photos by Stephanie Cameron

During this time of year, when the days are short and the air is icy, it’s often difficult to get out of the house and connect with friends. For many of us, this winter has been especially dark. So for this installment of Cooking Fresh, my husband and I decided to let some light in. We enlisted our pal, event planner and stylist Amy Gallegos, to help us throw a charming, farm-to-table brunch for a few of our friends. Designing a brunch or dinner party is a fun way to express your creativity, and breaking bread with others is a wonderful opportunity to bond and take stock of the beauty in life, friends, and food.

I first met Gallegos, who owns For the Love Events and Rust Vintage rentals, while planning my wedding. Her ability to transform any space into something chic and beautiful always impresses me, as does her commitment to utilizing local, organic materials and collaborating with other creative New Mexico women. For our brunch, Gallegos combined the minimalism of our winter desert landscape with the pops of vibrant color found in our menu: deep yellow egg yolks, speckled radicchio, golden honey, and watermelon radish. She set the table with an eclectic assortment of vintage stoneware plates, earthenware mugs and vases, and turmeric-yellow napkins and goblets. “I think mismatching dish and flatware feels cozy and is visually stimulating. When it comes to my inventory, I’m a hunter and a gatherer. If you go thrifting and something catches your eye and the price is right, get it, even if you don’t know what you’re going to do with it yet. Trust your instincts,” she advises. While we can’t all be professional event stylists, Gallegos says there are some simple things any of us can do to elevate our party and create a warm and inviting space. “My philosophy is to take everyday, attainable materials and use them in unexpected ways.” Case in point: the simple driftwood branch she suspended above the table. “I’m constantly foraging,” says Gallegos. “Bringing the outside in, especially in the winter when we’re so cooped up, is essential. I’d always rather draw from our seasonal environment than use roses imported from South America. It’s cheaper too!”

A couple of other entertaining tips Gallegos suggests are prepping as much as you can ahead of time (for the meal, we made our shashuka sauce, grated potatoes and onions, and cooked the farro the night before) and being intentional with your playlist. “Pick records or tracks that are light, fun, and familiar as well as some more obscure conversation starters,” she says. Hi-Phy Records owner Jenny Phy curated our morning’s soundtrack, which included retro favorites like Patsy Cline and The Ventures, as well as newer LP’s from Methyl Ethyl and Santa Fe’s own Cloacas. “Don’t neglect any of your senses,” says Gallegos. “They all complement each other.”

 

The most important sense for us, of course, is taste. While winter can limit our local produce options, increasingly—thanks to a variety of USDA grants—small local farmers have been able to extend their growing seasons with the help of hoop houses and other structures. So my husband, Seth Matlick of Vida Verde Farm, was able to put together a breakfast bounty that incorporated a variety of seasonal local ingredients: frisée, radicchio, fennel, and radishes from his farm; Kyzer Farms pork; New Mexico honey and pecans; Peculiar Farms eggs; and Zendo’s roasted coffee. Gallegos explains that For the Love’s most successful events are ones where everyone is well fed, guests get to try something new, and the food harmonizes with the overall feel of the occasion. Lastly, Gallegos says, “Realize that no event is perfect, so just roll with it if you burn dessert. Make a plan but don’t be rigid, you’ll have a lot more fun.”

We had a great time styling, photographing, and eating this meal. We hope you enjoy the spread and it inspires you to host your own brunch this season and to let a little light in.

photos below courtesy of our host Tish Carlson

Follow all the creators of this brunch spread:
www.fortheloveevents.com, @4theloveevents, @rustvintage;
www.vidaverdefarmabq.com, @vidaverdefarmabq;
www.floriographyflowers.com, @floriography_flowers;
Hi-Phy Records, @hiphyrecords; Candolin Cook, @candolin;
Tish Carlson, www.mattandtish.com, @tishcarlson

Listen to our Brunch playlist on Spotify, co-curated with Jenny Phy:

www.spotify.com

 

Candolin Cook

Candolin Cook

Candolin Cook is a history doctoral student at the University of New Mexico, an associate editor for the New Mexico Historical Review, and editor of edible Santa Fe. She spends much of her free time washing carrots and radishes at her husband’s vegetable farm, Vida Verde Farm, in Albuquerque's North Valley. Come check out their booth at the Downtown Growers Market, and follow her farm life on Instagram: @candolin and @vidaverdefarmabq.
Candolin Cook

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