The first time Alex and I hosted a larger dinner party with friends and family was shortly after we were married and moved to Boston. We pieced together two second-hand square tables and set it with a hodge-podge of plates and paper napkins. Not exactly elegant, but when the table was filled with a mashup of Thanksgiving classics and our favorite Chinese treats like sticky rice, it didn’t matter. What mattered was the people who came to see us and celebrate that holiday with us. While we may have obtained linen napkins and a real table since then, what remains special regardless of presentation is the people and the experience of an at-home gathering and home cooking.
That being said, I do love to make my guests feel more welcome and cherished by setting out plates, goblets, and linens. These extra elements can elevate a scene and set the atmosphere of a gathering. One of my favorite ways to do this is with natural elements – plants, herbs, flora, or other organic elements. Choosing seasonal flora can help to set the mood, whether it’s an autumnal night or a mid-summer soirée. Sometimes I like to take a walk around and see what is growing naturally – beach roses, apple blossoms, branches of lilac, the evergrowing honeysuckle. I also love to incorporate these elements in the food if I can, so that the tablescape reflects what’s currently in season, as well as what may be on the menu.
In the full glory of the spring and summer months, I felt myself drawn towards the abundant and aromatic lilacs of New England, softly colored blooming peonies, and succulents. The amazing thing about lilacs are that they are not only beautiful and fragrant, but they’re also edible!
I made a quick floral cordial and incorporated it into a bundt cake that I made using my KitchenAid® Professional-Grade Nonstick 9″ Bundt Pan.
I always like to think about color in my tablescapes. Be sure to take a look at the linens you plan to use, as well as the color of the plates and the type of food you have on the menu. Subtle, simple linens and plates let the brighter colors of food and flowers shine. I chose a variety of soft green succulents so that the lilac and peonies would pop.
I also cook with herbs so frequently that I love to use them as individual place setting garnishes. They’re beautiful and versatile, and you can use them to tie off a rolled up napkin, tuck it in behind a menu, or simply place them on your plate for a pop of color. Rosemary, sage, and thyme are particular favorites of mine to use as a decoration.
Keep in mind that everything mentioned above mostly reflects personal preferences – as a host, this is your scene, and you have full control over what you think works best for your table. Enjoy!
*The Contributor of this post has been compensated by KitchenAid for this post, but this post represents the Contributor’s own opinion.*