Now that we are in the middle of holiday entertaining season, you may be busy planning a party. You'll want to consider decor and presentation, as well as the menu itself. I find platter presentation and table display are areas that perplex people, even many chefs. Fortunately, many of the tricks to creating a beautiful plate of food also apply to platter presentation. There are many tips to creating a beautiful table scape, so I’ll highlight the most important ones here.
- Height is key. Shoot for smaller platters and fill them to the brim. Put more on it than you think you can!
- Arrange the food beautifully, arranging one item at a time. The easiest way is to start at one point, whether it is the center or the edge, and work your way around in a circle.
- Garnish the table, not the platter. If you arrange the platters beautifully and have appetizing food on them, you don’t need garnishes.
- If you are hosting a smaller party, use a larger platter and put multiple small dishes full of food on the platter. It will look plentiful and interesting, like this.
- Again, height is key. If you are presenting a buffet, place different sized sturdy boxes on a table and drape them with a tablecloth. Arrange the platters on top of these draped boxes. You want not only height, but varying height, in your arrangement even if it's small. I’ll use chopping blocks, pieces of wood, bowls of different heights and sizes to create different heights and points of interest.
- Decorate around the food with edible foods first. I love this technique. The decorations become a part of the food you are serving and they can be used later in the kitchen. Drape and wrap the platters (not on top of the platters but around them) with grapes of different colors, apples, pears and fruits. If you have a vegetable garden and are hosting a summer garden party, garnish the table with mounds of tomatoes, onions, peppers and herbs. You can reinforce your theme and help to identify what food you are serving with the decorations.
- Be careful with the flowers. If flowers are not used in the food you are preparing, they may not compliment your display. I’m not saying you should never use flowers. Just make sure they match your theme or are mixed with edibles.
- Keep it tight. You want to centralize the food and platters in the center of the table instead of spreading them out. Many people try and spread the food out so that it looks like it is abundant. If you build height into your display and bring the platters and decorations tightly together, it will look plentiful.
- Keep it neat. There should be areas of reprieve for your eye. If you have built your display with height, centralized all the food and wrapped the food with your decorations, you will also want to leave open areas on the table. The edge of the table should be nothing but clean, open space.
These photos are from some recent parties I’ve thrown. I hope this helps you visualize my points. I would love to hear your tips and questions, so please comment here.