In my last post, I mentioned that I hosted a pop-up brunch in our home this past weekend. It was so much fun, and I just wanted to share a bit about the menu and experience with you. I’m no expert – this was only my second time, but there’s no better way to learn how to host than to just do it!
The Worktop Pop-Up Brunch Tasting Menu
Single Origin Pour-over Coffee
Classic Blueberry Muffins
Organic Greek Yogurt Parfaits with Spiced Berry Compote and Healthy Seed Granola
Dino Kale Salad with Free Range Smoked Dry Cure Lardons and Lemon Vinaigrette
Fresh Pressed Orange, Carrot and Ginger Juice
Free-Range Dippy Eggs with Grilled Cheese Soldiers
Sprouted Whole Wheat and Oat Waffles with Fresh Whipped Cream, Maple Syrup and Fresh Berries
I welcomed guests with a Single Origin Pour-over Coffee upon arrival. There isn’t a better way to kick off a brunch than hand-brewing each batch of coffee. I used a V60 pour-over, which doesn’t require a whole lot of concentration so I could meet and talk to my guests. It was also a great opportunity to share a bit about the coffee I served from Union Hand-Roasted (based in east London about five miles from our home), as well as the coffee-making process. It’s not your average Starbucks!
While I was brewing the coffee, everyone helped themselves to the Classic Blueberry Muffins. These muffins are based on a recipe from Flour, a Boston bakery. The Flour cookbook holds a special place in my heart because not only are the recipes incredibly tasty, the cafe is owned by a female who left a corporate job pursue her dreams in food. My heroine and inspiration.
Photo by Laurie Wang
As soon as everyone sat down around the table, I served the Organic Greek Yogurt Parfaits with Berry Spice Compote and Seeded Granola. The berry spice compote is made by simmering raspberries with muscovado sugar, star anise and a cinnamon stick, and letting the flavors meld overnight in the refrigerator. Because we used to make yogurt pots at The Espresso Room each morning, quickly assembling 8 yogurt pots was just like a normal day at work ;)
Photo by Laurie Wang
Photo by priyancapatel
My Californian roots inspired the next two courses, and the one Californian guest at the table said she felt just like she was back at home (I’ll take that as a compliment)! Orange, Carrot and Ginger Juice is one of our favorites at home, so I couldn’t wait to share it. Because juicers are quite loud, I pressed the juice right before the guests arrived and stored in the fridge so I wouldn’t interrupt any conversations.
Dino Kale Salad with Free Range Smoked Dry Cure Lardons and Lemon Vinaigrette followed, and by then, I think everyone was deep into conversations, and cameras forgotten! Dino kale is not as harsh as other kale varieties and perfect for raw salads. I always rub olive oil and lemon into the kale leaves several hours before serving (I started at 7 AM!). That way, the kale has enough time to “cook” in the olive oil and lemon dressing before serving.
Photo by Laurie Wang
The next course highlights my British influence – Free-Range Dippy Eggs with Grilled Cheese Soldiers. Dippy eggs is classic British fare – but I couldn’t help Americanizing it by using grilled cheese soldiers. While the eggs are quick to cook (simmer in boiling water for exactly 2 minutes – leave to rest, covered, for exactly 6 minutes), I started making the bread for the grilled cheese 3 days in advance. The infamous Uncle Jim taught me how to make this special bread, and it requires resting the dough for 18 hours before knocking it back and proving a second time before baking.
The “brunch dessert” that closed off the meal was Sprouted Whole Wheat and Oat Waffles topped with Fresh Whipped Cream, Maple Syrup and Fresh Berries. My waffle maker worked on full steam to make enough to feed everyone! I can make 2 waffles at once – which perfectly separates into 8 wedges. I plated and served one wedge each, and continued cooking more waffles.
Thanks to my father-in-law for this beautiful olive wood grain serving platter, after I plated the first waffle wedge, I made rounds and top up everyone’s empty plates. I went around at least 3 times, and by then, guests started to kindly refuse a top up, citing food coma. Mission accomplished :)
So what are a few take-aways and tips from this experience?
Lessons Learned from Hosting a Pop-Up Brunch
Carefully plan the menu.
It took me weeks to think up this menu and to plan it out. It worked because I could prepare some of the courses in advance, I had enough time between each course to prepare the next course, and I had enough plates to serve each course on without having to do dishes during the event. Before the event, I wrote out exactly which plate each course would be served on, and whether or not I would collect a used silverware when I collected a used plate. I also planned out when I would start preparing and plating the next course. For example for the dippy eggs and grilled cheese, I needed to know exactly when I would start cooking the eggs, so the eggs would be hot when all the grilled cheese dippers were done cooking.
There will be quick eaters and slow eaters.
You need to find a balance between them to determine when to clear plates and serve more food. You don’t want someone sitting there with an empty plate for too long, but you also don’t want to rush someone’s eating. If you can, break up the quick eater’s wait time with “actions”. Once someone finishes, wait a bit and then clear the plate. Wait a bit again, then ask if they need water or anything. Wait a bit again, then serve the next course. That way, you are using actions to interrupt the time between the moment they finish eating one course to the time they can take the first bite of the next course.
I didn’t do this at the brunch, but next time I will try to make room on the table for small eats like the muffins so that fast eaters can snack on something else in the meantime. Think of it as having the equivalent of a bowl of bread at the dinner table.
Long tables need double the condiments.
This is an obvious one, but when the table is long, it’s hard for people to reach condiments if they’re sitting on the other side of the table. For example, I tried to get away with one bottle of water in the middle, thinking that it would encourage family-style sharing and passing things to each other. Instead, I noticed some people having empty glasses for long periods of time. This also applies to granola, coffee, salt, whatever you can think of!
Find a good platform to host and market your pop-up.
I hosted this pop-up brunch through a Meetup group, and they helped manage the administration of it – promoting it, collecting payment, and making sure everyone had the address. It made it easy for me, and all I had to think about was preparing and serving the food!
I really enjoyed the experience and can’t wait to host again. I’m hoping everyone who came could bring a bit of The Worktop back to their own :)
Tickets are not on sale yet for the next pop-up brunch, but it will be hosted on May 2, 2015. Details to come soon.