold brew concentrate)
  • Strawberry-basil sparkling wine cocktails (or non-alcoholic strawberry-basil soda)

Brunch
  • Crunchy spring salad with dill dressing
  • Roasted tomato and goat cheese quiche

Dessert

  • Elderflower lemon cake with elderflower whipped cream

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The Party Look: Vintage & Mismatched, With Books

For the table, I knew I wanted a centerpiece that incorporated books and place settings that took advantage of my collection of mismatched thrift store plates, but beyond that, the details were fuzzy. So I turned to my talented friend Beth, who helped put together a fun and stylish table that ended up costing very little, because it made the most of what we both already owned.

I'll be sharing more on how to decorate a book-themed table later in the week, as well as recipes from the party, and a tutorial on how to make cold-brew coffee concentrate (and use it to serve hot coffee to a crowd).

Do you have any brunch parties planned for the spring or summer? If you're in a book club, what do your gatherings usually look like?

Stay tuned — I had a lot of fun planning and hosting this party, and I hope you'll have just as much fun reading along this week!

Photography: Bethany Nauert
Styling: Beth Liebetrau

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Gatherings from The Kitchn: A Book Club Brunch

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