Howard L. Puckett

Seafood enlivens standard morning fare for a holiday brunch.

By Sarah Brueggemann

During harried holidays, it's easy to forget that food, drink,laughter, and love make the most valued gifts. So remind yourguests with a relaxed and memorable gathering early in the day.Part breakfast, part lunch, a brunch allows people to celebrate theseason in a low-key setting. And whether you're attempting to coaxsleepy teens from bed or entertaining unexpected cousins, addseafood to the menu for a surprising treat. Follow these tips soyou can enjoy the party, too.

• Build your menu around one central dish. Many of thefollowing recipes need only a serving of fresh fruit or juice onthe side to become a complete meal.

• Use regional ingredients, such as the fresh crabmeat andavocado in Caribbean Crab Cakes Benedict.

• Keep your list of invitees manageable and focused oncamaraderie.

• Tantalize the senses. Place candles in a bowl loadedwith coffee beans, or hollow out oranges and fill withspice-fragrant votives.

• Make it easy on yourself. Pick up breads and pastriesfrom 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 onhand. Lime marmalade brings a holiday hue.

• Prepare a batch of Bloody Marys or fruity cocktails toguarantee a merry atmosphere. Also provide juices, coffee, tea, andmilk.

• Consider serving a festive, purchased dessert toencourage guests to linger.

• Set the table the night before. You'll feel more on topof things in the morning.

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