Brunch is more an event than a meal
Families embrace buffet for ease and togetherness, and restaurants are happy to help
Kids are happy enough with colored eggs on Easter Sunday.
Some adults hold out for more — like French toast, waffles, home fries, omelettes and bowls of fresh fruit. Easter brunches are popular and profitable operations at several local restaurants.
“We try to make the holidays more of an experience,” said Matt Barton, executive chef at the Gideon Putnam Resort in Saratoga Springs. “On top of just a buffet setup, we’ll bring in the Easter Bunny, we’ll have an egg hunt for the children, ice carvings — a lot of fluff and display you wouldn’t typically see on an average Sunday brunch. We are trying to make it more of an activity as opposed to just a meal period.”
Barton said the Gideon Putnam offers brunch every Sunday, with Easter and Mother’s Day the days that attract the biggest crowds. He expects close to 1,000 people this weekend.
“I think the early afternoon draw is fun for a lot of people,” Barton said. “The 10 o’clock time frame is great, everybody’s thinking about breakfast. They get here and see all the lunch items and they get all excited about that.”
Prepping on Saturday
On holidays, brunch becomes more of an event. “A lot of families, especially during the Mother’s Day time, will look to make a day out of this,” Barton said. “The family [table] counts will be larger, they’ll look to hang out a little bit more.”
Barton said about 15 chefs will work the Easter brunch, some in the kitchen and others on the floor at carving stations. Work on the feast will start Saturday afternoon, as prep work for sauces and other foods will begin. Chefs will be on duty during the early morning hours roasting meats and later setting up tables for buffets.
“We do a Sunday brunch every week,” Barton said. “We’ve been doing it for as long as anyone can remember, at least 40 years. So brunch isn’t a surprise for us, we’re familiar with it.”
People who visit brunches are familiar with variety. The Gideon and other restaurants planning culinary extravaganzas have a lot on their plates.
“We’ll have steak and eggs, a carving station, custom omelette station, we’re doing prime rib,” Barton said. “The roasted meats will be lamb, pork and ham. We’ll have breakfast items as well, scrambled eggs, Belgian waffles, French toast, bacon, sausage, home fries, cheeses.”
The variety comes with a cost. Easter brunches in the Capital Region are priced from $24 to $45 for adults, with lower prices for children.
Barton believes people don’t come to buffets for second and third helpings. He thinks people just like to see all the different choices. He doesn’t think people will have to eat much the rest of the day, once they leave brunch.
“Boy, I hope not,” Barton said. “We have so much food here. I can’t see anybody needing to go home and have anything else until at least midnight.”
The convenience factor
At the Glen Sanders Mansion, brunch is also a weekly event. “We have people prepping the day before and we have people working stations; there’s just a lot of people involved in the whole thing,” said Will Brown, the restaurant’s executive chef.
He believes brunches, especially on holidays, are successful because of their convenience. People who would normally host a family gathering don’t have to spend most of the day in the kitchen. And then most of the night in the kitchen, cleaning up after their guests have left.
“Most of our reservations come in around 12 noon, but we do have people who come in at 10 in the morning,” Brown said. “People who come in from 10 to 12 tend to treat it more as breakfast. We have an omelette station, French toast, so those stations will get hit harder then our dinner stations, where we have carving stations and pastas and cold salads, so that stuff gets hit later in the day. All that fare is available throughout the whole 10 until 2 run.”
Like Barton at the Gideon, Brown is expecting about 1,000 people. Some will come after services at church.
“I think a lot of people, if they have family in town, they’re bringing their families,” Brown said. “A lot of people come after church, that’s why we get a big hit after 11 o’clock.”
Able to please everyone
At Milano, brunch buffets on Easter and Mother’s Day are only a few years old.
“People just seem to like buffet-style for brunch,” said general manager Nate Watt. “They can pick what they like; they can eat as much as they want. For us, it’s a little bit more work in the beginning, but it’s so much easier during service than doing an a la carte brunch. And we’ve gotten rave reviews about it; that’s why we do it.”
Salads, Italian-style cured meats, pasta dishes and a dessert spread are among the highlights on the morning and afternoon menu. Watt doesn’t think people come to buffets with plans to gorge themselves.
“I think people eat less,” he said. “They grab a little bit of everything. I think it’s more to be with the family and not having to cook. And you can hit everybody’s taste, coming to a nice restaurant and being able to pick a bunch of different things and not have to worry that somebody may not like something or the vegetarian option is not available. You can pretty much please everybody’s palate with a buffet. I think it just takes the thinking out of it, the ‘OK, we can’t pick this place because of this or that.’ It just makes it easier for everyone.”
Last Easter, Milano seated 150. Watt is hoping for 200 this Sunday, and for a similar number on May 12, Mother’s Day.
There are no plans for a brunch on Father’s Day.
“Father’s Day is more of a ‘Let’s grill’ type of thing,” Watt said. “We’re never as busy for Father’s Day as we are for Mother’s Day.”