I love to throw a dinner party. Doesn’t matter what the occasion. Birthdays. Weddings. Retirement. Knee replacement. Who cares? All that matters is that everyone’s around the table enjoying great food, conversation, camaraderie, libations, laughter and making special memories. Crafting dinner party tables that talk is the key to a successful dinner party.
Besides crafting the menu. Making the food really special. Thinking of those who will be breaking bread with us and what they may or may not like. And, trying to offer something that’s new and adventurous, my next big task when hosting a dinner party is how to set the table.
What type of ambiance do I want? Where shall it be hosted? Indoors. Outdoors. On the patio. A deck. In the yard. Honestly, I prefer small dinner parties for many reasons. And, when I say ‘small’ I’m talking less than say ten people. More than that and it gets to be a big affair that means work and less enjoyment for me.
Plus, a smaller, more intimate dinner party, say six to eight people, means everyone can sit around the table comfortably. Engage with each other. Have a collective conversation rather than a lot of smaller conversations going on because there are so many people.
Setting the table to ignite and promote interaction can happen. Here’re a few things I like to do that seems to work.
Family style dining is great. Strategically place serving pieces with food near the person you want to be ‘in charge’ of serving that particular dish. People can pass their plates to the person. This is especially good when serving pieces might be really full, heavy, hot, bulky and awkward to pass, etc.
Instead of pouring water glasses. Leave the glasses empty. Then put on the table bottles of flat and sparkling water. Folks can then decide what they want. Include a small tray of lemons, limes, sliced cucumbers. Some may want to flavor their water!
Look for fun inexpensive water glasses. Old jars work well. Small ones with a good opening. You can find interesting small glasses at dollar stores. Like these ‘coca cola’ glasses I found for a buck each. They add whimsy and flair. Serve water, wine, sodas, tea, whatever in them (as long as it’s not hot!).
Serve foods that are unexpected. Like this diced cantaloupe with lime, pepper and cilantro. Talk about the nuances of what you’ve done to change up something. Most people love to experiment, try new things. And, it’s another source of new topics and conversation. As long as ‘what’s new’ is not too much off the grid of palate appeal. But, hey, if it is, think about the chatter that will be happening. ‘Squirrel, are you kiddin’???’ “Hummm, I’m not much of a squirrel fan!’ ‘Guinea pig…dang, where did you find that?’
Make sure your ‘centerpieces’ and styling on the table isn’t obstructive to conversation. Low small pieces are best. Containers of flowers. Either real or artificial. Candles. If there’s anything that is blocking views across the table from folks, move it to another place. Yes, we want to see each other!
Think about the napkin differently. Instead of a napkin, use a dish towel. You can find some gorgeous inexpensive ones on Amazon. They’re big and cover your lap. Plus if they get stained, no problem, at about a buck each, you can use the stained ones for cleaning rags. I’ve just shaken these out and laid them in the bistro serving bowl. That’s it. Done. And, interesting at that!
Best Home Chef in a Series finalist 2019 Taste Awards