The holidays come with precious family time. The question for many LGBTQ people is, what makes a family — the genetic hand you’re dealt or the group where you feel you belong? Queers Who Brunch offers both a safe place and a sumptuous feast for body, mind and soul — a medley of local produce decked in seasonal sauces served with herbaceous cocktails while the feminist anthems of Janelle Monáe play on heavy rotation.
Chef Kyle Holsinger-Johnson and event planner Isabella Copeland, fans of local food and Monáe, started the event to give LGBTQ identifiers and allies a chance to celebrate with their chosen families. The pop-up brunch will take place at Allen Neighborhood Center at 10 a.m. and feature three courses of gluten-free meals and original cocktails provided by Michigrain Distillery. The addition of drag and burlesque performances by Eartha Kitten, Caffeyne and Kiki Boudreaux will add more flavor to the early afternoon meal.
As the founder of FARE, a catering business, Holsinger-Johnson, who prefers using they/them pronouns, said they have curated courses using Michigan grown ingredients for three years, but never intentionally for the LGBTQ community.
“This is something that I’ve wanted to pursue for awhile,” Holsinger-Johnson said. “Then Izze and I met and we both care about queers, art and culture and food, so this just really makes sense for us to collaborate.”
Earlier this year, they met Chicago transplant Isabella “Izze” Copeland, who recently started hosting LGBTQ-centered meet ups and discussion groups in downtown Lansing through her organization, the Thought Club. The result was a perfect pairing of carefully curated plates with community engagement as the featured ingredient.
“There are a lot of intersections between the tough themes we discuss in our queer discussion group and the challenges that queer folks experience during the holiday,” Copeland said. “I think it’s important to recognize that there may be pain associated with a holiday season, so let’s speak on it and open the conversation up to the community.”
While the idea for the event steams from a shared trauma in the LGBTQ community of having a family resistant to homosexuality, Copeland emphasized that Queers Who Brunch is a celebration of family and good food.
Each of the three courses will feature a cocktail pairing and coffee pairing brewed by Strange Matter Coffee Co.
The first course stars three variations of deviled eggs. One of the eggs will be filled with hollandaise sauce, another will be “Creole-inspired.” The third will be a surprise recipe crafted by a veteran FARE chef.
“The eggs will be paired with a side of roasted beets tossed in a citrus, elderflower vinaigrette, house-made ricotta and then we are going to have granola crunch. The elderflower syrup that we are going to use is from Swallow Tail Farm in Mason.”
The drink that will be paired with the first course is Michigrain’s take on a winter mimosa featuring champagne, orange juice, mango nectar as well as lemon juice, honey, turmeric and ginger. The head chef described the drink as anti-inflammatory with “a little snap to it.”
“One cool thing about the entire meal is it’s gluten-free. It’s turned into one of my niche specialties because eating at a lot of restaurants when you are gluten-free or vegetarian can be a little difficult,” they said.
To keep rolling with the crunch from the protein-packed starter dish, guests will be served a poached egg with fried polenta. The polenta will be brought to new heights with housemade pancetta, which is a cured pork belly.
For a touch of sour, the chef added pickled lychee and persimmon, a winter fruit high in nutrients and fiber.
“The pickled lychee is kind of a play on pickled watermelon rind because the pickling liquid will be sweeter and thicker, then spicy,” said Holsinger-Johnson.
The plate will be topped off with toasted pepitas, which is Spanish for pumpkin seeds.
The paired drink will be a play on a gin and tonic, Holsinger-Johnson called “A Wrinkle in Time.” The time-stopping concoction comprises activated charcoal, lavender, maple syrup, thyme and simple syrup.
The meal will come to a sweet and spicy conclusion — chocolate torte with pistachio brittle, rose petals, honey and cardamom whipped cream.
“We’ll be using Detroit Hives honey in the third course and they are beekeepers of color,” Holsinger-Johnson said. “The fact that we are giving money to a beekeeper of color is important to us.”
For those who purchased an alcohol ticket, the sweet finale will be joined by a pink cocktail, which for the event will be spelled “pynk,” to honor Holsinger-Johnson’s favorite singer.
“I’ve thought about doing a whole Janelle Monáe themed brunch where I go through her career with the courses and her music inspires the concept of each dish,” they said.
Ticket sales for the Queers Who Brunch pop up ends at midnight Dec. 2. Tickets start at $45, and Planned Parenthood has donated free tickets for those seeking alternatives. Those interested in attending at a reduced rate should email firstname.lastname@example.org.