Every year at Thanksgiving, Dan and I face a dilemma: How should we use our dining room table to best accommodate the friends and family who join us for this food fest? Every year, our answer is different. So through the years, I've learned some tricks for making both presentations beautiful and special. Perhaps they will help you as you set up for guests this Thanksgiving. Mary Carol Garrity, Scripps Howard News Service
Dine in: Thanksgiving dinner is a really big deal at our home, and we relish the chance to sit around the table with family and friends. So when we can manage it, dining at the table together is always our first choice.
If you're expecting an intimate group, set a lavish table, one worthy of this grand holiday. Use your silver serving pieces, china and crystal. Add special touches, like names and menu cards.
If you're entertaining a large group, you'll need to plan the table efficiently so you can economize on space without compromising on style. To save table space, plate each guest's meal in the kitchen, then use a butler's cart to hold refills.
Pour your creative energy into creating an attractive yet streamlined centerpiece, like containers of different height filled with gourds and foliage, or gold or silver spray paint on pumpkins, nuts and leaves.
Carry out: When the size of our party outstrips our table space, we create a sumptuous buffet on our dining room table. Secretly, I love buffets as they are easy to set up yet every bit as beautiful as a wonderfully set table.
Start with a dramatic centerpiece. Then enlist your finest serving pieces, like silver chafing dishes and trays, crystal pitchers and compotes, and china vases and plates. For contrast, include rustic pieces like a wicker basket holding silverware bundles.
One secret of an eye-catching buffet is to use a variety of heights to present food. A sea of platters and plates set flat can be monotonous. Generate visual energy by elevating some selections. Use a three-tiered server to hold cheeses. Stack one cake plate atop another to display fresh fruit. Fill a compote with rolls.
When you arrange the serving dishes, make sure the order makes sense so guests can flow around the table without having to double back to get an out-of-place item.
Mary Carol Garrity is proprietor of three home-furnishings stores and author of several bestselling books on home decorating.