Meals in the Big Easy are as entertaining as they are integral to the fabric of this spirited city. Lavish, multi-course brunches are to be expected in the city of indulgences, a sacred ritual, rather than simply feeding time. Ralph Brennan, a third-generation scion of the family whose name is synonymous with New Orleans restaurants, is an exemplary host of an ideal brunch. In 1946, Ralph’s uncle, Owen Brennan, invented the idea of “Breakfast at Brennan’s,” where the French Quarter institution today now serves more wine at breakfast than at dinner. Drawing inspiration from the restaurant that goes through almost half a million eggs per year, Ralph Brennan shares tips on how to create the perfect Sunday brunch this spring.
Integrate a range of cultural influences, while buying local. The proud heritage of New Orleans, grounded in the French Quarter, has established such a unique cuisine — principally French, with definite Spanish influence, and contributions from Italian cooking; newfound cultural influences, like Vietnamese, flourish in promising flavors that splash across the plates. The lore of these origins has become the foundation of the menus infused with contemporary precision. Brennan’s kitchen presents a distinctly lighter style that our modern-day guests have surely appreciated. Keep one foot in tradition and one foot in new — this will keep your guests intrigued and allow you to put a personal touch on each dish. Being a New Orleans native and restaurateur, we take pride in supporting local seafood purveyors. I recommend enjoying the natural bounty of our waterways — the flavor combinations are endless.
Opt for a seamless color palette. Adding a thoughtfully selected green garnish or creating a pink cocktail always pairs beautifully with colors of Brennan’s interiors. In fact, our Pink 75 cocktail was designed to match the pink facade of our building. We like to tie the beverage to the whole environment of colors, which enhances the experience. Take advantage of the wonderful, local Ponchatoula strawberries during the springtime to add as a tasty and colorful garnish.
Tout signature dishes. It’s always great to have dishes and drinks that are reliable and delicious. Masterpiece mainstays that originated at Brennan’s are Eggs Hussarde and Bananas Foster, which helped enhance the restaurant’s burgeoning fame. Also, ensure your morning repast features beverages de rigueur. I am the proud steward of the Napoleon House, and the Pimm’s Cup has been the signature cocktail for decades. It is a classic refreshment and we change it up by adding either Champagne or sparkling lemonade instead of soda. A Pimm’s Cup in a glass pitcher is a nice accent to the table with its usual green accompaniment — sliced cucumbers, but you can add it to it whatever is your preference — sliced oranges, sliced limes and lots of mint. Another way we infuse New Orleans charm is we add unique brunch stations: one of our favorites and popular is the Brandy Milk Punch Bar.
Incorporate local elements to your design theme. The design of the rooms at Brennan’s recognizes the past, full of old-fashioned Southern elegance, then they are seasoned with a vibrant and fresh approach for the fashion-forward person of today. Look at the surroundings of your home and city, then incorporate local, seasonal, cultural, and colorful concepts into your design setting. Each room you’re dining in or entertaining in could tell a specific story, engaging the guests into its own colorful personality. This is how you create a memorable experience and share a true sense of place.
There should always be too much. When you grow up in New Orleans, you learn how to throw a brunch or dinner party. Always keep it simple and elegant, but one important fact: there is never not having enough of everything — from food to drinks. There should always be too much! We are accustomed to going from a celebratory brunch to dinner in one day, especially during the ritualistic holidays like Mardi Gras, Easter and Christmas. To help get people in the festive mood, ease them into the day by serving plenty of cafe au lait and light snacks as they arrive — like baby hot beignets dusted with powdered sugar. If you want to add something stronger you can do an Irish coffee or a simple glass of Champagne. This will help contribute to a livelier atmosphere as the gathering progresses to the next course of the eventful day.