Think outside the box and the plate when planning to serve your food and decorate your serving area. I often use things that are not plates at all - if I can get it clean and sterile I'll use some pretty weird stuff for plates. I have some beautiful huge slices of agate I bought just to serve appetizers on, I've also been known to serve finger foods on sheets of steel and diamond plate that I've had laser cut into plate sized shapes. I'll take collections of these and stack them at different levels however I can to give the table some dimension and height too. If I can put it in the dishwasher and sterilize it with hot water and soap then I'll use it to serve food.
I will serve bite sized h'ors d'oeurvres in a martini glass, chilled soup in shooters and even test tubes at Halloween! I have used hallowed out gourds, fruits and veggies for serving dishes and I often spoon mousses and parfaits into espresso cups - not only do espresso cups come with fancy little spoons but the saucer serves as a wonderful little plate for a small cookie!
To decorate my tables I've used flower petals, seeds, rice, beans, confetti and even sterilized sand (for a sea/beach theme) to cover my table instead of or with a table cloth.
When plating your food, instead of placing your starch next to your protein then next to your veggie, try making your potatoes or rice a nice fluffy bed for that chop or filet. Carefully place your starch slightly off center on the plate in a nice pile, balance your protein on top or lean it against the starch and then add your veggies, relish or salad sprinkled artfully over the top. Don't get ridiculous and stack things like the Cat in the Hat though - remember to keep your balance!
All the items on the plate should be edible so please don't put tough sprigs of fresh herbs or garnishes on the plate. If you can't eat it, don't plate it.
Color is a vital element to food enjoyment - add a touch of color with a garnish or a relish or some fun baby greens.
Your sauce or gravy can be an artistic addition - instead of pouring it over or leaving it in a gravy boat, grab a basting brush and brush a healthy portion on the plate before you add your food or drizzle it around the plate in a decorative pattern.
Go forth and have some fun with your edibles - it's no longer verboten to play with your food these days!
Here's some other tips from my post Garnish or Garish?
Here's some great Garnishing Tips and Food Presentation tips from one of my favorite foodie sites.
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