Tips for Hosting a Cheerful Spring Brunch

set table with yellow daisies
Photo: Peter Krumhardt

Cheerful morning hues blend on a brunch table as bright and enticing as the new season's most delicious goodies.

01 of 11

How to Set a Spring Brunch Table

blue-and-yellow tablescape
Peter Krumhardt

Like clear morning skies that beam sunlight, a polished blue-and-yellow tablescape by designer Karin H. Edwards creates a cheerful spring brunch setting that forecasts a bright day ahead.

An alluring blend of mismatched but coordinated elements cleverly comes together to greet guests.

Porcelain plates boast diverse patterns but display similar gold trim. Linens walk on the wild side in a jungle-print runner but also go traditional in classic damask napkins. Even the flatware offers a surprise—varied designs on each utensil.

02 of 11

Cheerful Table

set table with yellow daisies
Peter Krumhardt

With a crowning touch of pale yellow daisies and roses in white vases, the table is ready for an equally happy menu that includes Spring Frittata and Raspberry Shortcakes.

Fabricut Table runner in "Capture Gold" cotton and napkins in "Erudition Gold" linen. Pier 1 Imports "Whitewash" rattan placemat. Jung Lee "Vittorio" clear crystal wineglass. Federal Glass through Replacements "Patrician-Amber" pressed-glass footed tumbler. Juliska "Knot" amber-color napkin ring.

03 of 11

Unique Flatware

stainless-steel flatware
Peter Krumhardt

Varied designs on each piece of Wallace "Hotel Lux" stainless-steel flatware offer a subtle surprise at the table.

04 of 11

Pretty Presentation

blue and white plates with spring menu
Peter Krumhardt

The menu highlights spring flavors such as asparagus, baby greens, and heirloom carrots. The sum of the parts equals a fabulous end result. Biscuit-like shortcakes studded with fresh berries and filled with citrus-bright lemon curd, whipped cream, and raspberries finish off this brunch.

Robert Haviland through Mottahedeh "Lexington" porcelain dessert plate in gris. Royal Worcester through Replacements "Imperial White" rimmed soup bowl. Richard Ginori Oriente Italiano "Pervinca" dinner plate. Pier 1 Imports Mango-wood carved vine tray.

05 of 11

Spring Brunch Menu

brunch menu by chef mary payne moran
Peter Krumhardt

This brunch menu by Chef Mary Payne Moran, owner of Hail Mary Food of Grace highlights all the lovely things about spring produce. An almost-vegetarian menu (use the dairy products of your choice) with an upscale twist, you'll find these recipes pretty, elegant, and tasty.

  • Carrot-Orange Cocktail
  • Mango and Raisin Chutney over Goat Cheese
  • Asparagus Soup
  • Spring Frittata
  • Wilted Baby Swiss Chard and Heirloom Carrots
  • Raspberry Shortcakes with Creamy Lemon Curd
  • Cynar Liqueur—Great Ideas

Shopping List

We've organized a shopping list to make shopping for this party menu easier for you. Package sizes are included so you have enough for duplicated recipe ingredients.

Check your pantry for these necessary items before shopping:

Note: Unless specified, when we call for "butter" we mean the unsalted variety. When we call for "brown sugar," we are calling for light brown sugar.

  • All-purpose flour (need 1-3/4 cups)
  • Sugar (need 3/4 cup total)
  • Brown sugar (need 2 tablespoons)
  • Honey (need 2 tablespoons)
  • Baking powder (need 1 teaspoon) (check expiration date)
  • Cornstarch (need 1 tablespoon)
  • Salt (need 2-3/4 teaspoons total)
  • Ground black pepper
  • Ground white pepper
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (need 1/2 teaspoon)
  • Vanilla extract (need 1/2 teaspoon)
  • Olive oil (need 2 teaspoons + 1/3 cup)
  • Butter (need 2 sticks)
  • White wine vinegar (need 2 tablespoons)
  • Eggs (need 14 total)
  • Whole milk (need 1/3 cup)

Specialty grocery store

  • 1 (16-ounce) bottle cold-pressed carrot juice (need 6 ounces)
  • 12 to 14 (about 2 bunches) spring garlic OR 6 cloves garlic
  • 24 ounces baby Swiss chard OR 1 bunch Swiss chard
  • 24 ounces baby kale or kale sprouts
  • 1 bunch yellow and/or baby heirloom carrots
  • 1 (16-ounce) package turbinado sugar


  • 1 bunch baby carrots, leafy tops attached
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1 bunch asparagus spears (about 12 ounces)
  • 8 ounces shiitake or chanterelle mushrooms
  • 2 small yellow onions
  • 1 bunch celery (need 1 stalk)
  • 1 bunch radishes (optional)
  • 1 large shallot
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 2 heads green Belgian endive
  • 2 mangoes
  • 2 (6-ounce) package raspberries
  • 3 lemons
  • 1 bunch basil leaves


  • 1 (32-ounce) bottle sparkling water
  • 1 (8-ounce) bottle apple juice (need 1/4 cup)
  • 1 (15-ounce) box golden raisins
  • 1 box water crackers

Baking aisle

  • 1 (12.75-ounce) package/container salted, shelled pistachios

Frozen food aisle

  • 1 (9-ounce) package frozen peas

Cheese and deli counter

  • 8 ounces goat cheese (chèvre)
  • 2 ounces Gruyère cheese


  • 1 (32-ounce) container orange juice (need 12 ounces)
  • 1 (1-pint) container whipping cream (need 1/2 cup plus more whipped for shortcake topping)
  • 1 (1-pint) container sour cream
  • 1 (1/2-pint) container crème fraîche


  • 1 (750-ml) bottle gin
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle Cynar OR 1 (4-ounce) bottle aromatic bitters (need 1/4 teaspoon)
06 of 11

Carrot-Orange Cocktail

carrot-orange cocktail
Peter Krumhardt

We've found that cold-pressed carrot juice, available at most health food stores, guarantees the best flavor in this handcrafted cocktail from chef Mary Payne Moran. Cynar is an Italian liqueur made from 13 herbs and plants, with artichoke being the most prevalent. Standard bitters can be substituted.

  • 12 ounces orange juice
  • 6 ounces cold-pressed carrot juice
  • 1-1/2 ounces gin
  • 1-1/2 ounces Cynar or 1/4 teaspoon aromatic bitters
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Ice
  • Sparkling water
  • 6 baby carrots with tops, peeled and tops trimmed to about 1-inch

Add orange juice, carrot juice, gin, Cynar, and honey to pitcher; stir. Fill each glass halfway with ice. Pour carrot juice mixture over ice; top with sparkling water. Garnish with carrot. Makes 6 servings.

07 of 11

Mango and Raisin Chutney over Goat Cheese

mango and raisin chutney over goat cheese
Peter Krumhardt

Seek out a young goat cheese (chèvre) during the spring months when mother goats are producing their freshest, grassiest milk. A specialty cheese shop is the best source for goat cheese for this recipe from chef Mary Payne Moran.

  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 cups mango, coarsely chopped (2 mangoes)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins (plus more for garnish)
  • 8 ounces goat cheese (chèvre), softened
  • 2 heads green Belgian endive, divided into spears
  • 1 sleeve water crackers (about 36)

In small saucepan cook onion in hot butter over medium-high heat 3 minutes or until softened.

Add mango, water, apple juice, brown sugar, crushed red pepper, and salt. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add raisins and simmer 10 to 15 minutes more or until desired consistency. Let cool.

Spread goat cheese in thin layer in flat serving dish. Top with chutney, letting goat cheese show around edges. Garnish with additional raisins. Serve with endive spears and water crackers. Makes 16-18 servings.

08 of 11

Asparagus Soup

asparagus soup
Peter Krumhardt

Although those thin reeds of baby asparagus look appealing, according to the California Asparagus Commission stalks with medium to medium-large diameters are actually more tender and flavorful.

Pistachios and slivered radishes add salt-and-pepper notes to this delicious soup from chef Mary Payne Moran.


  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons chopped shallot
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Ground white pepper
  • 3 cups very thinly sliced asparagus* (12 ounces)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 recipe Cream Topping
  • 1/4 cup dry roasted salted pistachio nuts, crushed
  • 1/3 cup slivered radish (optional)

Cream Topping:

  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

In large pot heat olive oil over medium heat. Add zucchini, onion, celery, shallot, basil, salt, and pepper to taste. Cook and stir 2 minutes. Add asparagus; cook 1 minute more or until vegetables are glossy and aromatic.

Add water; bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Let cool slightly.

Transfer soup to blender. Cover; blend until smooth. Divide soup among six serving bowls. Garnish each bowl with Cream Topping, crushed pistachios, and slivered radish, if desired. Makes 6 servings.

For Cream Topping, stir together whipping cream and sour cream; chill until serving time.

It is important to very thinly slice the asparagus. If asparagus isn't sliced thinly enough, the soup may be stringy and difficult to puree.

Make-Ahead Tip: Soup can be made up to 24 hours ahead and stored in airtight container in refrigerator. To reheat, transfer soup to large pot. Bring soup just to simmer. Serve with pistachios and Cream Topping as directed.

09 of 11

Spring Frittata and Wilted Baby Swiss Chard with Heirloom Carrots

spring frittata and wilted baby swiss chard
Peter Krumhardt

Peas and tender mushrooms fill this frittata from chef Mary Payne Moran. Served alongside baby wilted greens and baby heirloom carrots, this main course celebrates the spring season.

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup stemmed shiitake or chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 10 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup crème fraîche plus 2 tablespoons for topping
  • 2 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded (1/2 cup)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in 10-inch oven-going skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms; cook 2 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add peas; cook 2 minutes. Remove vegetables from skillet to paper towel-lined bowl.

In large bowl whisk together eggs. Add 1/4 cup crème fraîche and 1/4 teaspoon salt; mix well.

Melt remaining tablespoon butter in same skillet over medium heat. Pour egg mixture into skillet. Add vegetable mixture and 1/4 cup of cheese.

Bake 15 minutes or until egg mixture is set. Remove from oven. Top with remaining cheese; sprinkle with pepper. Cool 10 minutes. Cut into 6 wedges. Top each wedge with remaining 2 tablespoons crème fraîche and fresh-ground pepper. Makes 6 servings.

Wilted Baby Swiss Chard with Heirloom Carrots

Check a specialty grocery store or your local farmer's market for spring garlic, baby Swiss chard, and kale sprouts.

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 to 14 bulbs spring garlic, bias-sliced, or 6 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 6 spring green onions or green onions, trimmed and bias-sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3 cups baby Swiss chard or chopped Swiss chard
  • 3 cups baby kale and/or kale sprouts
  • 6 purple, yellow and/or orange baby heirloom carrots, trimmed, scrubbed, and halved lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In 4- to 5-quart pan heat olive oil over low heat. Add garlic, green onions, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to heated olive oil. Cook over low heat 3 to 4 minutes (do not let brown).

In very large bowl combine greens and sliced carrots; pour warm oil mixture over greens; toss to slightly wilt the greens. Add vinegar, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Toss to combine. Makes 6 servings.

10 of 11

Raspberry Shortcakes with Creamy Lemon Curd

raspberry shortcakes with creamy lemon curd
Peter Krumhardt

The sum of the parts equal a fabulous end result. You'll want to make the biscuit-like shortcakes from chef Mary Payne Moran on their own to serve at breakfast, and you'll find it difficult not to dip a spoon into the bowl of smooth, citrus-bright lemon curd.


  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup fresh raspberries
  • Turbinado (raw) sugar

Creamy Lemon Curd:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup butter, cut up
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

To Serve:

  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • Sweetened whipped cream (optional)
  • Lemon zest

For Shortcakes, preheat oven to 375°F. In large mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest, and salt. Using pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

In another bowl whisk together egg, milk, and vanilla. Add egg mixture to flour mixture; stir just until combined. Gently mix fresh raspberries into dough. (Please note the raspberries should break apart slightly.)

Transfer dough to floured work surface. Sprinkle surface of dough with flour. Roll or pat dough to 3/4-inch thickness. Use 2-1/2-inch round cutter to cut 6 rounds from dough, re-rolling as needed. Place on baking sheet lined with silicone baking mat (Silpat®) or parchment paper. Brush shortcakes with additional milk. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside.

For Creamy Lemon Curd, in small saucepan stir together sugar and cornstarch. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, and water. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly.

Stir half of lemon mixture into egg yolks. Return egg mixture to saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until mixture comes to gentle boil. Cook and stir 2 minutes more. Remove from heat. Add butter pieces, stirring until melted. Remove from heat. Transfer to bowl. Cover surface with plastic wrap. Chill at least 1 hour. Whisk sour cream into the cooled lemon curd.

To serve, halve each shortcake, top bottom with Creamy Lemon Curd and whipped cream. Top with additional raspberries, and a sprinkle of lemon zest, if desired. Makes 6 servings.

Tip: You can also use 1 cup purchased lemon curd. Whisk in 1/4 cup sour cream.

Make Ahead Tip: Make the Creamy Lemon Curd and Shortcakes up to 24 hours ahead. Chill the Creamy Lemon Curd until ready to use. Cool the shortcakes completely and store in an airtight container.

Recipe from chef Mary Payne Moran

11 of 11

Cynar Liqueur

cynar liqueur
Peter Krumhardt

Catherine de' Medici took artichokes to France when she became Henry II's queen. Bette Davis devastated a film critic with the line, "Remind me to tell you about the time I looked into the heart of an artichoke," in All About Eve. The thistle end of the cardoon is both elegant and a bit rough-and-tumble; after all, you scrape the leaves with your teeth to enjoy its flavor.

It is also the primary flavor in the Italian liqueur Cynar, a blend of 13 herbs and plants. Cynar has an herbaceous, slightly bitter taste, best enjoyed in a cocktail or as a digestif after dinner, as the Italians do.

Today, you'll see it as an ingredient on tony cocktail menus. The trick to mixing Cynar into a cocktail is to balance its herby-bitter flavor with something sweet. Here are a few ideas to try:

  • Mix a shot of Cynar with equal parts soda and orange juice for a refreshing beach cocktail.
  • Try equal parts bourbon or whiskey mixed with Cynar and a splash of lemonade garnished with a stalk of celery for a pre-brunch cocktail.
  • Go Southern and pour a shot into sweet tea.
  • Adding Cynar to lemon juice and a lemon twist with Scotch, soda, and simple syrup is definitely a party-starter.
  • Cynar, bourbon, sweet vermouth, and cherries offer an interesting twist on a Manhattan.

Finally, when you want to go to the dark side, mix Cynar with honey and pour it over vanilla ice cream.

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