Pretty Party Platters
December 31, 2012 • Technique
Any chance you’re having a party tonight? Do you stress about the food and the presentation of it? Well, I have a little secret to share. I usually don’t put that much energy into my platters. Fortunately, I have a great assistant who works just about every event with me and she’s quite good at making things pretty. I’ve picked up a few tips along the way, so here’s my top ten list for making your party platters pretty:
1. Use white platters. Food gets lost on platters with lots of patterns and can be dizzying to look at.
2. Vary the shape of platters and bowls – see how the square bowl of Romesco sauce in the picture above contrasts nicely with the oval platter?
3. Arrange food in some sort of pattern instead of just dumping it on a platter – the shrimp tails all going in one direction around the plate are pleasing to the eye.
4. Less is more – you don’t have to fill platters to the brim. You can put out platters with several pieces on it arranged artistically across the plate and refill the plate as the food is eaten.
5. Clean up around the buffet table. Nothing distracts more from the food than dirty plates with shrimp tails and used toothpicks on them.6. Garnish your platters. I’m the worst at this, I must confess, often forgetting anything to garnish with. But I’ve found that a few simple spinach leaves pulled from a bag of mixed greens can go a long way towards making a platter of meatballs look more appetizing.
7. Only garnish your platters with things that are edible – greens, herbs, edible flowers, lemon and lime slices, etc. all work great. And if possible, garnish with an ingredient from the recipe, like the sage with the chicken breast above.
8. For large parties, it’s easier to have everything bite sized and use toothpicks than to have to deal with silverware.9. Consider using small Asian soup spoons, shot glasses, or other small vessels to serve items that can’t be picked up well with your fingers. You can line up a bunch of these on one platter for easily filling the buffet table.
10. Make sure you have a variety of foods that are also a variety of color and textures. Have you ever been to a party when everything was a dip? I usually like to have 2 vegetarian items, 1-2 seafood items, 1-2 meat items, and 1-2 other things (like hummus, puff pastry pizza, or tarts). When you lay the items out on the table, make sure you mix up colors.
Tonight I’ll be serving a seven-course sit down dinner for 12 of our closest friends. I vary my dinner theme each year and this year I asked guests to tell me a favorite protein and fruit or vegetable, and I’ve created a course for each couple plus a dessert smorgasbord of all of their favorites. Check back later in the week after I’ve recovered for pictures and recipes!