Allspice Chronicles

Entertain like a Queen, Think Lean and Live Green! A personal collection of recipes,anecdotes,and good old fashioned advice…

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Things to Know About The Great Buffet

by Danica Waters

Buffets are more work than meets the eye.  Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking otherwise.  Sure, a buffet eliminates the need for formal place settings; certainly it must be far simpler to let everyone serve themselves, right?  Not necessarily. Without some serious thought and attention well in advance of your party, buffet-style entertaining can quickly turn into an invitation for Murphy and his infamous Law to tap dance all over your house.

Imagine, on the day of your event, after you’ve spent days cooking what you’re sure is the perfect party fare, all the while entertaining glorious visions of being able to relax and actually enjoy the company of the million and five folks you’ve just invited over:

–   You confidently mobilize to set all the food out on the beautifully decorated table and suddenly realize you don’t have enough room for it all, so you (and your well-intentioned guests) are left scrambling to rearrange everything before the food gets cold;

–  After you call them to dinner, your guests line up for miles waiting awkwardly to get to the table that you’ve so intelligently pushed up against the wall to make more room;

– It occurs to you, as you watch a saucy little meatball liberate itself from  a guest’s plate and roll across your white carpet, that your heirloom recipe for spaghetti and meatballs is not the best “lap food” in the world;

–  One of your guests accidentally drops the flatware he’s been trying to manage while filling his plate right into the center of the beautiful whipped cream topping of the trifle you’d set for dessert;

– Embarrassed, the guest backs up right into another guest who is trying to fill her wine glass, and that, too, manages to decorate the carpet.

(Of course I wouldn’t know about any of this firsthand.  It happened to, eh, a friend of mine.  YeahThat’s it!)


So, just in time for the glorious summer, when all the world is a barbeque (best served buffet-style), here’s some tips from my friend:

1)      Plan your menu carefully.  Make sure whatever you’re serving is really easy to eat, doesn’t require tons of utensils to cut or maneuver, doesn’t drip, and doesn’t roll off your guests’ plate, for heaven’s sake. (Try Sticky Sweet and Salty Chicken Legs, Curried Potato Salad, Pineapple Squares)


2)      Remember that the reason you’re serving a buffet-style meal is probably because you don’t have enough formal seating for everyone you’ve invited.  Since your guests will be using their laps as a table, be kind and keep utensils and such to a bare minimum.  Also, be sure to have enough clear spaces and coasters distributed on coffee tables and the like so your guests don’t worry about where they can put their beverage.



3)      When setting up your buffet table: 


  • If possible, try to be sure the table is accessible from all sides.  If you’re serving more than 15-20 people, it’s ideal to serve the same fare on both sides of the table, so folks can move through the line quickly.
  • Varying heights on a buffet table not only add visual interest, but they’re also invaluable for creating more space.  Cake stands or other pedestal-style serveware can come in really handy when you’ve got a table packed with goodies.


  • It’s a really, really good idea to stage your buffet prior to your party.  Lay out all the trays and serving bowls you intend to use, and find out in advance where any potential problems might lie.  Be sure you have enough serving utensils for each bowl or tray, as well!


  • Plates should go at the head of the table, but leave napkins and utensils for last so guests don’t have to juggle them while serving themselves;


  • Typically, foods should be positioned on the table in order, starting with savories and ending with salads, fruit trays, and sweets.  Remember to leave room for a small plate or dish to be placed to the side of each serving bowl or tray. Serving utensils shouldn’t be left in the food; rather, they should be placed to the side of the dish after each guests serves him/herself;


  • Ideally, if you have the space, separate serving areas for drinks and desserts are ideal; that way folks can help themselves faster and with less risk of spillage;


  • Utensils should be the last thing your guests have to pick up.  They are best wrapped securely in a napkin, so they’re easy to grab.  Though there’s tons of fancy napkin folds that work great for buffet-style entertaining, the presentation can be as simple as tying a piece of raffia or decorative ribbon around a napkin and the necessary flatware.  ( A great way to keep little kids creatively occupied is to let them decorate makeshift napkin rings cut from an empty paper towel roll…)

Many thanks to my friend for all the tried and true advice; she, and I, wish you Many Happy Buffets for many years to come.  Furthermore, we sincerely hope Murphy and his Law happen to be no-shows to all of them.

Posted May 27th, 2011.


How To Set A Basic Dinner Table (In Case You Forgot)

by Danica Waters

Ok.  We all forget little things now and again.  Which way the knife goes, which side to place the napkin, and all those other little details seem to crop up at the most inconvenient – and potentially embarrassing- times.  And yes, I can hear it now: ” Who really cares?  It’s not like we’re dining with the Queen or anything!”  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Here’s my take on why it’s good to stay polished up on all these little details:  if you’re bumbling your way through a social situation in the company of folks who DO know and practice  all these little things, they typically won’t say anything to you about your behavior.  It would be rude of them to do so.   But make no mistake:  folks notice these things – not to judge you, necessarily – but they’ll definitely notice. Simply put, you’ll look like you don’t know. And that’s never a good thing.

So we’ll start with the basics, with thanks again to the great Emily Post.  Her legacy carries on through her great-great-Granddaughter, Lizzie, in this easy-to-follow video:

Posted May 18th, 2011.

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A Vintage Look Into The Super-Chic World of Table Manners

by Danica Waters

I know, I know. Table manners are old-fashioned. NOT! Don’t ever forget: vintage is chic. Table manners happen to be even more chic. And this little gem happens to be a priceless vintage video on proper table manners, narrated by Emily Post herself. Tres’ super-chic!

Posted May 10th, 2011.

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