A bagel brunch board takes the fuss out of brunch, so you can lean into the creative side of the presentation.
The Food: Creating Your Bagel Brunch Board
The beauty of bagel brunch boards is there’s no baking, cooking, or the tricky timing typical of most brunch menus. It’s a creative exercise in presentation, which is why I love a gathering centered around grazing. The added bonus is everyone is in control of their flavor pairings.
Suggested Ingredients from my Bagel Brunch Board:
- Bagels, bagels, bagels (our amazing rings of dough came from Driftwood Oven)
- Cream Cheese – the real stuff (My friend Andrew has high standards on this front. None of that whipped Greek yogurt cream cheese nonsense for him.)
- Boursin Garlic & Herb Cheese
- Pickled carrots or pickled vegetables
- Fresh dill
- Red onion and/or pickled red onion
- grapes/fresh fruit
- jam and/or honey for those who like sweet options
The Food: Driftwood Oven (A Pittsburgh Must!)
Whether you’re a Pittsburgh local or planning to visit one day, Driftwood Oven is a must! Their pastry and bagel offerings are a newer addition to their sourdough pizza and bread shares. I highly recommend sharing them with your family or “pod,” so you can order all the options. My personal favorite is the brioche cinnamon roll. It’s huge, pillowy, and not too sweet. My next recommendation is EVERYTHING ELSE!
The Personal: Why Do We Gather?
I have found my new Bible, so I can’t help but proselytize. I have been so wholeheartedly recommending and repeatedly quoting The Art of Gathering to my “pod,” I’ll have provided the thorough CliffsNotes before they turn their first page.
So… why do we gather?
That question is the heart of the book. Beyond “because it’s Valentine’s Day,” author Priya Parker argues we owe it to ourselves and guests to find a deeper “why” that will guide the entire process, inform new rituals, and spark more authentic connections. As much as I love and emulate Martha Stewart’s fanatical perfectionism, Parker argues an intentional gathering is about more than the well-planned elements – the florals, the place settings, the menu (though they can help).
As I prepared for this Valentine’s brunch, with the audiobook preaching this new gospel into my ears, I probed my own intentions and how I would bring them to life.
We Gather to Channel Nostalgia, Wonder & Whimsy
Before the awkward years of flirtation and “does anyone like me?” there’s a sweet spot during childhood when the classroom celebrations of Valentine’s Day are universal. I look back fondly at the crafting of mailboxes, which we would hang on our desks as receptacles of the simple “To” and “From” valentines, candy hearts, chocolates, and more. It was red. It was pink. It was simple. It was festive.
As an adult, I am constantly trying to channel the simplicity of childhood, the whimsy, and the wonder. For that reason, I gifted each of my friends a red mailbox with homemade treats and a heartfelt card telling them why I think they’re the best. Marlene channeled these same sentiments with her personalized “Circle ‘yes’ or ‘no'” Valentine cards.
We Gather To Celebrate Our Love + A Toast
More than anything, I want my friends to know how special they are, so before we dug into the bagel brunch board, I took a moment to share my intention with a toast. Something like this…
Recently I practiced a guided meditation in which the soothing narrator directed me to picture a room where I felt at ease. My imagination filled in a quintessential ski lodge with stonework, wooden beams, leather chairs, warm drinks, a crackling fire, and multi-story windows with views of snowy pines.
The calming voice probed further, “who is in this room with you? Who makes you feel safe and loved?” When I looked around that dream ski lodge, I saw all of the faces that sat at my brunch table (and my loving partner who unfortunately couldn’t join us for brunch, but I’d be remiss to exclude).
This year opened and pushed me in ways I am still processing, but recently I reflected, with immense gratitude, how I found the most security and support in a year that offered so few certainties. It was no coincidence that this is the year this “pod” came to be my chosen family. With a wobbly voice and some looming tears, I eeked out that emotion, and we clanked our grapefruit mimosas to toast this bond.
We Gather to Welcome & Embrace New Love
We gathered to celebrate new love. Though I wanted each of my Valentines to know how special they are, there was a little extra intention for my friend Ben, since his boyfriend, Juan was joining us for the first time. It’s safe to say we were all protective of our friend. Ben illuminates every room he enters.
Anytime we are together, my face hurts from laughter well into the next day. He is a pure, bright joy with a vulnerable, compassionate heart, and he’s whip-smart to boot! The mama bear in me wanted to make sure Juan sees and values Ben (he does!), and I wanted to welcome and meet Juan with open arms. I wanted to see and celebrate the happiness they bring each other, and that we did.
Furthermore, I want my life and my home to exude my belief that love is love.
We Gather to Support Local Businesses and Foodways
It’s been a tough year for many businesses, but especially food businesses that operate on very tight margins. I’m grateful my friends prioritize spending their money in our community. Special thanks to Marlene who shared this carbohydrate bounty with us.
The Fluff / Julep’s Corner:
Why does Julep gather? In hopes of fallen food and for love, of course. She is the exuberant welcome committee and expresses her love for our friends as much as I do, and they in turn shower her with bites of smoked salmon. What a lucky girl!
You Might Also Like: Teff Bread Smørrebrød / Smorgasbord
If you feel like baking, or perhaps don’t have solid bagel options in your city to create a bagel brunch board, you might like this journey from my book, The Gluten-Free Grains Cookbook. Instead of pushing gluten-free bread to be something it (generally) isn’t – light and fluffy – this Scandinavian-inspired loaf channels the density into crunchy, nutty slices fit for carrying all of your toppings combinations.