easter.jpgWe all have slightly different litmus tests to what makes a great brunch. I have a friend that simply won’t step out of the house unless there’s a solid Bloody Mary involved. With celery. For another, it’s real maple syrup and crisp bacon and to heck with the view. Personally, I require a Mimosa, real Hollandaise sauce, smoked salmon and outdoor seating with a view– a pickiness that doesn’t always equal many brunch invitations. But come Easter and Mother’s Day, two springtime holidays that all but demand familial brunch reservations, somewhere, anywhere, it’s easy to get a little complacent. Don’t.

Because what makes for a great brunch all the rest of the year are the things — romantic tables, a lovely garden setting, a top notch cocktail, buttery Hollandaise (or whatever your gauge) — that make it doubly so when stepping out with mom, grandma and the rest of the clan.

Throughout the county, restaurants eager for your business are raising the brunch bar, featuring everything from house-smoked fish to golden eggs. Not to mention some darned nice Bloody Marys.

Most Willy Wonka-esque, Cafe Saint Rose
Café Saint Rose’s sprawling stream-side patio is a lazy Sunday jaunt to Chef Mark Malicki’s slightly surrealistic Sebastopol road house. Here, kids ramble through the weeds and parents breathe contentedly with a glass rose and whatever local goodies Malicki’s whipped up — like suckling pig hash and Lucky charms with half and half.  On Easter (only), he’s dreamed up a scheme to give away two Golden Eggs. A grown-up winner gets dinner for six featuring Mark’s favorite Russian River wines. One even luckier kid gets (and no we’re not kidding) free dessert for life at Mark’s restaurant. 9890 Bodega Highway, Sebastopol, (707) 829-5898. Prix fixe brunch menu from 11am to 4pm. Call for reservations and menu details.

Best Easter Egg Hunt with Brunch
NY-via-Sonoma restauranteurs Eric Korsh and Ginevra Iverson know that the best part of Easter is the smoked fish. Or maybe it’s hunting for eggs. Either way, they’ll have both at Restaurant Eloise on April 12, starting at 10am, in additional to other brunch classics.  Kids can hunt around the culinary gardens for jellybeans and snap peas. 2295 Gravenstein Hwy South, Sebastopol, (707) 823-6300.

Best brunch on Santa Rosa Ave.: Dierk’s Parkside Cafe
Maybe the view of the bus station isn’t the most romantic, but when the food’s this good, you won’t mind. Chef Mark Dierkhising’s got breakfast and brunch down cold.  Special surprises for mom on Easter Sunday, plus it’s one of the few spots accepting walk-ins. 404 Santa Rosa Ave., Santa Rosa., (707) 573-5955.

Wildest Easter Brunch
Hunt for Mr. Hare in the wilds of Safari West after brunch in the Savannah Cafe. The six-foot bunny is on the trail of his old rival, Mr. Tortoise and will leave Carrot Clues along the way. 10am and 1pm, April 12. 3115 Porter Creek Road
Santa Rosa, (707) 579-2551. $63 adults, $30 for children.      
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Most Wine Country-est Brunch
BarnDiva’s committed Slow Food philosophy means lots of farm-fresh meats and produce that celebrate each season – from their free-range eggs Benedict to hot cross buns. The enclosed backyard garden is a favorite Healdsburg sunning spot come Sunday morning, not to mention picture-perfect for your Easter family photos, which last year included live chicks (of the yellow, fluffy sort) and an egg hunt. 231 Center St., Healdsburg, (707) 431-0100, open for brunch at 11am.

Easter Italiano
Soak up the Sonoma sun while munching through Estate Restaurant’s Cal-Ital Easter menu featuring bacon and fried egg pizzas, lamb torta and Frangelico pastry cream zeppole. And then there’s dessert. $32 per person, 400 West Spain St., Sonoma, (707) 933-3663.

Bloody Great
Though it’s not exactly brunch, haute burgery, Healdsburg Bar and Grill, plans to offer up their popular Bloody Mary Bar for Easter, in addition to their usual burger and salad fare — a nice touch for tired bunnies. 245 Healdsburg Ave, (707) 433-3333.

Where are you headed for Easter? Sound off.