February 28, 2008

Presentation is Everything: How to Serve a Simple Meal in Elegant Style

Did you know that you can make even the simplest meal special by the way you serve it?

The secret is summed up in one word: presentation. My aunt was a caterer at one time and she lived with us a for a few years, and one of the things that she continually impressed upon us was that "it's all in the presentation." We kind of made a joke out of it at the time, but it's true.

So, how can we dress up our meals to appear at their very best? Let's look at a couple of ways to make the dishes we serve appealing.

1. Attractive Arrangement
Don't just dump the food you have made on to a plate to serve it. Look for ways that you could tastefully arrange the food on the plate to make it more attractive. For instance, see what kind of garnishes you could put on the side to give it a little "oomph." Just a little sprig of parsley or rosemary can change the whole look of the dish. For soups, they look amazingly more appetizing when you add a garnish. The type of garnish will of course depend on the soup (or dish), but I made baked potato soup, and garnished it with a sprinkling of cheese in the center and a little chopped green onion. There are lots of fun garnishing how-to books out there as well that can teach you more elaborate, creative garnishes. Another point is that it does matter what kind of dish you serve the food in! We have one dish that I love because it is very pretty and somehow always makes it look like there is a lot of food in it even if there isn't! (It also fits asparagus perfectly :-)) Now, I realize that sometimes we just don't have time and it's all we can do to even get dinner on the table, let alone dress it up. That's okay! But when we do have the time, we should try to make it a little fancy.

2. Dress Up the Table
Aside from the actual dishes, presentation includes your table. Put a tablecloth on, and maybe a couple of tall candles in the center. It's amazing how this can transform the whole feel of your table - especially if you choose a richly colored tablecloth. If you don't have time for attractively arranging your dishes, this takes mere seconds. Another fun thing that really adds presentation is creative napkin folding. There are some instructions for a few simple napkin folds here. This really impresses guests too!

So there are my thoughts on presentation... it's the way to make the plainest meal delightful!