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04.06.2006

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all in the presentation how to pretty up your party food table by Yee-Fan Sun | 1 2 3
continued from page 1

3 Chop chop. The glassware cabinet isn't the only source in your kitchen for makeshift serve ware. Wood chopping boards can be co-opted as platters for hors-d'oeuvres or cheese and crackers, adding a rustic but attractive touch to the table, and providing a good contrast to the typical ceramic serving dishes. They're particularly nice for anything that needs to be cut up before setting it out for guests, like pizza, as you can slice and serve without having to wrestle with transferring the cut pieces.

4 Dare to be square. Of course, if you regularly host folks chez vous, it might make sense to stock up on some proper serve ware. Try collecting different shaped platters. Square, rectangular and asymmetric platters make a funky change from the usual round plates; keep your eyes peeled for them at dollar stores and secondhand sales.

5 Make the bed. Once you've found a way to serve all your foods, you're ready to start arranging those hors-d'oeuvres onto their dishes. Here's a standard caterer's trick that's easy-breezy: lay down a bed of greens before popping your savory hors-d'oeuvres onto the plate. This is an especially good idea for greasy eats, as the leaves will absorb any excess oil instead of letting it pool up oh-so-attractively on the platter.

6 Garnish! No, I'm not advising that you start carving radish roses or anything (unless you have a whole lot of time to kill, in which case, go nuts). But adding a sprig of fresh herbs or some pretty citrus slices, a few slivers of red bell pepper or a sprinkle of chopped nuts only adds about 20 seconds to your prep time, and is guaranteed to make your plate or bowl of yummy savories look that much more polished and irresistible. For desserts, on the other hand, something as simple as a dusting of confectioner's sugar or cocoa powder can make a huge difference in upping the purty factor. If things are still looking a bit plain, try adding a sprig of mint or some fresh fruit to the platter -- a smattering of strawberries or raspberries, a few slices of mango with the peel still on for color, a small cluster of grapes.

Whatever you use, do make sure that if your garnish is going on top of the food itself rather than next to it, the flavors of the garnish actually go with the food in question. You don't want your guests eagerly biting into your beautiful little concoction only to be greeted with a horrible clash of flavors.

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