WHAT MAKES a get-together memorable? Whether your entertaining style is casual or more considered, there are countless ways - both beautiful and practical - that can make your gatherings feel more distinctive. Here are some tips that will help you make a lasting impression on guests.
Cuttings from the herb garden aren't just great for making dishes taste more flavorful - they also make beautiful and unexpected centerpieces. For your next brunch gathering, try a fragrant arrangement of dill, rosemary, mint, basil, thyme, lavender, nasturtiums and flowering herbs. Place the stems in a small water-filled bowl, and then place the container in another high-sided bowl, so the cuttings just peek out over its edge.
Bowls sculpted from ice are a clever way to serve must-be-chilled foods, not to mention a delightful way to add sparkle to your table. You'll need two stainless steel bowls; one should fit inside the other with 1/2- inch to 1 inch between them.
Scatter any desired decorations, such as edible flowers, citrus slices or herbs, in the larger bowl. Place the small bowl inside, and tape them together so the rims are flush. Pour water between the bowls to 1/2-inch from the top. Add more decorations, arranging them with a skewer. Freeze overnight.
To unmold, let stand at room temperature on a dish towel until the bowls separate easily, 10 minutes to 20 minutes. Remove the tape. Lift the top bowl; invert the bottom bowl to remove the ice bowl. Freeze until needed.
If food should be kept dry, set a glass bowl within the ice bowl before displaying. Place a dish towel underneath to catch drips.
Seashells, stones and other found objects can be transformed into party-perfect place cards when you use an ink pad and rubber stamps to embellish them. The stamps can be applied to almost any surface; play with different objects and various ink colors to complement your table's decor or to serve as tie-ins to your event's overall decorative scheme. Use white ink to print a guest's name across a leaf, brown to add monograms and decorative touches to pebbles, and aqua to top a plain shell with a fanciful sea horse.
When you're feeding a crowd, it's nice to have small bites that can be prepared in large quantities with little fuss. With a mini-muffin tin, you can turn out multiple crowd-pleasers with ease. Use one to make bite-size frittatas, cornbread or any other minitreat.
A creative napkin fold can turn a dinner napkin into a pocket for holding breadsticks, flowers or silverware. Fold the bottom edge of a napkin up to the middle. Fold the bottom up again on top of itself. Then fold in the two sides to meet in the back. Fold in the sides again, and then place the napkin on the table, with goodies tucked into the front pocket. *
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