The Gleeful Gourmand: Champagne Brunch

Friday, June 12, 2015

Champagne Brunch

Have you ever played Bunco? When we first moved into our neighborhood 10 years ago, I had never heard of the game. A group of older ladies invited me to play, and I was excited to finally meet some of our new neighbors. I'll never forget walking in the door later that night, and trying to think of what to say when my husband asked how the actual game was.

"It's fun, I guess. There's nothing to it, though. It's a nothing game. There's no strategy, no thinking. But the snacks are good, and so are the drinks."

"So you had a good time?" He asked.

"Yes. But, if we have to play a game to socialize, why couldn't we play Trivial Pursuit, or something like that?"

I was mystified. I love games, but this one was lost on me. Or so I thought. 10 years later, and so many rounds of Bunco I can't even count, I get it. It's a nothing game, where you don't really have to think (unless you're the one keeping score during play. Let me tell you, a couple of glasses of wine in, and keeping score gets hard). And that is precisely the point: Good friends, yummy food, great drinks, and just a chance to get together and hang out, take a break, roll the dice, and laugh. It's a nothing game and it's fun.

Plus, if you win, you get the big pot of money that everyone contributes to.

I've never won once, in 10 years. I'm not bitter or anything.

Setting the stage for a Champagne Brunch.

But I digress. For the past two years I've been a regular part of a newer Bunco group, consisting of moms and younger women from the three small neighborhoods that line up next to each other. We get together once a month to play Bunco and we always have a great time. The thing is, we have a really loud, great time. Every lady takes one month to host, and I've never been able to because our house is designed in such a way that you can hear a pin drop no matter where you are in the house. There's no playroom upstairs, and also no television upstairs either. It's been tricky for me to host when I know there would be nowhere for my husband to go, and it would certainly keep the kids awake.

But still, it was time for me to do something. Enter the Bunco Champagne Brunch. This past Sunday, with the kids whisked safely away to Church, we got our brunch on and hung out for a couple of hours, chatting, laughing, and drinking Champagne (and Prosseco). We didn't end up playing Bunco at all, and it didn't matter.

So here's the thing about Brunch. I get the feeling that people don't really throw them that much unless it's a super-special occasion, like a Baptism, or the morning after a wedding type of deal. But why? Brunch is awesome! And with the right guide, it can be really easy.

Freshly made Blueberry Scones.

Hi, I'm Jenna, and I'll be your Champagne Brunch guide today.

When you think "Champagne Brunch," do you feel overwhelmed, like it would all be too complicated? Trust me, it's not! Here's what I did to stick with a fun theme, and deliver the (baked) goods:

1) I started with drinks: I knew I wanted to have not just Champagne and/or Mimosas, but a fun twist where people could help themselves. I went with this delicious Mimosa Punch that kicks things up a notch. In our Bunco group each of us brings a bottle of wine to share with the group, and the ladies last Sunday brought, on my request, good, but inexpensive sparkling wine. No need to break the bank on this brunch, people. Cupcake makes a particularly excellent Prosseco (Italian sparkling wine. Fun fact: It cannot be called "Champagne" unless it was made from the grapes of the Champagne region in France), for just $11.

2) I dolled up my dining room table with my good tablecloth, the nice plates from Party City (sorry all you people expecting fine china. Who in the world wants to clean dishes after drinking all that Champagne?!), and fresh flowers.

3) Since only 8 of us were able to attend, I kept the menu simple. I wanted a mixture of savory, and sweet things:

Cheesy Hash Brown Casserole. I haven't found a single person yet who doesn't love this comforting dish.

Homemade Blueberry Scones, with Lemon Curd, and fresh Whipped Cream. This recipe, which you can find here was one of the best I've ever made.

Store-bought Quiches and Carmelized Onion Tarts from Trader Joes. This was a no-brainer. You've got to have a few things that can be popped into the oven to save yourself time and energy!

Fresh Berries. Because something on your table should resemble something healthy. It's only the right thing to do, especially when you finish with:

Champagne Cupcakes. Be still, my beating heart.
Champagne Cupcakes. Yes. Champagne in the cake, Champagne in the frosting with some orange zest to mimic a mimosa, and gold sprinkles to stay with the "bubbly" theme. These were absolutely delicious. This link takes you to my friend Kirsten's riff on it, and this link is the original recipe. I combined both of these takes, but omitted the filling for my own. They were Heaven on Earth, people. I can neither confirm nor deny that a single tear rolled down my cheek with the first bite.

4) To make brunch easy on myself, I did the following: At least 3 weeks out, I made a list of what I wanted to serve. 1 week out I went shopping for everything I would need so I wouldn't be rushed over the weekend. Saturday night I made most of the Cheesy Hash Brown Casserole, minus the crunchy topping, and stuck it in the fridge. I also made the Champagne Cupcakes, and set the table, buffet style. That saved me a lot of time the next morning, and I made sure I knew the temps and times of everything that had to go into the oven, and made yet another list so that everything came out right on time. Lists are life, friends.

Since I don't have a table big enough for everyone to eat at together, we simply took our plates to the sunporch where the Mimosa Punch and bottles of Champagne sat conveniently waiting for us, and pulled chairs around in a group.

5) My last tip is this: If nothing is going right the morning of, and you, by accident, oversleep your alarm, make sure that one of the things that is ready no matter what is your beverage. So even if you have to scurry around the kitchen finishing things up, your guests have a drink in their hands, and the party is started. Never, ever leave them empty-handed for any length of time.

We didn't play Bunco, but we sure had a lot of the stuff on the right, and a heck of a good time!
So listen, if you've got a weekend coming up, and you'd like to do something fun, but you're not sure what, and you want to gather some friends for a good time, but don't want to have to deal with the mobs of people edging you out for a table at your favorite restaurant, make your own Brunch. It doesn't have to break the bank, it just has to be fun. I've supplied you with the tips, you supply the friends and bubbly, and you're on your way.


benilhalk said...

That brunch food you prepared is looking super delicious and I want every single dish that you have on table for my next event at best event venues Chicago. I am sure my guests will love that. Anyway, thanks for this great share.

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