A New England Holiday Brunch To Give Back
Leslie Toran Interiors - Photography by: Tracey E. Photography
Though not a native New Englander, Leslie Toran, a Connecticut interior designer and founder of Leslie Toran Interiors, LLC, fell in love with Ridgefield, Connecticut and the New England lifestyle almost immediately after she moved to the quaint, colonial town with its rolling hills, winding lanes, and picturesque Main Street. Leslie came to Connecticut via a circuitous route. She first moved from Atlanta, Georgia, where she was born and raised, to London with her husband and two small children. When her husband was offered a job in Manhattan that he could not refuse, the family again relocated, settling in Ridgefield.
Leslie and her family embraced their new hometown and all of the beauty and excitement that living in New England provides. For the first time in her life, Leslie experienced a white Christmas, something she had dreamed of since childhood. Leslie, however, missed the southern tradition of a holiday open-house brunch hosted in one’s private home. She comes from a long line of gracious Southern hostesses and she yearned for the festive atmosphere shared with friends over late-morning Mimosas and a buffet of delicious treats. Leslie decided to take matters into her own hands, and on December 10, 2016 hosted a brunch for fifty of her friends.
The day of the brunch was one of those quintessentially beautiful New England December days… crisp, but not too cold, under crystalline blue skies studded with the occasional drifting alabaster cloud. A light dusting of snow carpeted the lawn. Inside her hilltop Colonial home, Leslie created a winter wonderland for her guests.
Upon arrival, guests were greeted by a parking attendant and ushered into Leslie’s home where a smiling bartender stood ready to offer drinks, including Bloody Mary’s and signature Cranberry Mimosas. After mingling over cocktails complemented by festive holiday music from a string ensemble, guests were invited to dine. The sunroom was transformed into a dining room with multiple round tables set with fine linens, china, and crystal, and encircled by silver Chiavari chairs. Each table also boasted a centerpiece of white roses, ranunculus, and greenery in antique mirrored vases. The windows all around were draped with twinkling evergreen swags and wreaths… a fire roared in the fireplace, and a towering tree decorated in blue, silver, and gold stood in one corner of the room. Wait staff circulated offering tea or coffee, in addition to cocktails, wine, and both sparkling and still water.
The formal dining room table, alight with candles in crystal and silver candlesticks, served as the buffet for a collection of delectable dishes, which included a cheese and charcuterie board, a smoked-salmon platter, melon and Serrano jamon skewers, a farmer’s market farro salad, a Moroccan apple and smoked-turkey salad, and three different quiches, all catered by “109 Cheese & Wine” of Ridgefield, Connecticut. In a nod to her Southern heritage, Leslie and her sister Tracey Kitchens, also made Southern buttermilk biscuits, a cheese grits casserole, and their late mother’s recipe for cinnamon rolls.
The day, however, was far more than décor, food, and conversation. Inspired by her late mother, Beverly Carson Glover, in lieu of a traditional gift exchange, Leslie asked each guest to bring a donation for the local women’s center. Leslie described her mother as a champion of women’s and children’s causes and reminisced about the times during her childhood when her mother would open their home to women and children in crisis. According to Leslie, the principle that one has both the duty and privilege to give back, whatever one’s means, is a principle her family embraced and that she hopes to pass on to her own daughters.
Leslie described herself as “overwhelmed” by the generosity of her friends. The day after the brunch, she and her sister, Tracey, loaded Leslie’s SUV with donations valued at thousands of dollars ranging from gift cards and cash donations to tangible goods including toiletry items, clothing, and even a child’s “Birthday Party in a Bag.” According to Leslie, there were so many donations, that she and Tracey were concerned about their ability to fit everything into the vehicle. On the way to the women’s center and while unloading the SUV, Leslie and Tracey shared some unexpected happy tears. Needless to say, the volunteers at the women’s center were stunned at the unexpected donation.
Leslie stated that her holiday brunch was such a success, in so many ways, that she plans to make this an annual event. Being able to host an event that is not only fun for the guests and hostess, but that truly makes a difference in the lives of others is a privilege she will not soon relinquish.
Article submitted by Leslie Toran