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Laid-Back Easter Brunch

In San Francisco, a no-stress brunch and an egg hunt in the park add up to one enchanted Easter.

The Menu

Spring Salad with Herbs
Cheese, Leek, and Herb Souffle Casserole
Oven Browns
Rosemary, Fennel, and Garlic Lamb-Sausage Rounds
Cinnamon-Bun Bites
Raspberry Custard Tart
Minted Mandarin and Strawberry Coolers

Maria Helm Sinskey knows a little something about feeding a family. When she's not heading the kitchen at Robert Sinskey Vineyards, the winery she runs with her husband, Robert, she's writing cookbooks -- including Williams-Sonoma's "Family Meals" -- and cooking for her two daughters, Ella, 13, and Lexi, 11. But at the Easter party that the couple recently hosted with their friends (and fellow vintners) Maca and Agustin Francisco Huneeus, her culinary creations were, sadly, of little interest to the kids. As she was putting the finishing touches on a lovingly handmade raspberry tart, she looked over to see that the children had a different idea about what they wanted for dessert. "They were eating this giant chocolate egg, faces smeared and heads thrown back laughing," she says. "In the end, Easter is always all about the chocolate."

And, of course, it's about the egg hunt, too, which was arranged in a grassy field in Golden Gate Park, a few blocks west of the Huneeus home in the Cole Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. So that she could be in on the fun, Maria created a brunch menu that was mostly make-ahead and could be served at room temperature -- including homemade lamb sausages, a giant mound of mini cinnamon buns, and a surprisingly easy egg casserole that she dubs her "fallen souffle."

"There's nothing worse than trying to get everything to the table at an exact moment," says Maria, who laid the brunch out buffet-style in the Huneeuses' dining room. "If your food doesn't taste good at room temp, you are already behind the eight ball."

The Huneeus family was on board with her no-fuss edict -- in part because Maca, an interior designer, and Agustin, vintner and proprietor of a family-owned wine company that includes Quintessa, Flowers, and Veramonte vineyards, spend a great deal of their professional lives engaged in a more high-pressure form of entertaining. "At the winery, we regularly host major events -- chefs like Thomas Keller, Alice Waters, or Michael Tusk cook dinners for upwards of 80," says Maca. "So if we're not working, we want to entertain in a very simple, low-key way."

Normally, the family -- which includes daughters Antonia, 14, Agustina, 12, Ema, 9, and Ofelia, 4 -- returns to Maca and Agustin's native Chile for Easter, but this year, she says, "between all of our schedules, we just couldn't make it work."

Happily, her brood didn't seem to mind celebrating closer to home. In fact, watching the pint-size egg hunters dance through the grass in the late-afternoon light, fairy wings strapped to their backs, it didn't seem that they'd want it any other way. A trip to the park might not be much of a departure from their daily routine, says Maca, but put on a pair of fairy wings and "it's immediate magic. For the kids, it's always the simple things that do it." Well, that and the chocolate.

The Hunt Is On
A public park is an easy, scenic venue for an egg hunt. Just set the stage with these tips, and let the kids run free.

Join forces with other families. The beauty of the public-park approach is that the kids aren't confined to your lawn, so the guest list can be longer.

Stake it out. Delegate one or two adults to hide eggs and pick up any litter in advance. The expanse of the park will be more exciting than the backyard -- and none of the kids will have an unfair home-court advantage.

Go for costume drama. The girls donned fairy wings and tutus, giving the outing an ethereal feel. "The older kids helped the young ones dress up," says Maca, "and putting fairy wings on kids makes them act differently."

Sources

Vases, decanters, jars, flatware, silver trays, and dyed linens; greenhousedesignstudio.com. Paper flowers, thegreenvase.com. Serving bowl, casserole dish, and plates; heathceramics.com. Servingware, marchsf.com. Dyed linens and silver-plated tray, greenhousedesignstudio.com. Vintage French jam jars, greenhousedesignstudio.com. Chocolate eggs and sea salt caramels, laforetchocolate.com. Surprise balls, unionmadegoods.com. Boxes, in Light Blue; and Carrot Cacaotee; bellocchio.com. Feather skirts, curioandkind.com. Playsilk and silk cape, sarahssilks.com.

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