The Parisian-style salon breakfast idea could be the next raging fad if Sheila Ricci has her way.
Ricci, a Los Angeles hostess, formerly ran a tearoom, which started the chic afternoon tea trend in Los Angeles some years back.
Now it's the salon breakfast trend she's after.
Ironically, the salon breakfast idea is also new to France. In fact, it's a French copy of an American idea-- le brunch .
" Le brunch Parisien began in a few elegant restaurants and hotels a few years ago as a direct response to the brunch as it appears in the States," said Janelle Benn, press secretary at the French consulate in Los Angeles.
But French-style informality, inherent in le brunch, is not easily duplicated to suit Los Angeles' entertaining style.
"It'll take 24 salon breakfasts at my house before people understand what they're about. People here are so formal. They think they have to come in their ties, tinkle glasses, ask about the children and be served. That's not a salon breakfast," said the outspoken Ricci.
"A Parisian salon breakfast is informal. It's bring a friend, your own six-pack, a piece of ham, a few eggs, a tape to listen to music, a piece of poetry to read. It's gossip, talking politics and reading the paper. People make their own eggs, spread butter on their own toast. It's all day and you end up going to dinner together," she quips.
Ricci remembers a British version of the French salon breakfast called buck-fizz, bacon-butties , practiced in her native Manchester, England . "It was the same idea, except there were buck-fizzes, bacon and orange juice and expensive Champagne, and it was done during the holiday season," she said.
But it's the French version that Ricci is after and the one she has tried twice since returning from a year's stint in France that inspired her to start her own salon at home. And as far as Ricci is concerned, it will be a process of trial and error to get it down pat for Los Angeles.
"My invitations read, 'Bring a stranger and a pound of butter,' meaning that you can bring a friend and any breakfast item you wish. How else would you take it? But some guests actually took it literally and brought a stranger and a pound of butter, which was not the idea."
She tried the breakfast first with preparing eggs to order for each guest. "It wore me out, but it was fun."
The second time around, Ricci decided on a menu that could be completely prepared ahead so she could enjoy the breakfast, too. This time the cocotte ramekins (individual servings of eggs poached with smoked salmon and served with sorrel cream sauce) would be "shoved in the oven" at the last moment. Ricci assembled 30 ramekins ahead that day.
"Too formal," she said.
While the French salon breakfast menu is traditionally formulated by the guests who arrive with the ingredients, Ricci, in her attempt to educate her friends, will continue to prepare a menu until they get the idea.
"Next time I'll have eggs cooked to order by help and keep the toaster going at all times. More fun that way."
Her menus have been relatively simple, but carefully thought out.
Last week, Ricci's salon breakfast started out with orange juice from freshly squeezed oranges purchased by the case from a friend's organic farm in Ojai. Ricci is a stickler for things fresh.
There was coffee made to order in French pressure coffeepots called cafe filtre and teaserved from her mother's antique china pots.
Ricci made her own Swedish limpa bread, hot cross buns and brown bread with walnuts and currants soaked in Cognac. The remainder of the bread on the huge attractive bread display on work table in the kitchen was purchased-- hallah, corn rye and brioche. Two coffeecakes, one purchased, the other homemade, also were on the cutting board.
For the most part the recipes are either from family files or gathered from this or that source. "The cocottes are in Wolfgang Puck's book ("Modern French Cooking for the American Kitchen"; Houghton Mifflin: $19:95), and the Stockbridge Coffeecake is from a recipe given to me by Diana and Paul Von Welanetz (authors and entertaining consultants)," confesses Ricci. The limpa recipe came from a recent issue of the Los Angeles Times. Marmalades, butter and Lemon Butter, a lemon thickened for spreading, were alongside.
Pre-sliced ham purchased at a Honey Baked Ham Inc. outlet in Los Angeles was mounted on a serving cradle and decorated with sprigs of rosemary and thyme and azalea's from Ricci's garden. The ham was served with Champagne mustard, a recipe shared with The Times for its "Los Angeles Times California Cookbook" (Abrams: $25, hardcover; New American Library: $9.95, paperback) some time ago.
A huge ice-filled container was piled high with individual, flavored yogurt cartons.
The idea of serving Black Velvets came from a British guest who knew what salon breakfasts were about.