Brunch is a much-beloved meal and reason to raise a toast. And while Valentine’s Day is a delightful time to plan a brunch gathering with your nearest and dearest, this brunch blueprint can be easily executed for Valentine’s Day or anytime. (Spring-time soirée, anyone?) Read on for decor and design ideas, two tasty recipes and some event and photography pointers from two pros: Melissa Haithcock, of A Happy Healthy Heart, and Alyssa Valletta Bustin, of Alyssa Joy Photography.
Designing the Space
So where’s a girl to start? “I always start with how I want the table to look,” says Melissa. “In the spring, lots of florals with pops of color, and in the winter, maybe something more cozy and muted. After I have an idea for the table, I figure out what food I want to incorporate. I typically make three to four recipes and always add a few pre-made, store-bought elements to fill space and add color. Everything else follows the food: the linens, the plates, the glasses, etc.”
For their brunch location, Melissa and Alyssa selected the stunning Wendell Home in the Porter Heights neighborhood in East Nashville. With the location chosen and recipes ready to make, it was time to get to work. They adorned the simple, linen tablecloth with an assortment of flowers, which they beautifully arranged in color block vases by Handmade Studio TN.
The beautiful flatware and dishes also caught our eye. “I am ALWAYS on the hunt for pretty things that can be used in a photo shoot,” says Melissa. “Most of these pieces I’ve collected throughout the years from antique stores and random shops I happen to stumble upon.” For this particular shoot, the dishes were a conglomeration of pieces from antique shops and from Melissa’s wedding. Unique, one-of-a-kind elements like these can add personality to your table.
For the menu, the main event was a recipe for orange-soaked French toast, an original recipe Melissa created for A Happy Healthy Heart. “[This dish] steals the show simply because it is so delicious,” she says. “It’s not easy to make cooked toast look beautiful, but sprinkling berries and a bit of powdered sugar helps add a ‘pretty’ touch. I make this French toast year-round, but I think it would be great for a summer breakfast outside with some fresh blueberries and iced tea.”
Don’t forget the side dishes! Chocolate-covered strawberries serve as the perfect side to this entrée and add rich color to the table. “Having a lot of the shoot details (table linens, clothing, dishes, walls) be neutral/light in color allowed the food and flowers to really pop,” says Alyssa.
As for beverages, Melissa included a special recipe in this brunch lineup. “I wanted the food to be delicious without being overindulgent, so I made sure to add things like a sparkling beet spritzer to the menu,” she says. (Scroll to the end to find recipes for both the French toast and the sparking beet juice.)
Create Your Own
If you’re inspired to accomplish a similar brunch setup (for Valentine’s Day or beyond), focus on a minimalist setup and use your recipes and floral arrangements as colorful focal points.
“My goal was to make this theme simple and let the more natural elements do all of the talking,” says Melissa. “So the flowers and food played a big role in the color, while everything else remained a bit more understated. And the space we used is minimalistic, which complemented the scene really well.
“When I design a photoshoot like this, I dream up all of the pieces in my head, visualize how each element will complement the other and then execute,” she continues. “Because we were having a ladies’ Valentine’s brunch, I was sure to add in pops of red (like in the clothes, flowers and even nail polish) but didn’t want it to be the main color. Combining red with hues of blue, pink and gold made it feminine.”
Capture the Event
Need pointers on how to photograph your beautiful brunch? Look no further. Alyssa shares some insight on how she captures her breathtaking shots:
“One of the most important things for any shoot, and especially for food, is good light! Shooting in rooms with a lot of window light is the key,” says Alyssa. “For the food, if possible, it’s important to choose recipes that are already photogenic and have good colors. Like the sparkling beet juice — it’s so pretty on its own already. It really helps to garnish the food when displaying it, too, so for the French toast, adding berries and powdered sugar made all the difference. It’s also nice to have food that can be shot with some action — for example, pouring the sparkling water into the beet juice, or drizzling the maple syrup on the French toast.”
Ready to get cooking? Here are the two recipes featured in today’s article, both courtesy of Melissa Haithcock of A Happy Healthy Heart. Enjoy!
Orange Soaked French Toast
- ½ loaf sliced hearty bread
- 5 eggs
- juice of one orange + zest for topping
- ¼ cup almond milk
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- Preheat coconut oil in a large skillet to medium heat. In a flat large bowl whisk the eggs. Add in the rest of the ingredients and whisk until incorporated.
- Place a slice of bread into the mixture and allow to soak for about 2 minutes and flip it to the other side. If your bread is thicker, it may need a bit more time to soak, you just want to ensure that the mixture goes into the bread and doesn’t just sit on top.
- Place the bread slice on the skillet and cook on each side until golden brown, approximately 3 minutes. Repeat this for all the slices until the egg mixture is gone.
- Serve warm with orange zest, maple syrup, and fresh berries.
Sparkling Beet Juice
- 4 beets peeled
- 1 pineapple peeled
- 1 lemon peeled
- 1 bottle sparkling water
- Juice all produce and pour into glass container and chill. When ready to serve, pour juice into a glass until half full. Fill the rest of the glass with sparkling water. Enjoy!
Thanks, Melissa and Alyssa, for the recipes, the photo inspiration and the pointers for the perfect execution! Find more recipes on Melissa’s blog, A Happy Healthy Heart, and follow her on Instagram at @ahappyhealthyheart. And check out more of Alyssa’s beautiful work at Alyssa Joy Photography or on Instagram at @alyssajoyphoto.
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