Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Brunch for HOW many?

It was in the doldrums of mid-December, after defending my decision to axe holiday cards from my to-do list, that I decided to host a New Year's brunch open house. I dimly recall my mom opening our home for this kind of event a few times while I was growing up, and visions of bagels, coffeecake and steaming cups of coffee filled my head as I entered the details into Evite.

Ah yes, the Evite invite list. Assuming a good portion of my friends would be traveling, hung-over or otherwise occupied on New Year's, I invited a lot of people. I figured I'd be lucky to get a 50% response rate.

The first two RSVPs arrived in the next hours. Both regrets. I started to regret sending out the invite. What if no one came? What if I ended up being the giant loser who invites a bunch of people to brunch and ends up sitting in the living room alone, sadly nibbling fruit salad?

I ended up with the opposite problem. Having largely ignored Evite while traveling over Christmas break, I logged in three days before the event to find 64 yeses and 15 maybes. By New Year's Eve the total we were up 69 yeses. Panic set in. I live in a small, 1100 square foot house. I've never had more than 25 people over at one time, let alone 69 people, half of whom would be children!

My husband, not exactly the soothing, sympathetic type by nature, wasn't reassuring. He basically told me I was nuts to invite more than a handful of our closest friends and that this was a dilemma of my own devising. My next door neighbor sympathized with my plight and offered her basement for spillover of any "big kids." She also handed me her three largest serving bowls and advised me to simplify my menu offering and maximize each item's quantity.

I spent New Year's Eve day at Trader Joe's, buying bagels, orange juice and clementines in bulk. I defrosted a banana bread, baked muffins and prepared a spinach and cheese strata and french toast that could be popped in the oven before our guests arrive. I rearranged our furniture, bringing in additional chairs, while Josh hauled up the 42-cup coffee urn I'd found at a yard sale last summer and got to work grinding 2 1/2 cups of coffee. All the while I was telling myself it will be okay.. it's an open house...people will come and go.

And you know what? It was better than okay. It was great. Somewhere between 50 and 60 people actually showed up and while it was a little crowded, loud and chaotic at its peak (with about 10 families of 4), our guests did come and go in waves. Since many people arrived with food or drink in hand, we had more than enough to eat and only ran out of coffee at 1:30, a full hour and a half after the party's scheduled end time.

In the end I'm glad I overextended myself a little bit. After all, I can't think of a better way to spend a sub-zero New Year's Day than with a few dozen of my best friends and neighbors.