Copyright Corrina Tough 2011

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Dinner Party tips- part 3

Many years ago I completed a course in hospitality, the course covered small scale catering and all the cooking side including the basics and to medium level complexity technique. Our course also covered front of house (restaurant) etiquette. We had an amazing teacher who was Irish by birth and had worked in some of Europe's best restaurants. He taught us a'la' carte and table d'hote and we had to be able to set up a restaurant as if it were first class. Now most of you would know some of these tips but I tell you when you set a table in this way it is really 'a beautiful thing'! As I said in part one, make sure your cloth is freshly laundered and ironed and laid so it falls evenly. My table is a rectangle  but for ovals and small squares you can also lay on the diagonal. My tutor used to insist you did a double layer for this so one would sit square and then a second cloth was laid on top diagonally. Cutlery is quite simple- for an up market look try to have matching but if that's not possible go rustic with a mismatched look and decorate accordingly. I love my very simple but heavy duty stainless steel cutlery with a plain rounded edge. Now this is where you need to work with your menu- you set to eat from the outside in so the course you serve first has its cutlery on the outside and the last course (usually desert is the closest to the plate. So- set from the inside out ending on your first course if you get my drift!!?? My tutor used to get out a ruler and measure our placement- bit pedantic for a home dinner party, the best way to do it is use the edge of your table as the line so the bottom of your forks, knives etc sit lined up with the edge of the table. The plate needs to go on first and sit central to the seat- then do your cutlery. For glassware my tutor always had  both red and white wine glasses and a water glass, but again we are not playing it too formal so one wine glass and a water glass is fine. Glasses sit above and slightly to one side of your knife(so always to the right) and just be consistent with which one you put first- wine or water.  After I set the cutlery and plates I do the candles and other decorations. I put the napkin under the fork and if you're having a bread plate it goes next to the knife but with its own knife sitting on top central to the plate. I didn't have bread at this party so it's not pictured here. See below some examples. I know you are all hanging out to eat- that will come in Part 4 xxCorrina
All Images Copy Right Corrina Tough.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Dinner Party tips Part 2- decorating the table

When it comes to decorating the table for a dinner party I usually use the "less is more" philosophy, I think it makes for an understated stunning look but also helps with time and energy- I can achieve a gorgeous meal and a beautiful table if I keep it simple. I have a lot of china to choose from- my everyday plates I picked up from a second hand store, they were cast offs from a local cafe updating but to my good fortune all white, oval heavy duty plates, cups and saucers, teapots etc for a meager $100 including at least 40 plates. I use these everyday but they also work in an all white or white + colour scheme. They are heavy duty and dishwasher safe so if I am feeding a lot of people including children I tend to use these to lessen the workload later when its clean up time (and lets face it who wants to spend hours in the kitchen after you spent hours cooking and setting up!). I also have an amazing array of antique china much of it used to be my husbands Nan's and part of that collection was a gorgeous antique blue and white china 12 place set that is all in perfect condition! Our philosophy when we acquired all her china (truckloads of the stuff) was to use it.  Nan had most of it either hidden away or shoved in cupboards where no one could see and appreciate them, so I use them for special occasions and we wash them up by hand as old china is not made for modern dishwasher temperatures and chemicals. It is worth the extra effort as they are truly beautiful. For this dinner party as it was only for 8 people I chose the blue and white china with the white Belgian linen cloth and napkins. My good cutlery were also a score from an upmarket French cafe and again are worth quite a bit brand new but buying it this way was so reasonable- they have simple rounded bottoms, very solid/heavy duty and good quality but dishwasher safe. (Part 3 will cover the correct way to set the cutlery).
I try not to be overly 'matching' or it may look like a wedding so I use a variety of candles for ambiance and interest. I use any mix of containers to hold tea lights - and what I use depends on the overall look I want but  for example I use old jam jars in a variety of sizes, I use any gorgeous glasses I may have for some height and I also have a variety of French candles in their own containers (glass bottles and jars). These may be bunched together or spread along the centre of the table. Lastly I use some sort of flower or fruit as a final flourish. I had to laugh as I hadn't worked out what I would use and as I shop for groceries online I had ordered pears for my fruit bowl, when they arrived they were some weird mini pears?? Viola! a really cute, rustic, provincial looking table decoration and a conversation starter too! Well enough from me- here are some pics to hopefully inspire you xxCorrina Images copy right Corrina Tough 2013

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Secrets of a successful dinner party part 1

Last Friday was my husbands birthday and it got me to thinking what is the recipe for a successful dinner party? Is it the music? the food?the table? We decided to have an intimate dinner party with just our children and one other couple so I could really go to town on the table and food. I thought I would do a little mini- series on my tips and tricks for a beautiful evening. This time I'll focus on the table, anyone who knows me well knows I love white and I have a few well worn white damask table cloths, however, none of them fit my huge dining table 3metres long x  1.5-2mtres wide. So you can imagine my delight when I was travelling around France last year I had a week in Provence and picked up a stunning 3mtre white Belgian linen cloth with 15 napkins! This was the first time I had laid it on the table after coming home and it did take my breath away.  Firstly, I try to use the best I have- it doesn't have to match you can tie it together with a neutral background and this is why I love white table cloths as they go with any china, candles/flowers and room styles. If I want to be less formal my table stays naked (natural wood). For a truly beautiful and smooth look iron linen on a hot iron and lay the table straight away- alternatively always iron and fold after washing so it's ready for the next time. I make sure the sides are hanging evenly and the chairs are slightly ajar from the table so the cloth falls nicely.  Voila! ready to lay the china! Stay tuned for part two- Table decorations.
I hear you saying- WHITE!!! What about stains? I have had fairly positive success with Sards Wonder Oxy Plus stain remover sprayed on stains and left over night, then soak in the washing machine with nappysan and warm water. It came out perfectly. One napkin had chocolate on it and I repeated the process to a result. Red wine came out immediately. xxCorrina 
All images Copyright Corrina Tough 2013                      
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