Feast's Finishing Touches

After you've put so much effort into preparing a delicious Thanksgiving dinner, it's only fitting that you serve it to your guests on a beautifully decorated, inviting table, reflecting the holiday's warmth.

Style author Peri Wolfman shared several ideas to help you, during The Early Show series, "The Perfect Thanksgiving."

Specialty home furnishings retailer Williams-Sonoma and The Early Show teamed to offer tips and recipes for every aspect of the big meal. Co-anchor Hannah Storm hosted the segments, and chef Tori Ritchie joined Hannah, conveying her expert advice. The series originated in the Williams-Sonoma store at New York City's Columbus Circle.

Wolfman has been Williams-Sonoma's vice president of product development since 1999. Her design team is responsible for all of Williams-Sonoma's tabletop-related products, including dinnerware, glassware, flatware and linens. Wolfman and her team also develop and package kitchen scents and cleaning products for Williams-Sonoma.

She offered tips on how to layer and mix tableware, properly set your flatware and glasses, as well as decorate with napkins, place cards and centerpieces

Some general tips from Wolfman:

  • Set the table as far in advance as you can.
  • To make the table look more abundant and welcoming, set it with plates for all the courses and remove them as they're used.
  • Fill the soup bowls before guests are even seated.
  • Arrange the flatware in the order it will be used, from outside in, with the knife blade always facing in.
  • For glassware, it depends on how many are needed, but they are always arranged above and to the right of the plates. The water glass is the largest and is to the left of the wine glass, which is aligned with the fork.
  • As a space-saver, roll the napkins, but leave them long, giving a very generous look.
  • Pull the table together with a centerpiece of seasonal fruits, vegetables and greens (not vases of flowers), as well as candles (keeping everything low enough to allow guests to see each other).

    Some more detailed advice, from a Williams-Sonoma pamphlet:

    Planning the table setting:: With a little planning and advance preparation, it's easy to create a Thanksgiving table setting that reflects the warmth and hospitality of the holiday. These tips will help you avoid a last-minute rush on the day of the feast.

    Set the table in advance: To help ensure a relaxed Thanksgiving day, set your table the night (or even days) before. Arrange the table linens, then set out dinnerware and glassware. Cover plates with napkins to protect them from dust, and turn glasses upside down. Position flatware at each place setting in the order it will be used, from the outside in. Dessert utensils may be placed horizontally at the top of the place setting or brought in later with the dessert.

    If you plan to serve coffee and tea after dinner, be sure you have everything you'll need, including coffeepots and teapots, a sugar bowl and cream pitcher, plus plenty of cups, saucers and spoons.

    Place settings: Once you've confirmed the guest list and finalized the menu, spend some time organizing your table setting. A week or so before Thanksgiving, inventory the plates, flatware, glassware and linens you'll need, from appetizers through dessert. Be sure to have enough of each type of tableware on hand so you won't have to wash dishes between courses. Now is the time to send out table linens to be laundered and pressed and to polish your silver.

    Serving essentials: Go over your menu and make sure you have suitable platters and serving bowls. Feel free to mix different patterns to create a pleasing table setting. Set out one piece for each dish you'll be serving and mark it with a Post-it note (for the mashed potatoes, dressing, etc.). Remember to include serving forks and spoons as well. Then, whether you'll be serving the meal family style or from a buffet table, set the empty platters and bowls on the table to determine if everything will fit. Be sure to allow space for wine bottles, carafes or an ice bucket.

    Final touches: After you've arranged the tableware, finish the setting with seasonal decorations. Flowers and candles always make lovely centerpieces, as do arrangements of harvest fruits, pumpkins and gourds. Remember to keep centerpieces low enough to allow for eye contact among your guests. You can spark enjoyable conversation by assigning seats in advance, marking each setting with an attractive place card.
    • Brian Dakss

    Comments