Setting the table

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Updated: 4/13/2007 7:48 am
Formal dinner parties have been on the wane for many years, and the age-old question of 'Which fork goes where?' seldom applies. Most parties today are informal, buffet-style affairs, but the appearance of your table is still of prime importance. It can set the mood for the entire evening. If you have enough space, locate the buffet table in the center of the room, so guests can get to the food easily. If you need to run electricity to warming dishes, tape the cords to the floor so they can't be tripped over. Think about how traffic will flow and arrange the foods accordingly. Starting at one end and proceeding around the table, the order should be: plates, rice or pasta, main dish, vegetable, salad, bread, relishes, tableware, and napkins. You can offer two or more versions of any of these for larger occasions. Try to keep the menu simple and the table uncluttered. Simplicity is also a good idea when it comes to centerpieces. A single large blossom floating in water in a crystal bowl is quietly elegant. For a more dramatic effect, use a round mirror as a base. Seasonal fruits, vegetables, or flowers make excellent centerpieces. For a summertime affair, carve out a watermelon and fill it with chunks of fresh fruit. This can also solve the problem of what to serve for dessert.

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