TRAVERSE CITY — For many in northern Michigan, Easter traditionally marks the rebirth of spring after a long, dark winter. Happily, that also means the rebirth of spring flavors in restaurant dishes from ham to lamb.
Both are on the Easter Sunday brunch buffet at Brookside Inn in Beulah, presided over by chef and general manager Rhonda Nugent.
“It’s not quite spring, but I tried to get some lighter flavors that aren’t heavy winter fare,” said Nugent, whose back dining room overlooks a still-snowy creek. “Not a lot of sauces or things, but lighter, ‘spring is around the corner.’ I’m hopeful.”
Besides regular Sunday brunch fare like eggs Benedict, quiche, carved ham and Brookside’s signature cheesy potatoes, the Easter buffet includes special dishes like Chicken Dumplings and Tarragon Cream, Bacon Wrapped Salmon and Red Pepper Lemon Risotto, Rosemary Lamb with Brussels Sprouts and Onion Jam, and Cheese Tortellini with Boursin Cream Sauce. Nugent said she’s also expanding on the salad and fresh fruit buffet with dishes like Shrimp and Shells Pasta. Assorted desserts round out the menu.
She said the overall idea is to feature a balance of flavors that will stand on their own yet not overpower each other.
“The rosemary lamb is very traditional and Brussels sprouts is a transitional vegetable,” she said. “But it will be light, with wine onion jam and a balance of flavors. The chicken dumplings with tarragon cream start with roasted chicken that’s cooked off the bone, put in a won-ton wrapper and cooked that way. They’re not heavy, doughy dumplings.
“The red pepper lemon risotto is very rich, but with those flavors it’s lighter — but still with the warmth you need if there’s still snow. The tortellini with boursin sauce is what I call naughty food. It’s cheese and cream, but instead of mashed potatoes, which you can always get.”
A longtime Benzie County landmark, the restaurant underwent a complete renovation and reopened last Father’s Day after being shuttered for years. Nugent said its homey, warmly elegant “English country inn” feeling makes it the perfect spot to enjoy Easter brunch.
“I think for a lot of holidays people are doing more of that, and there are more restaurants offering a nice quality atmosphere,” she said. “They’re free to spend more time with their families instead of in the kitchen.”
Easter brunch at Brookside is served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Reservations are recommended for parties of six or more (882-9688). Prices range from $6.95 for children 3 to 6, to $24.95 for adults.
Easter dishes at The Manor in Glen Arbor include Crab Benedict and Baked Ham and Sweet Potatoes with Praline Sauce.
“It tastes just like a praline from the South: brown sugar, butter, cream, pecans,” said Nancy Wright, of the latter recipe, passed down from chef to chef.
Diners can help themselves to a buffet that includes soups, salads, pastries and desserts, then order an entrée to be served tableside. Besides crab and ham, cooked-to-order entrées include eggs Benedict, roast duck, chicken, whitefish and salmon.
“We serve brunch every Sunday, except on Easter we make it more extensive,” said Wright, owner of the restaurant overlooking Little Glen Lake, formerly a century-old hotel. “We change our menu every day so there are two or three new entrées on the menu every Sunday.”
Easter brunch is served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Reservations are accepted (334-0150). Prices range from about $12.95 to $25 depending on the entrée.
Several Easter brunch specials will be offered along with the regular menu at Jolly Pumpkin in Traverse City. The Old Mission Peninsula restaurant overlooks a picturesque 11-acre property that includes seven acres of vineyards.
Assistant General Manager Jim DeMarsh said the restaurant’s Easter menu philosophy is the same as for its everyday menu.
“We’re always looking to use as much local produce and proteins as we can,” DeMarsh said.
Brunch specials include Ham and Eggs Pizza (made with ham, ricotta and manchego cheeses, roasted tomato sauce and two fried eggs), Frittata (made with spinach, shallots and goat cheese) with local potato home fries, Omelette (made with asparagus, bechamel and Leelanau raclette cheese) with home fries, Quiche (made with applewood smoked bacon, Swiss cheese and onions) with Werp Farms green salad, and Brioche Toast (housemade brioche french toast, local maple syrup and candied pecan butter).
The Easter specials are served along with the regular menu from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The frittata and omelette are $9; other specials are $11. For more information, call 223-4333.
Brookside Inn’s Shrimp and Shells Pasta Salad
1 box large-shell pasta, cooked and chilled
2 lbs. diced shrimp, cooked and chilled
3 c. celery, thinly sliced
1 batch dressing
4 c. mayonnaise
1 c. sour cream
2 c. ketchup
1 c. prepared horseradish
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine cooked pasta, shrimp and celery in a large mixing bowl. In another large mixing bowl, combine the dressing ingredients. Whisk until completely combined, then pour over pasta and shrimp. Mix well, then taste and add salt and pepper as needed. If making ahead of time, make sure to taste just before serving; salt and pepper may need to be added at that time.
The Manor’s Praline Sauce
½ c. light brown sugar
4 T. butter
¼ c. chopped pecans
2 T. heavy cream
Measure butter and brown sugar in small saucepan; heat until both are melted, stirring occasionally. Take off heat, stir in pecans. Add heavy cream and stir until combined. Serve over ham and sweet potatoes.