At the super charming Garden Wall Inn on the edge of Whitefish, Montana, owners Rhonda Fitzgerald, and Chris Schustrom have been making the morning meal an extra special occasion for decades, earning the chefs/innkeepers regular raves on sites like Trip Advisor. A recent visit reminded me how much I love this place, especially the extra effort the two take to make it so much easier to get out of bed and get out on the slopes. Here are some of their tips for turning brunch into something worth celebrating, even if you're just cooking for one or two, not a full house.
1) Coffee Up
Instead of gulping down a cup after sitting down at the table, try setting the tone for a leisurely experience by sipping in the living room first. Have a chat, read the paper (or the news on your cell phone). If it's winter-y, light a fire. When the temps are summer-like, drinking a pre-brunch cuppa on the porch, the deck, or in the yard is such a civilized way to wake up and work up a little appetite. At the Garden Wall Inn, the hosts bring a pot of French press to the room for the best kind of caffeinated alarm.
2) Start with Fruit
The kitchen team at the Garden Wall have been on board the cooking seasonally bandwagon since way before it was cool, shopping at local farmers markets during the warm weather months and showcasing produce at its peak throughout the year. That mission truly pops when a simple, yet elegant winter citrus salad appears. Fresh fruit is another way of waking up those taste buds, setting the stage for the main event.
3) Serve the Meal in Courses
While guests are enjoying the fruit, warm scones or biscuits almost magically appear on the table. Those "appetizers" are cleared, making way for the main course. Sometimes, it's a fluffy souffle (easier than you think to prepare, says Rhonda), other times, a savory omelet filled with goat cheese from a local dairy. Portions aren't huge, so nobody staggers away from the table feeling stuffed. But it's definitely filling enough to power you through ski runs or a circuit around the cross country tracks at the Glacier Nordic Center.
4) Details, Details
Lots of small touches add up to a memorable meal. Use flowers and fresh herbs to garnish dishes. Set a table using your best dishes, cloth napkins, a small bouquet as a centerpiece. Butter shaped into pliable molds make plates look pretty. "People really appreciate it when you make the effort," Rhonda said.
5) There's No Rush
Once the dishes are cleared, offer another cup of coffee, inviting guests to sit around and visit. It's nice to take a moment and relax, right? That's why brunch is the opposite of a hectic, work day breakfast.
Looking for more brunch inspiration? We've got you covered: