By Winkie from NJ
Effective Buffet Design
Food/Beverage Layout and Decorating Schemes for your Party's Buffet Table.
Set up your buffet design in an effective, creative & functional manner to incorporate your decorating theme into the party. These tips add punch to your buffet design.
One of the most overlooked parts of any party is the buffet set-up. By paying a little attention to the buffet design, any host can maximize his or her decorating impact, while also creating an efficient and attractive layout for the party's highlight - the food.
Once you set your menu, you can plan your buffet layout. If you plan to have a large number of guests, and your room can support the traffic flow, design a double-sided buffet. Otherwise, create a single-sided buffet on your table or island.
Use stacks of books or inverted pots to create varying levels for the dishes. On a double-sided buffet, the highest levels should run down the midline of the buffet. For a single-sided buffet, the highest levels will run along the side that is furthest from the guests.
Vary the levels, making your food presentation interesting and efficient. Don't worry about what is used for your levels -- the actual items will be covered by the fabric that you'll use to give your buffet a theme (see below).
Lay out the food and service pieces in an organized manner. The plates should be at the beginning of the buffet, followed by the salads, cold side dishes, hot entrees, bread and hot side dishes.
Place appropriate serving spoons/forks adjacent to each type of food. Incorporate your theme into your buffet design.
If you're planning a Mexican Fiesta, drape fabric in spicy, salsa colors throughout the buffet. Tuck a couple of thematic knick-knacks (terra cotta pots, enamel tiles, pesos, chili peppers) into the crevices created by the fabric.
For an Autumn Harvest theme, use fabric in fall colors (burnt orange, brown, gold) and natural knick-knacks (mini-pumpkins, gourds, fall leaves)
For a Fourth of July celebration, use fabric or bunting in red, white and blue and knick-knacks with a patriotic theme (stars, stripes, Uncle Sam, paper firecrackers made from toilet paper tubes covered in red paper and stuffed with white tissue paper and silver sparkler sprays). Follow these basic guidelines to get your buffet started. In future articles, I will cover buffet design for specific themes, including menus, layout and decorations.
I like the idea of using clear glass candle holders with tiny candles in them & around the base of the candles use those clear flattened marbles. The candles make the glass marbles really SHINE! Only put candles in the back of the tables where people won't hurt themselves when reaching for food. Besides that, a "theme" is always nice... (depending on the occasion) or you can use a "Season" if you don't have a theme. Like right now it's spring, so flowers & grass would be nice & in the fall, colorful Leaves. (You can buy a flat of grass at a plant nursery)
Christopher Lowell says to make a buffet especially nice, you need different heights & levels. To do this use sturdy paint cans or upside-down tera-cotta pots etc covered with a tablecloth under your bowls & plates of food. A couple of large plants with stones or marbles covering the plant's dirt & set behind the food would always look nice too! You could add butterflies on sticks coming out of the pots or bees & flowers. You can always use a black or dark single colored piece of fabric with the clear flattened marbles on it. Or go for color (like the fiesta idea below).
Just pick a theme & a color or colors & you'll have it made! For example, say you choose "ocean or water" You would then pick an aqua, teal, turquoise or sea green colored tablecloth with aqua marbles (as water) with small candles to make them shine & maybe a bit of course sand or tiny colorful pebble-rocks from the garden store or craft store... Just pick a theme, then pick your colors. Be sure to put your buffet food at different heights & levels. (Edible flowers that are organic without any bug spray) are always a nice very addition to a plate. You can't go wrong with them! Most supermarkets have them in the veggie area. Just put them on the plates last, right before the party, before that, leave them in the fridge & make sure they don't freeze.
For your tablecloth, don't spend the high price of buying a real tablecloth, simply buy your fabric by the yard at Walmart or a fabric store (on sale!). The edges will be finished, then just tuck the ends in & staple, pin, sew or glue them into a hem. Chose a solid fabric & not a print unless it REALLY matches your theme because a solid (darker) fabric will show off the food better & dark colors give it more "class" (unless it's a "fiesta" or other "ethnic" buffet, then you can use stripes or a print. You can also put the flag of that country in a flower pot filled with salt, marbles, stones or Styrofoam covered with moss) For example. Have Lasagna & use small Italian flags. On 4th of July you could use American flags & a tablecloths with stars or fireworks.
Most importantly, HAVE FUN!
One thing I have not noticed mentioned is to NOT put the linens flat on the table. When you drape them over whatever you are using as risers be sure to "crunch/bunch" them and drape around and on top of the table. Caterers call this "crumb catchers" you don't notice to spills as readily. You use a cloth that lays over the cloth that covers the table and can turn its edges under to make it neat and attractive. This is where you can add the extra color/design you want, if you feel you need some. I hope this is clear. I don't know how else to say it.
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I'm having a buffet party. How do I decorate the dining tables? I was thinking of placing doilies in place of the plates.