Setting the Table

Another fun part of entertaining is setting the table. Whether you have one set of dishes or two, a formal dining room or just a big kitchen table, there are easy ways to enhance the table. Placemats, colored napkins, mixing and matching plates, unusual silverware or glasses, and flowers are ways to add your personality to the table.

When you are having a formal dinner party, there is a proper way to set the silverware and glasses in relation to the plate. The general rule with utensils is to start from the outside of a place setting and work your way to the main meal plate. For example, soup spoons and salad knives are usually used first and therefore, are placed outside of the dinner fork, spoon and knife. See the diagram below.

Proper Place Setting Example

Proper Place Setting

Plating Food

Having an appealing arrangement of food on the plate is an important part of presenting the meal. The first step occurs when you plan your meal, making sure that you have a variety of colors and textures. Visualize how the plated food will look ahead of time and plan accordingly.

Garnishes, such as herbs, spices, fruit or vegetables can add visual appeal. These are usually one of the ingredients used in the dish or a complementary flavor. Be sure that any garnish you use is edible. Finishing sauces, such as hollandaise or bordelaise, and gravies are also excellent ways to add flavor to protein and side dishes while adding visual interest to the plate. Crowding food or not having enough food on a plate can be an issue so, be sure that you have the proper sized plates for each dish.

The entrée is typically arranged in a grouping in the center of the plate. When serving sliced protein, such as chicken, beef and pork, offset the slices and arrange them over the side of a starch, such as rice or potatoes, drizzled with a sauce with a vegetable next to it. Finish the arrangement with a garnish such as chives or parsley.

The hardest part about serving a plated meal is ensuring that all of the food is ready at the same time. It’s easy to keep side dishes warm if you have two ovens. If not, use the microwave to reheat items. Again, keep this logistic in mind when you plan your menu.

Setting a Buffet Table

When preparing for a buffet, the first thing to consider is table placement. It is best to place the serving table so guests have access to it from both sides. Arrange plates on one end with utensils at the end of the buffet so guests will not have to carry them through the buffet. Set your table in a logical way that makes plating easy for your guests. Arrange salads and vegetables first, followed by protein and starches. Arrange platters at different heights to add visual appeal and make it easier to reach. Place rolls and buns in large baskets. Watch the temperatures of your buffet items; it is important to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Desserts and coffee can be served on a separate table. A bar should also be set up in a separate area.