March 03, 2016

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Breakfast at Monika's

Monika's bright and airy breakfast room with colorful botanicals. 
Is there a better way to start the day steaming coffee and piping hot pancakes with maple syrup set on a beautiful table? The full on family breakfast may not be an everyday occurrence but when it does happen it is a real treat for all. Design editor and mother of two small children, Monika Biegler Eyers sets a bright family friendly table that reflects her own distinctive creative voice. She honed her style during tenures as design editor at Domino, Traditional Home, Vogue and The Wall Street Journal. With her tips and inspiration creating a beautiful table first thing in the morning is as easy as, well, falling out of bed.

Everything to start the day right. A beautiful table and a delicious hot breakfast.
Tell me about the occasion and meal you made. 
I always wake up starving in the morning so whenever we have guests over I make it a point to serve up a big breakfast. I started out making these pancakes for my children as a way to sneak some fruit and vegetables into their diet – I add pureed sweet potato, freshly grated apple and ground flaxseed to the batter. 
They’re delicious and packed with nutrients to boot. Not only do my kids love them, so does everyone else so I make them for breakfast whenever we have friends stay over. I only use 100% maple syrup as it’s nothing but sap from the tree (no sodium benzoate or high fructose corn syrup here). On the side, I’ve made my mother’s deviled eggs topped with paprika, chives and bacon. She 
taught me this clever trick where she slices the bottom off the eggs so that they’ll stand upright on the tray. 
I’m also obsessed with Wegmans’ Marathon bread. It’s filled with seeds, grated carrots and lots of other good things, totally delicious and worth the 30-minute drive to the store!
Monika Biegler Eyers in her breakfast room.

What influences your menu choices when you entertain?  
A combination of occasion and seasonality. We do a lot of entertaining outside in the summer, which means lots of grilled vegetables. I love serving them with black rice drizzled with a good quality olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. If it’s a formal affair I might do several courses with loads of hors d'oeuvres. When it’s more casual, family style is the way to go. For example, we had friends over to 
watch the Oxford-Cambridge boat race on TV one afternoon so I kept it simple with an extra large Shepherd’s Pie and a big bowl of salad.
A welcomed sight first thing in the morning, a large cup of coffee. 
Tip: You can never have enough serving ware. Different sized bowls, platters, pitchers, trays. Last year for Christmas I put serving spoons and forks on my list. Nothing is worse than setting a buffet table and realizing you don’t have the right sized dish or not enough serving spoons!
A breakfast fit for royalty. 

Tip: A little trick I picked up in London is to serve butter in individual pots at each place setting. It’s so much nicer than having to pass a big butter dish around the table.
When dressing deviled eggs, Monika uses a baking rack when putting on the toppings to keep the
eggs looking picture perfect.
Do you have a signature dish that you make? 
I love to make salmon topped with lemon pepper, fresh tarragon, dill and capers. It’s such a flavorful combination and I’ll cook it under the broiler until it’s quite crispy on top. This tends to be my go-to dish, served with grilled asparagus and, if I’m feeling indulgent, lemon-pecan wild rice. 
I served it to friends once, not knowing that one disliked salmon, and she swears that dish converted her!
A blackboard leaning against the wall is used as a menu board.
Tip: I love an illustrated menu. I have a large chalkboard that I bought off a school supplies website and then had it framed in black with gold trim. It leans against the wall and I’ll write the menu out on it when we have guests over. 
Who or what has most inspired your entertaining style? 
My mother has definitely been my biggest influence. She is an amazing cook and she goes all out when she entertains. As a teenager, I remember she would spend all day in the kitchen preparing for these grand dinner parties. The countertop in the butler’s pantry would be lined with beautifully pre-plated salads. 
My job would be to iron the dinner napkins and polish any water spots off the silverware. Her sense of presentation is also ingrained in me. We’re from Maryland so crab soup is one of her favorite starters. She’ll serve it in shallow bowls and top each one with a dollop of lump crabmeat that she’s tossed with finely chopped parsley. Little touches like that are her signature and I try to follow suit as best I can.  

Has there been a single experience or aha moment that has set your entertaining style? 
Being in the business of shelter magazines, I’m exposed to a lot of talented people with beautiful things and a wonderful sense of style. I can only hope they’ve rubbed off on me but I think the single biggest influence on my style came from the years I spent living in London. Whether it was trolling the markets on Portobello or having lunch in a pretty café, I was constantly exposed to this 
very eclectic mix of tableware. Vintage china paired with antique hollowware mixed with rustic linens and colorful glassware. 
And the flowers! I’ve never seen so many pretty flower stalls as those scattered around London. Even outside the tube station there would be a stall bursting with buckets of hydrangeas and peonies. 
That’s where my obsession with always having fresh flowers in the house began. On this table I’ve pared my breakfast china, Jasper Conran’s Chinoiserie for Wedgwood, with Blue Willow from Burleigh Ware and vintage Bavarian china from my grandmother. Plus colorful glassware, a bit of silver and a marbleized bowl by Sylvie Saint-Andre Perrin. The color palette holds it all together but there’s still a looseness that’s nice for a breakfast table.

Monika's amazingly deliciously Sweet Potato Pancakes with Maple Syrup


I cook and puree the sweet potato in advance, freezing it in small portions (an ice cube tray works well) and then defrosting as needed. You can also substitute the canned variety.

1 egg
¾ cup low fat milk
¾ cup white flour pancake mix
¼ cup whole wheat pancake mix 
¼ tsp. baking powder (heaping)
1 tsp. ground flax seed 
pinch of cinnamon
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
½ an apple, peeled and grated 
2 Tbsp. sweet potato puree  

Preheat a griddle or non-stick skillet on the stovetop at medium heat. In a large bowl whisk egg and milk together. Add dry ingredients. Swirl in melted butter. Add apple and sweet potato. Pour ¼ cup mixture on to the pan and flip once the pancake starts to bubble.  Serve with maple syrup and butter. 

Do you have a favorite china or tabletop item that you collect? 
I always keep my eyes out for Burleigh Ware’s Blue Willow pattern. I bought a few pieces before they discontinued the colorway several years ago (it’s Black Willow now) so I scour antique markets for serving pieces. I also love Royal Copenhagen’s Blue Fluted Mega. It would mix so nicely with the blue and white china that my grandmother left us. Not to mention their coffee mug has the most 
wonderful ergonomic grip.

The flower of spring, tulips, were used for the center piece.