Serious Entertaining: How to Host a Make-Ahead Brunch

Note: Please welcome Helen Jane Hearn, our new entertaining columnist. She'll chime in weekly with tips on how to host various types of get-togethers and holiday meals, with corresponding menus and last-minute reminders. Take it away, Helen! —The Mgmt.

Erin dishes up

For me, the trickiest part of entertaining is always the timing. How can I get all that food and drink (and home and self) ready for guests by party time?

I plan ahead and rely on some tricks.

You too can host a make-ahead outdoor brunch. The best part about this brunch is that you can sleep in until ten, but be ready for guests at eleven. It's just a few basic dishes that can mostly be prepared ahead of time so you can join the party.

Three things keep me ahead of the clock every party.

Three Things to Remember

1. A detailed to-do list.

I use Teux Deux to work backwards from 30 minutes before brunch is scheduled to begin. I add playlist creation, the grocery store, food preparation, decorations and my shower all to my list to plan the pre-guest preparations. You could also use index cards, the back of an envelope or Word. Just get it out of your brain and on the page.

Teux Deux

2. Make-ahead magic.

Make ahead as much as possible. By the night before, I have most of the fruit salad prepared, the casserole assembled and the muffins baked. The coffee sits in the coffee maker, awaiting the push of a button in the morning. The dishes are done.

Crescent Rolls

3. Edit.

The menu is made of half the dishes I would really like to serve. Our table, with half the decorations I would love to display. This also keeps dishes manageable.

I have to keep my natural inclination to go over the top to a minimum. Guests are still delighted and I am still able to enjoy the brunch.

Nora Lea and James


Rich Eggy Breakfast Casserole »
Carrot Cake Muffins with Cream Cheese Frosting »
Easy Fruit Salad »

We pour the coffee into a thermos so we don't have to make too many trips inside. A pitcher with Bloody Mary mix and a bottle of vodka sit on the table with celery sticks and horseradish. The host can join the party while everyone has frosting fingers.

Make a list, prepare ahead and simplify. An easy brunch for an easy morning.