Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Cooking

Five simple ideas for staging a dinner party table

RECOMMENDED READING


It's fun to get creative when throwing a dinner party, but ideas aren't always easy to come by, especially if you're not a practiced host. The most experienced dinner party throwers generally have a few tricks up their sleeves, like using the same species of flower in their arrangements, and aren't afraid to get ambitious — I've seen someone build a buffet inside a canoe. You don't have to go that far to make your dinner party stand out, especially if you're feeling intimidated by all the cooking you have to do. Here are five simple ideas for staging a dinner party table that will make you look like you've done it a thousand times — and put a thousand times the effort into it.

Use fresh herbs as your centerpieces.

Candles and flowers make for pretty centerpieces, but unfortunately you can't eat them. Make your centerpiece complement the food you're serving, and vice versa, by using fresh herbs in your tablescape. Using rosemary in one of your dishes? Tie any extra fresh sprigs together with twine or pretty ribbon and place at each place setting for an organic look. You can do this with other herbs too, like sage, thyme, mint or oregano.

Try a butcher paper tablecloth.

Butcher paper? Say what? You can generally find it, or any thick brown paper, at a craft store. Covering your table in butcher paper leaves room for getting clever with your tablescape. You can ditch serving dishes altogether and place certain foods directly on the paper, turning your dining room table into a large charcuterie board. Or, if you're preparing a meal that needs to be served in dishes, you can label each dish by writing on the butcher paper. Leave markers for your guests to write messages too, and keep any clean paper afterward for a fun memento.

Switch up your setting.

Try holding your dinner party somewhere besides the kitchen table for something more exciting. If the weather is nice and the mosquitoes are at bay, head outside. Set a folding table to its lowest setting, close to the ground, and cover the table with a pretty cloth. Spread out large pillows, blankets and sheets in the backyard for a bohemian picnic-style party. Add string lights for extra ambience.

Color-coordinate with discretion.

I've been to some dinner parties that were so tastefully done they looked like they had come straight out of a magazine — pops of millennial pink or burnt auburn set the stage for a lovely meal that was easy to enjoy. I've also been to dinner parties where the color coordination was so over-the-top it was almost painful to look at, much less enjoy. Pick one or two colors with which to coordinate, leave everything else in a neutral tone and try to avoid clashing. Look at a color wheel if you have to. Seriously. If you're not sure where to start, look at the food you're going to be serving — the red hue of mango skin or the deep blue of blueberries — and try to draw colors from there.

Get creative with your serving dishes.

Change up your serving dishes and leave your special trays in the china cabinet. Try using a cutting board or a basket for something rustic, or a flower vase or candle holder for something more ornate. Flip a wine glass over on your table, placing some decorative item like a flower beneath the glass and a candle on the base. I love using metal milk pails, which you can get at any craft store, for chips or salad, and one of my favorite party tricks is using teacups as bowls.

Comments
Five ideas for easy Thanksgiving appetizers

Five ideas for easy Thanksgiving appetizers

Thanksgiving can put a heavy burden on the host. We’ve assembled five appetizers that are quick and easy to prep. Some, like our risotto balls and goat-cheese figs, cater to vegetarian diets, so you can be sure to please all your guests. Even i...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Five ideas for cooking with fresh cranberries

Five ideas for cooking with fresh cranberries

Cranberry sauce has long been a fixture on the holiday table. According to the Chicago Tribune, Ocean Spray, the popular producer of cranberry sauce, cans about 70 million tins of the stuff a year, 85 percent of which gets sold between Thanksgiving a...
Published: 11/21/17
Tips for first-time Thanksgiving hosts (or really, any of us)

Tips for first-time Thanksgiving hosts (or really, any of us)

Take small bites.This may be the most crucial advice for Thanksgiving hosts who donít have years of cooking and coordinating experience to provide the confidence that comes with leading the charge on the yearís biggest cooking day.Itís the first thin...
Published: 11/20/17
How to make a pie from scratch: filling ideas, decorating tips, crust recipes and more

How to make a pie from scratch: filling ideas, decorating tips, crust recipes and more

Perfect your crust. Try new filling recipes. Learn some decorating tricks. And prepare for the biggest pie day of the year: Thanksgiving. † From apple to thyme You’ve got the crust down. Now it’s time to choose a filling for your holid...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/20/17
Thanksgiving 101: Everything you need to prepare for the big cooking day

Thanksgiving 101: Everything you need to prepare for the big cooking day

From appetizers to pies and everything in between, we’re here to help you put together a low-stress Thanksgiving spread. Here are a few ideas, and be sure to check out our Thanksgiving special report for more tips on preparing for the big day. ...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/20/17
Thanksgiving sides beyond the classics: corn casserole, Brussels sprouts salad, pecan pie carrots

Thanksgiving sides beyond the classics: corn casserole, Brussels sprouts salad, pecan pie carrots

There are probably a handful of essentials, things you must have on the Thanksgiving table lest some family members begin to riot. But I find there are often a couple of slots open for new things, chances to get weird or creative or, gasp, healthy. ...
Published: 11/17/17
How to make solid turkey gravy before Thanksgiving Day

How to make solid turkey gravy before Thanksgiving Day

As far as we’re concerned, anything you can make in advance of actual Thanksgiving Day is a good thing, and this make-ahead gravy fits the bill. Plus, Tucker Shaw of America’s Test Kitchen says it tastes just as good as if you made it wi...
Published: 11/17/17
How to plan your Thanksgiving menu

How to plan your Thanksgiving menu

Planning a really good menu is the stealth approach to being a really good cook. Here are some tips from the experts. New York Times Put some thought into the menu What leaves an impression is not only the dishes you can make, but also how they t...
Published: 11/17/17
Everything you need to know to prepare your Thanksgiving turkey

Everything you need to know to prepare your Thanksgiving turkey

The turkey is the unquestioned star of the Thanksgiving meal. It can be the most daunting part as well. But with a little planning and care, it doesn’t have to be. † Before you start • A decent roasting pan, one heavy enough that it wo...
Published: 11/16/17
Taste test: prepared mashed sweet potatoes

Taste test: prepared mashed sweet potatoes

If you want to spend more time with your family and friends this holiday season and less time in the kitchen, our judges suggest serving Hormelís mashed sweet potatoes. No need to wash, peel and heat potatoes. Just pop the container in the microwave ...
Published: 11/16/17