Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Merry Brunchmas!

A few factors in combination enticed me to do a non-review post just in time for the holidays, which I hope won't be too jarring for my readers. What's that you say? Readers? Why, yes! I have received a number of friendly messages recently from people who read my blog. Who knew?! People apparently do care about brunch (at least a little bit), and I don't do this purely to amuse myself. I also wrote up a guest column on brunch-themed Christmas gifts for a friend's blog, and I realized how many more things there were just begging to be profiled. Since I have a few hours to laze around for the first time in a while, I hereby present you with a festive panoply of brunchy items.

Since there's no excuse like brunch to knock back a few on Sunday morning, I thought I would start with something alcoholic. I've tried quite a few different brands of Cassis, and after stumbling upon a particularly good one at a bar in Boston's South End, have bought nothing else since. Jules Theuriet Creme de Cassis De Dijon is a deep, purply red, not verging on beige like some less tasty versions. It's available online ( for $12, and the label is pretty, too. Throw a Cassis-colored bow on it and pop it under the tree (or give it to your boss, or your in-laws, or whomever). I might even pair it with a miniature bottle of champagne as a stocking stuffer, available at any biggish liquor store for between about $1.50 and $5.00--Moet et Chandon even makes one.

I'm planning to assemble my grandmother's old, hand-written brunch recipes into a homemade cookbook of sorts, which has got me on the look out for design ideas from real cookbooks. There are, unsurprisingly, plenty of brunch-themed collections to choose from, which make a great backbone for a brunch-themed holiday gift basket. Gale Gand's Brunch!: 100 Fantastic Recipes for the Weekend's Best Meal has recipes for almond ciabatta french toast, orange-date muffins and watermelon gaspacho, along with many other things I'm hoping to make myself. Breakfasts and Brunches by the Culinary Institute of America has a section devoted entirely to Breakfast and Brunch Drinks, so the Cassis will come in handy.

One thing that James and I discovered in preparing our engagement brunch was that making lemon curd from scratch can be tricky and time-consuming. And, since there are so many pretty, delicious options for buying it pre-made, it might as well kick off a long list of brunch-gift edibles that people are unlikely to whip up themselves. Spoon in New York ( makes an adorable version that I hear is delicious, though I can only personally testify to the quality of the curd at Trader Joe's. Both Spoon and Sarabeth's, another NYC brunch institution, also make tons of quaintly packaged jams, syrups and mixes. The blood orange marmalade at Sarabeth's is legendary (just ask them), and can be ordered on their website:

And now onto the non-alcoholic brunch beverage of choice: coffee. While couching this hypothetical gift assortment in a mess of coffee beans may not sound so very exciting, the grinder that I've been using at home is. It's a vintage Kitchenaid A-9 model, which both looks fabulous on the counter and does a great job actually grinding coffee beans. The claim to fame of this sleek, fearsome creature is that it grinds the beans at a low rpm, meaning that it doesn't heat them. Though KitchenAid made plastic versions of the A-9 for a time, eBay almost always has the older, more solid aluminum-and-glass versions for anywhere between $50 and a few hundred dollars. I cannot recommend this thing highly enough: it's a conversation piece, it's incredibly easy to use and it will hold up for years. Just store your beans in the glass hopper and flick the switch when you want them ground!

Because all of these delicious things need to go in/on something, and because gift certificates to brunch places aren't very interesting in the telling, I'll end with a couple of my favorite serving pieces. I am now old (and/or lamely domestic) enough to have a favorite china maker, Denby, and it goes on major sale a couple of times a year. I am partial to their Craftman's Mug in Greenwich--a deep teal with tiny flecks of beige--for daily use. It's currently 50% off at, putting it at $16.50. And finally, for the even lower price of $9.99 (on, "stack" up on Le Creuset stoneware stackable ramekins, which come in black, white, and a bunch of brighter colors. These often show up at Le Creuset outlet stores, as well, one of which is located at Clinton Crossing in Clinton, CT--only a 20-minute drive or so from New Haven.

As you can see, brunch is an almost endless source of holiday inspiration. Or, you could just make like I do and find excuses to buy this stuff for yourself all year round. Either way, it's both pretty and practical, and can be easily mixed-and-matched (with more or less booze) as you see fit.

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