February 10, 2015

A well arranged table starts every meal off right. It can be festive and fun while still being functional. Use color and pattern to create interesting settings.Whether you’re running a five-star restaurant or you’re the bus boy at a little-known Italian joint while working your way through an Austin culinary arts program, it is important to have a well-set table. If your silverware and place settings are a mess, you are setting the tone for a chaotic night. Follow these tips to starting the meal off right by setting the perfect table:

The word “tablecloth” often brings to mind checkered red and white plastic table coverings. There are plenty of other, less kitschy versions that can make your dining room feel elegant and sophisticated. Many people have mixed opinions on when it is appropriate to use a table cloth and what material to use. If you’re preparing for a family gathering that includes a kids’ table, you may want to consider a vinyl cloth. It is easy to wipe off and will protect the table from spills. For a grown-up dinner, you may want something in cotton or silk that is festive for the occasion. Dark red shades are great for Valentine’s and Christmas and pastels for Easter meals. If you want to add some color but not eat off a cloth, try a table runner. This smaller piece of fabric goes down the middle of the table and adds a focal  point for a centerpiece like flowers or candles. You can also choose not to use a tablecloth and leave your table bare.

Choose your dishes based on wear and tear. If you’re prepping for a meal with younger people, you may want to choose hardy plastic plates. They don’t have to look like they came from a discount store – you can choose solid-colored options that match your regular dishes and no one will even know the difference. Don’t be afraid to break out your mom’s china for special occasions. It was meant to be used, not to sit in a box in the attic.

There are many options available for silverware styles. You can chose from heavy plastic or wood-handled utensils or sterling silver and other metals. Go with what you will use the most that fits in with the color scheme in your dining room. Many silverware sets come with four, six or 10 complete settings. That means a salad or dessert fork, a fork for the main dish, a butter knife, a teaspoon and a dinner spoon. When considering what set to buy, think about how many people you would likely serve at once. That may includes your immediate family, extended relatives and friends that often drop by. You can also have two sets, one for everyday use that covers you and your household, and one for bigger gatherings.

The arrangement
The trickiest part about dinner? Remembering the proper order for the utensils on a place setting. According to Pottery Barn, from left to right the silverware should be placed as such: salad fork then dinner fork both placed to the left of the plate on a napkin. Set your large plate with a salad plate and soup bowl on top just to the right of the forks. Then finish with a dinner knife, teaspoon and soup spoon on the far right. If you are making dessert, include a cake fork and dessert spoon with heads opposite one another at the very top of the place setting. Add a water glass above the utensils on the right side and be sure to leave room for an alcoholic beverage that the diner may bring to the table from earlier visiting and appetizers.