The first meal of the day is a highly personal one; people are unyielding about whether their first mouthful is orange juice or coffee or corn flakes. The first meal of the day is an unpredictable one; people may eat breakfast at 6 a.m. or noon, while lunch and dinner fall within fairly limited time spans. And now the first meal of the day is becoming a very social one, at least on weekends, when brunch has not only become the focus of the day for many, it becomes the bulk of the day for some. So here is the first of a two-part series on brunches. The choice was far too broad to include more than a small taste of what is available; many temptations had to be left out. I sampled from those promising the comforts that might tempt one to while away a lazy Sunday. Many also allow such whiling away of a Saturday. And one serves its Sunday brunch on Saturday only, and calls it Frunch instead. In any case, there is something for most tastes, whether orange juice or ouzo is what gets you going in the morning.

Two different scenes make Marshall's: In the front half, people sit at the bar watching television as they eat. In the rear they pay more attention to each other, perhaps with a pitcher of orange juice to mix with the all-you-can-drink champagne ($2.50 added to the meal). Brunch starts with hot muffins-blueberry and spice-and a half-stick of sweet butter. The menu lacks appetizers as starters, and its only offered fruit, melon, was unavailable when I visited. Yet kitchen shortages-quiche, patty shells, bread pudding, melon all were out the same day-are softened by the solicitude of the service. Seafood mornay is the star of the menu ($4.95), and the puffy French-toasted Italian bread drenched with whipped cream ($2.95) makes a sweet Sunday. Eggs (average $3.25) are carefully cooked-benedict, Florentine, omelets or any style-and may be garnished with excellent fresh vegetables. Fruit cobbler is homemade, but not as well made as the main courses. Church pew banquettes, tiny springs of flowers in pottery vases, country-style woods on the walls combine all the elements of a satisfying Sunday.