Easter Eats

Local restaurant owners share their expert tips for throwing a fabulous spring holiday brunch

click to enlarge Italia Trattoria co-owner Bethe Bowman advises making some Easter brunch dishes in advance, like fritattas. - YOUNG KWAK
Young Kwak
Italia Trattoria co-owner Bethe Bowman advises making some Easter brunch dishes in advance, like fritattas.

Brunch and Easter go together like bacon and eggs. While there are lots of wonderful local options for going out to brunch (see page 63), maybe this is your year to throw your own. Bethe Bowman, co-owner of Italia Trattoria, and Kristen Ward, owner of the Ivory Table catering company and event space, offer their insider tips for a gathering that will go off without a hitch.

"For Easter, or any party, I think that the number one key is being prepared ahead of time," says Ward. "Try to think of dishes that you can [make ahead], so that when your guests arrive you are in a relaxed state."

Beyond the food, Ward and Bowman agree that the most successful parties involve as little work as possible on the day of the event. Bowman recommends thinking about what temperature you want your room to be, and what the lighting will be like at brunch time.

Ward suggests creating a playlist or picking a Pandora station ahead of time to set the mood, and setting out as much of the dishes and silverware as you can. In the rush of a party, it's easy to forget about small details. "Make sure there's toilet paper in the bathroom," says Ward.

When you're thinking about a menu, consider something that can be made or prepared in advance. "Frittatas and quiches are two really good ways to get eggs in," says Bowman. "You can dress them up; right now, goat cheese, fresh herbs and ham are nice, and cherry tomatoes are starting to come in."

An 8-inch frittata should serve about 12 people if you're serving it with a variety of options.

"Quiche Lorraine with bacon, scallions and Gruyère cheese would be a beautiful option," says Ward. "Also, I've been really into this idea of creating a gourmet crostini bar."

She suggests pairing tiny toast slices with vintage-style ham salad, fresh egg salad with tarragon and scallions — even an avocado-and-olive-oil salad — and let guests choose their own toppings.

If you're looking for more menu inspiration, Bowman also recommends flatbreads topped with smoked salmon (wild, not farm-raised), thinly sliced red onions and capers with a little butter or Dijon mustard. She's also partial to leg of lamb for Easter (plan for about 4 to 6 ounces of meat per person, and expect to have leftovers).

Ward is all about asparagus, whether blanched or roasted, and fresh strawberries. Or take a page from Bowman's book and pair your fruit with Greek yogurt. She drizzles hers with her backyard honey.

If you're concerned about how much food to provide, err on the lavish side. "I don't think there's ever a problem with sending gift boxes home with people," says Ward, who often provides to-go containers at her parties, available at restaurant supply stores.

"I always say, 'Just cram a table full of food.'"

Bowman and Ward agree that a buffet or family-style brunch is much less stressful than a plated meal, and your guests certainly won't mind. "Some people get overwhelmed by parties because they think they have to do courses, and it has to be all fancy," says Bowman. "I've noticed, being in the restaurant business, that people are dining in a more relaxed way now. I think people might feel overwhelmed when they're setting the table, but I think it's fine to keep it as simple as possible."

Every brunch needs libations. Both Bowman and Ward recommended rosé, with sparkling rosé getting a special mention. It's beautiful, and requires only one step to serve. If you want to mix things up a bit, consider a mimosa bar (Bowman recommends using Prosecco for an economical choice) and include a few fresh juices (guests in search of a nonalcoholic option can partake of these, too). No matter what else you serve, don't skip the coffee. Bowman recommends Spokane's Roast House Coffee, which she serves at Italia Trattoria.

In your planning, don't forget the little touches that make an event memorable. Ward looks for glassware and serving dish treasures in junk and thrift stores, and never skips fresh flowers. Sometimes Bowman will use fresh herbs as decoration, echoing the flavors of the meal.

Although entertaining might seem intimidating (especially on a holiday), there's no need to overthink it. "Keep it simple and fresh and tasty," says Bowman. "What good is a host who's stressed out?"

"If you're feeling overwhelmed by the idea of cooking for this many people, ask a friend to do something for you," says Ward. "Bring in the help that you need; don't try to do everything yourself."

"Don't feel like you need to make everything yourself," agrees Bowman. "Make what you're comfortable with and buy the rest."

Whether you host it or go out, it's hard to go wrong with brunch. ♦

Don't want to cook up a big Easter feast at home? Consider making reservations at one of the following:

Davenport Hotel, 10 S. Post

davenporthotelcollection.com, 789-6848, served April 16, 10 am-1 pm

Italia Trattoria, 144 S. Cannon

italiatrattoriaspokane.com, 459-6000, served April 16, from 9 am-2 pm

Clover, 913 E. Sharp

cloverspokane.com, 487-2937, served April 16, 9 am-2 pm

Beverly's, 115 S. Second St., CdA

beverlyscda.com, 208-765-4000, served April 16, 8 am-4 pm

Liberty Lake Farmers Market @ Town Square Park

Saturdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Continues through Oct. 10
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