March 01, 1999
Meetings & Conventions: Short Cuts March 1999 Current Issue
March 1999
Short Cuts:

Is 11 a.m. too early to kick back a few? Apparently corporate America doesn’t think so.

A handful of New York City law firms and financial institutions have embraced the “cocktail brunch.” Manhattan-based Barraud Caterers Ltd., which takes credit for the concept, serves gourmet breakfast and lunch fare in bite-size pieces, along with the likes of champagne cocktails and silverados (vodka, Campari and orange juice).

The function generally kicks off at 11 a.m. or noon, with the progression of hors d’oeuvres beginning with breakfast comfort foods and moving on to more exotic lunch items, explains Ro Howe, president of Barraud Caterers. “The key is to try to serve a dish in one bite,” she says. “Ideally, each hors d’oeuvre should be a layered taste explosion a meal in miniature.”

Among the most popular items, says Howe, are “little French toasts, scrambled egg things and tartlets with caviar. The men and boys love roast beef on biscuits with a little something on top.”

Another crowd pleaser: tuna on sesame toasts with wasabe mayonnaise, wakame salad and pickled daikon (pictured).

Howe, who first proposed the idea to a wary client a year ago (the law firm staged the successful event in a partner’s home), says cocktail brunches are a hit for several reasons. They’re more casual than a banquet or evening cocktail party, often held on the weekend with spouses or guests or even older children on the invite list.

But first and foremost: They are cost-effective. One waiter per 25 or 30 guests suffices, and there’s no need for plates, knives and forks just service trays and glasses. “The food is much cheaper,” she adds, “because it’s not a four-course meal or buffet with several protein entrees.” Items are passed, rather than displayed, which helps both portion control and visual appeal.

Barraud charges a minimum of $25 per person. For $60 a head, clients get a gourmet affair with smoked salmon, fois grois and caviar


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