EVER SINCE Sunday brunch became Washington's second favorite meal (next to the political fund-raiser), we have been beseiged with restaurant guides, price charts and sidewalks full of blackboards; articles on Washington's 10 best eggs benedict, 10 strongest bloody Mareaux and 10 most exposed bricks; what to wear to outdoor brunches, indoor brunches, tailgate brunches and the Middleburg hunt brunches; who harps through brunch (the Sheraton-Carlton) and who just fiddles; where to buy bagels and where to pick lox.
All of this twaddle merely obscures the most important kind of brunch -- the at-home, do for two. An intimate brunch can be especially effective in a bachelor kitchen (my best friend's husband captured her with his hollandaise).
Always be prepared -- the impulse invitation can be the most fun. Keep a couple of bottles of champagne (it's not one of the things you can run to the corner store for), and all the frills for whatever Sunday specialty you develop. If you're going to make blintzes, keep cavier and sour cream handy; berries for waffles, real maple syrup for pancakes, preserves for French toast, etc.
Make the guest feel either luxuriously useless or deliciously helpful. Set up a cozy seat in the kitchen with the newspaper, mimosa and bud vase. Think of some litttle chore they can do -- slicing mushrooms, cracking eggs or opening the champagne -- while you putter around with the serious stuff.
Do not panic. Be prepared for your omelet to scorch while you smooch (you should have plenty of eggs on hand). I promise, they won't hold it against you.
You don't need to lay out a four-course extravaganza. Chances are you don't want to stuff yourselves into immobility anyway. Stretch your meal out; if there's a long pause between melon and crepe, so much the better.
Serving brunch on the chaise-longue requires a little thought. Avoid the crumbly-itchy and the permanently staining. A dropped dollop of strawberry preserves or syrup can be easily cleaned off, but cavier on the upholstery means having to say you're sorry.
Perhaps you might serve the first course in the living room and the rest at the table. Probably the first dish should not be hot -- for one thing, you'll have to handle it too carefully and it's discouraging to get everything toted into the front room and discover that the English muffins are cold. Fresh melon or berries or sliced banana is soothing; if you have time, mix various -- colored fruits in a goblet and splash with a little wine.
As for the entree, avoid the humdrum -- no fried or boiled eggs, and no cereal -- and the overly complicated. Long, involved preparations may make your guest ill-at-ease, and at least hungry.
Investigate a cheese souffle, which takes only a few minutes to prepare then courteously vanishes into the oven for a half-hour or so; or pancakes, sauteed in a butter-filled skillet and sprinked with cinnamon; waffle sandwiches with strawberries and whipped cream filling; a kind of quickie croque monsieur, with Canadian bacon and cheese cauteed between two slices of French toast.
If it's a very hot morning, stay cool with fruit and yogurt smoothies, or tuck a very ripe avocado into your ommelet. Griddle up a German omelet: separate the eggs, whip the eggwhites firm, fold the yolk in and drop a ladle full onto a hot surface. The omelet will puff high. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar.
For the heartiest eaters, perhaps a kidney and mushroom saute over toast (slice medium thick, saute in melted butter and sprinkle with lemon juice and dry vermouth). Or chicken livers on muffins alongside fresh tomatoes.
Here's what she wears: a tux shirt and bowler; a '40-ish satin Harlow gown; a Victorian lawn dress. Here's what he wears: a polo shirt and cleaned jeans (with creases, please); a '40s-ish smoking jacket; a cashmere turtleneck; a French boating pullover.
Here's what to do while he's washing the dishes: take instant color photos; read Miss Manners out loud; call Clyde's and sing, "nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah."