A great meal is the result of many elements coming together. Most cookbooks and recipes focus on the correct ingredients and how to prepare them, resulting in dishes we all enjoy.

The garnish takes this dish from good to great.

The garnish takes this dish from good to great.

In many cases the presentation and the way your meal and its components look is almost an afterthought. A great meal and its components need to look colorful, fresh and inviting. This is why cookbooks and cooking magazines are so popular. When we see pictures it inspires us to try something new.

When we host a cocktail party, a family dinner party or holiday gathering, spending just a few extra minutes on presentation can make all the difference. Some even say we eat with our eyes. Here are the concepts I keep in mind when planning for great presentation.

MOOD – set the mood for your event with a theme, colors, lighting, music or flowers.

•  Sports Watching Party – use a basketball, baseball cap or pompoms for a centerpiece.

•  Outdoor Barbecue – use gingham tablecloths, mason jars for ice tea, and hanging lanterns.

•  Birthday party – use brightly colored balloons, childhood pictures of the honoree, and a CD with songs from the era.

This picnic basket is a perfect example of setting a mood for an event with the careful mix of country items perfect for a barbecue.

This picnic basket is a perfect example of setting a mood for an event with the careful mix of country items perfect for a barbecue.

COLOR – this can come from table linens, plates, flowers, candles and food.

•  Colored bandanas as napkins for a southwest theme.

•  Shot glasses with butternut squash soup or fruit topped desserts.

•  Clay pots with seasonal flowers such as pansies.

•  Large candles to light a walkway or small ones for a romantic setting.

•  Use colors that complement each other on the plate.

•  Blanch vegetables for a brighter hue in color.


 

TEXTURE – this is how food is described or its visual description. It also adds dimension to the plate or platter.

•  Crunchy

•  Juicy

•  Creamy

•  Chopped

•  Julienned

•  Sliced

This plating shows how to pull off vertical stacking of a dish to lend interest and elegance to the plate.</p></td></tr>
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This plating shows how to pull off vertical stacking of a dish to lend interest and elegance to the plate.

PLATING OR ARRANGEMENT – think about how your plate will look.

•  Vertical stacking looks better than flat presentation.

•  Drizzle sauces from a squeeze bottle or use a paintbrush instead of pouring sauces on a plate for a cleaner presentation.

•  When setting up a buffet, make it two sided and elevate items for visual appeal.

•  Add height and texture to a cheese platter by adding bread sticks.

GARNISH – an item used to decorate or enhance your plate.

•  Sometimes garnishes are used to tell guests what is in a dish, such as dill.

•  Garnishes should add color or enhance the plate, not overpower the plate.

•  Edible flowers are also a great garnish and add color.