The Triple Threat of Party Hosting
What are the three key ingredients to a successful party? We recently talked about good food and its commutative property - Good can be simple and simple can be good. We also reviewed the main guidelines of hosting etiquette and elaborated on the leading role of the host to set the mood of a party and at the same time, to make all guests feel comfortable. That is a true art by itself.
So… What is missing? The third component of a successful party is, of course, the table, the décor.
When you have guests over, you do your best to set a beautiful table. It does not have to be extravagant – Simplicity is often more elegant than extravagance.
As times change, formal dinners are fewer and fewer. You may have noticed that the space dedicated to silverware and crystal glasses has shrunk in all luxury department stores to be replaced by dishwasher-safe tableware. Also, the damask tablecloths are non-existent, not to mention the napkin rings and the knife rests!
Yes, a tablecloth dresses a table nicely, but admittedly, it is a lot of work as it should be ironed with no creases if it is for a round table, and the creases should be in the length of it, not across, if it is for a rectangular table. So much to know… So much to do… Scarce are the people who have time for this protocol and whose lifestyle allows for all these careful steps and efforts.
So, I am glad that place mats are more and more trendy. They are much easier to handle and can be as fancy as a tablecloth. Most of them do not have to be ironed, by the way. That is a plus!
The trick is to have the food, the tableware and the placemats in harmony. A plaid or checkered cloth setting would go well with a hearty meal. For balance, the dishes should then be of solid color.
White dishes will bring out the intensity of a “sauce chasseur”, a mushroom-based, rich sauce found in some French country recipes.
On the other hand, if you serve a soufflé, you should probably choose a dark plate which will intensify the color of this rather pale dish… unless you use some fresh orange-yolked farm eggs. However you do it, give that soufflé some color!
Dishes first? If your mind is set on some specific dishes, then you will need to plan the food and placemats accordingly.
Food first? If your mind is set on fixing your favorite osso bucco, Italian meatballs or whatever your signature dish is, you will most likely choose the serving plates and house linen accordingly.
“Gien” dishes, famous for their high-quality bird, fruit, and flower painted patterns, should be used only to plate a light dessert such as a fresh lemon dome-shaped custard, possibly served with a drizzle of raspberry coulis – The yellow and the red tones will pop from a busy, bright background. Measured. Just right!
However, for a chocolate dessert, I would go for pure white… unless I sprinkle a few gold flakes on the rim of the plate, in which case a scarlet red, cobalt blue or absolute black crockery would be perfect.
You see, choosing the right dishes is an interesting and artistic part of entertaining – as artistic as preparing the meal.
I personally like clear, heavy glass dishes when I want continuity and uniformity throughout the meal. Where it gets fancy is when you start matching the dishes and the glasses. You can easily do that when you use the bistro style glassware for example, and you keep the older traditions going. Impressive, yet so easy!
Entertaining nowadays is a balancing act between practicality and fanciness. We want to be more relaxed and focused on the conversation with our guests, and we want to know that, as soon as they leave, we will not have to spend half of the night hand-washing dishes and ironing the tablecloth the next day.
Yet, we want to impress our guests, and I am happy to say, it is now easily achievable. I sometimes discuss this topic with my etiquette clients, and it turns out there is always a solution to entertaining with pizzazz while avoiding the hassle.
The triple threat of party hosting is now solved with delicious, yet simple food… and the million-dollar looking, yet low maintenance tableware. And when the host is relaxed, the mood is set. As you will remember, the host sets the mood. If the host tries too hard, the vibes will be tense. If the host is relaxed, the vibes will be right, and the party will be a success.