Ladies Who Brunch

This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of attending a lovely brunch put on by my lovely friends Andrea Slonecker and Lila Martin.
Andrea (left) is an accomplished cook, food writer, and IACP committee member, and is conspiring on a soon-to-published cookbook with local author Diane Morgan. Lila (right) helps promote Portland and its vibrant food scene as the Media Relations Coordinator for Travel Portland and writes a fun food blog called Eat This!

tablesettingThe girls just recently moved into a new apartment in Irvington, but you’d never know it. Half-unpacked moving boxes of kitchen implements in the bathroom? None. Piles of decade-old Gourmet magazines and M.F.K. Fisher books with an ironing board spanning them serving as impromptu coffee table? Nope. A lone bottle of Cremant and a half-gouged wedge of Pierre Robert gracing the otherwise barren refrigerator shelves? Au contraire, the icebox and cupboard shelves were bountiful. I was impressed, considering that I moved into my apartment a year ago and the above scenarios still exist there.

proseccoThe girls combed local vintage stores to create their fashionably eclectic decor, which I, having no real knowledge of interior design styles, will dub Parisian-chic. After Lila graciously took my coat (the hostessing at this brunch was unparalleled), I was served chilled Prosecco in a slender stemless champagne tumbler from a darling 1950s-era mini-cocktail bar. I felt ever so elegant.

In the kitchen, Andrea plated juicy slices of blood orange and ruby grapefruit, the fragrance of fresh dill and sweet Spanish paprika floated through the air, and homemade granola cooled on the counter, studded with golden hazelnuts, plump dried Bing cherries and fat curls of toasted coconut. I thought the coconut was an excellent addition, giving the granola an ever so slightly tropical aroma and flavor–very fitting since during our lively brunch conversation we all admitted having a case of spring wanderlust that could probably only be squelched by a trip to Hawaii. Or Paris.


Like any good guest, I’d brought a few edible gifts, and since ’tis the season for brightly-dyed sugar-encrusted marshmallow treats, I’d packed in some Peeps, which got on very well with the salt and pepper shakers.


Brunch started with an organic yogurt parfait layered with Andrea’s homemade granola and sweet fig jam, and a refreshing citrus, fennel and herb salad that tasted like spring.


Next came a delectable dish of sliced sunchokes roasted with slices of lemon, whole cloves of garlic and fresh rosemary. It was as divine as it sounds, and a fitting companion to the savory bacon and leek bread pudding, the recipe for which Andrea has generously provided below.


After that, there was a lot of sighing and stomach-rubbing, a few more Hold-The-OJ Mimosas were poured, and an informal Nocino tasting was held, because…it was Sunday afternoon and why not?


Bacon and Leek Bread Pudding
Recipe by Andrea Slonecker

Makes 6 servings

1 tablespoon softened butter for greasing
6 strips thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4” strips (lardons)
1 large leek, white and light green part only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cup milk (whatever % you have in the fridge)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated semi-hard cheese, such as Brindisi Fontina from Willamette Valley Cheese Co.
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
6 cups stale artisan white bread cut in 3/4-inch cubes, leave crust on (about 10 ounces)
Spanish sweet paprika to garnish (Pimentón de la Vera Dulce)

Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with butter.

In a skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate lined with a paper towel. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan (reserve excess bacon fat for frying potatoes and such). Add the leeks and sauté over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until softened but not brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer the leeks to a plate to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, cheese, thyme, and nutmeg. Stir in the bacon and leeks. Add the bread cubes and toss to coat evenly. Place the bread and egg mixture into the prepared baking dish, and let the mixture sit for about 20 minutes for the bread to soak up the egg mixture. Give it a stir once or twice.

Preheat the oven to 375°.

Cover the dish with foil and place it in the oven. After 20 minutes, remove the foil and continue baking the bread pudding until the top is browned and crusty, about 20 to 25 minutes more. Sprinkle the top with paprika. Enjoy!