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Brunch Test Nest

My good friend Duke Fergerson suggested I do a Brunch menu for one of my TEST NESTS. I’m a fan of suggestions so I decided to make it happen. Deciding the menu for brunch was probably one of the most difficult thus far. Everyone has different opinions on what brunch should entail – some like sweet, others savory or maybe both. I decided to plan the meal in courses starting with sweet, then a palette cleanser, next savory and finishing with a light fruit dessert. It seems there was at least one course that appealed to my wonderful testers (Duke Fergerson, Joon Shin, Anna Haymore, Mindy Booth and Daniel Evans). Joon, who is an amazing photographer, offered to take all the pictures for this TEST NEST and I happily accepted! I attempted to be crafty again and made drink stirrers, which ended up adding an extra delicate touch, especially with the flower arrangements.

Mocktail: Hibiscus-Honey Iced Tea (3 Stars)

Paring a drink that would have been perfect with all of the different flavors of each course is probably impossible (at least for an amateur like me). While the tea was a perfect companion (bitter) to the sweet French toast, it fought again the Gazpacho.

Starter: Orange Croissant French Toast (4.5 Stars)

The favorite course on the menu, this yummy French toast is an elegant upgrade from the basic. Stuffed with cream cheese and marmalade, soaked in a spiced egg mixture, and then topped with homemade orange syrup makes this dish full of flavor and a perfect option for impressing out of town guests (Bed and Breakfast anyone?). I was very happy to eat every last bite of the leftovers.

Amuse Bouche: Mango Gazpacho (???)

This bitter gazpacho definitely packed a punch and did well to cleanse the palate. but it was the most debatable course of the menu. It needed more garnish (other than just basil), should only be served in small amounts and could easily be forgotten. I ended up throwing away the recipe because I most likely would not make it again. Mindy found the mix of flavors interesting and exotic and had ideas for playing with it to make it better. So if you like Mango, love Gazpacho and want a challenge, then try out the recipe and let me know if you come up with something interesting (linked recipe is different from the one I used which did not have the tarragon, but practically the same otherwise).

Second Course: Egg, Prosciutto and Asparagus Pizza (4 Stars)

While all of the flavors of this pizza were favorable, this is a perfect example of varied individual preferences: how to cook an egg? I don’t have a pizza stone and it might have helped conduct the heat so the pizza cooked more evenly since some of the eggs were harder than others. I will make this again, in fact I had left over ingredients so I made it again…without the eggs. Try making one half and half and decide which you prefer. I couldn’t find the recipe online so start with any type of pizza dough, spread a layer of ricotta then add olives (the yummy salty Greek ones), asparagus, heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and put it in the oven for 10. Break some eggs over top the pizza and arrange prosciutto and basil over pizza and put back in for 5 or until eggs are cooked to your liking.

Dessert: Blueberries with Maple Whipped Cream (4.5 Stars)

Strawberries were my favorite fruit growing up; I would lie in the aisles eating them while I was supposed to be helping my mom pick at the farm. We’ve got a lot of family stories that include strawberries and me. Somehow I think my favorite fruit has turned to blueberries, I would them with vanilla yogurt for breakfast every day if I could. I loved finishing off brunch with this recipe. Blueberries tossed in sugar and lemon zest topped with a lightly flavored maple whip cream enhanced the wondrous flavor of this amazing blue fruit. The jury may still be out, some testers wanted more maple flavors, others less and others couldn’t get enough and voted it a 5 star. The leftovers where definitely a fabulous bedtime snack for the next few days.

Since Joon could take pictures “behind the scenes” he captured the “rating the food discussion” and my fabulous testers helping me clean up.

He also surprised me with this amazing picture of my entrance hallway which I just had to add to this post. I LOVE this picture. Thanks again Joon, you’re amazing!


3 Comments (Leave a Reply)

  1. joonbug (June 28, 2010)

    My two favorites during this Brunch Test Nest were definitely the orange croissant French toast and the blueberries with maple whipped cream. Normally I don't have a sweet tooth but I must have this day and I'm glad that they were not cloying.

    I think the cream cheese in the middle of the croissant really served well as a good balance and bridge between the buttery pastry and the marmalade. Because it was prepared as French toast, the melted cream cheese also added a nice silky consistency, which was a nice contrast in texture that I really appreciated. Because a lot of French food is really rich and usually has a lot of cream-base dishes, I could almost imagine myself having this on a Sunday afternoon at a town square with outdoor seating in Nice, France. Am I biased in thinking France because of the "croissant" and "French toast" aspects of the dish? Perhaps, but I'm willing to run with the idea.

    The blueberries were a delight and were a smack-in-the-face reminder that I should incorporate more fruit into my diet. Although I would prefer to dress it up like we did for this Test Nest, I should still eat more fruit regardless. LOL. Anyhow, the whipped cream really helped to cut the tart bite from the lemon zest and the blueberries, and the notes of maple contributed to a nice, smooth finish. It was actually that finish that kind of slowed my New York business-driven brain down a little to the simpler thoughts in life, like "what fabric softener should I use for today's laundry" or "I wish I was wearing flip-flops today." Not that I have any experience being a farm hand but I embraced the slower-paced, smell-the-roses living of the country life when I had these, albeit very short-lived because once the lingering affects of the dessert wore off, my brain was back into overdrive again.

    In addition to the nice mental escape the food invoked, the company and the conversations during the Test Nest was nice and laid-back. Thanks again for the invitation!

  2. Monster Mary (July 2, 2010)

    oh the fun things you get to do. I really love that you've been able to do these test nests with such success. I'm a blueberry fan too. I can't remember if we had them much when you were here but we love blueberries and yogurt with granola. So yummy. I'm gonna have to try them with maple cream though cause that sounds sooo good. 😉

  3. Daniel (November 15, 2010)

    I agree with joonbug regarding my favorites; the orange croissant French toast and the blueberries with maple whipped cream are definitely keeper recopies. The orange croissant was well-balanced but incredibly decadent – it's the breakfast/brunch I want when I've done a 10 mile run before.

    The blueberry dish was a nice balance of flavors – the sweet and tart berries, the sour/tart lemon, and the sweet maple syrup binding all of the flavors together.

    I agree with your jettisoning of the mango gazpacho. I can see it maybe working in another menu, but particularly in one as sweet as this one, it was discordant rather than complimentary. I wasn't a huge fan of the pizza, but I think you hit the nail on the head when you noted the difficulty of preparing an egg everyone would love. The dish itself was a nice counterpoint to the sweetness that had preceded it (I've banished the gazpacho from my memory), but for me personally the runny eggs were off-putting. Still, the salty prosciutto was delicious and the perfect thing to precede the blueberry dish with.

    All in all, a decadent, wonderful breakfast. Laid back folk, nice conversation, delicious food; as always a winning combination.



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