This Is What Happens When Three Stylish Friends Host a Brunch
Creating beauty without a flicker of fuss is a true talent, whatever medium you're working in. For three L.A. friends throwing a laid-back Easter brunch, it's also a uniting force. The host, fashion designer Heidi Merrick, is known for clothes that combine old-Hollywood femininity with West Coast ease. Floral designer Kristen Caissie is the go-to source for poetic arrangements that are popular with fellow local creatives like Jenni Kayne and Clare Vivier. And Heather Sperling is the chef and co-owner of Botanica, a buzzy, vegetable-forward spot in town where health-conscious eaters head for tisanes, natural wines, and vivid dishes that draw from her Middle Eastern heritage. The trio share a relaxed approach to entertaining that is right in step with their city.
"I grew up near Santa Barbara," says Merrick. "We always had a big egg hunt, and the adults would hide them over and over again." Now that she has her own young family-a daughter, Hiver, 9; and a son, Alfie, 4, with her husband, Johnny Johnston, a real estate consultant-Merrick's the one doing the hiding, and the hosting. The family often entertain on their land near Ojai, but on this balmy weekend, they've invited friends to their Spanish bungalow in L.A.'s Silver Lake neighborhood for an outdoor meal centered around fragrantly seasoned lamb kebabs, instead of the usual Easter leg of lamb. As the grown-ups kick back with drinks, the kids scamper along the hillside yard and visit with the family's two chickens.
For the rest of the menu, Sperling and her business partner and fellow chef at Botanica, Emily Fiffer, hit local farmers' markets to devise dishes that show off seasonal stars like leeks, asparagus, carrots, and beets. "We want the meal to be a bountiful, rainbow-hued celebration of spring-Easter-egg colors, but on a plate," Sperling says. In the kitchen, she and Merrick use handfuls of chopped fresh herbs and slivers of chiles to imbue the menu with vibrancy and depth. Beet Muhammara, a peppery dip for crudités, is an intense garnet. A green salad gets flashes of orange from thin slices of sweet, tangy kumquats. And a twist on shakshuka, an Israeli dish of eggs simmered in tomato sauce, veers verdant thanks to asparagus, tomatillos, spinach, and scallions. An extra perk of having Sperling cook in her home, Merrick says with a laugh, is that "I'll have her spices in my house for weeks."
To dress up the table, Merrick had linens printed with a favorite pattern, Coqui in Terracotta, from her current collection. Caissie picked up on the textiles' tones with blushy foxgloves, coppery tulips, rust-colored lisianthus, bronze hellebores, and creamy daffodils, arranged to tumble from low terra-cotta bowls. After the last morsel of cake is eaten and the kids have run off to search for eggs, Sperling sums up the day: "Warm, inviting, and alive with flavor. It's everything Easter should be."