During harried holidays, it's easy to forget that food, drink, laughter, and love make the most valued gifts. So remind your guests with a relaxed and memorable gathering early in the day. Part breakfast, part lunch, a brunch allows people to celebrate the season in a low-key setting. And whether you're attempting to coax sleepy teens from bed or entertaining unexpected cousins, add seafood to the menu for a surprising treat. Follow these tips so you can enjoy the party, too.
• Build your menu around one central dish. Many of the following recipes need only a serving of fresh fruit or juice on the side to become a complete meal.
• Use regional ingredients, such as the fresh crabmeat and avocado in Caribbean Crab Cakes Benedict.
• Keep your list of invitees manageable and focused on camaraderie.
• Tantalize the senses. Place candles in a bowl loaded with coffee beans, or hollow out oranges and fill with spice-fragrant votives.
• Make it easy on yourself. Pick up breads and pastries from a bakery early in the morning or the day before your party. Let them overflow a basket on the buffet.
• Have a colorful variety of jams, jellies, and honeys on hand. Lime marmalade brings a holiday hue.
• Prepare a batch of Bloody Marys or fruity cocktails to guarantee a merry atmosphere. Also provide juices, coffee, tea, and milk.
• Consider serving a festive, purchased dessert to encourage guests to linger.
• Set the table the night before. You'll feel more on top of things in the morning.