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Table Setting: Various Styles

As I mentioned last week, what is placed at each seat will depend on which style of service is chosen. Here is a quick run-down of dinner styles.

    European or Russian style:

This style has an underliner plate that stays on for the first few courses. Wait staff only. This is the most formal style. Salad comes after the main dish.

    Compromise or Family:

The host sits at one end of table and carves. The hostess may be beside or at the other end, and serves veggies. There is no wait staff. All plates are set at the serving end, filled by the host and hostess, then passed around the table to the person served.

Family style avoids the problem of passing hot or heavy serving dishes as in Country style. It also lends itself to showing off the intact roasted turkey, roasts, fancy desserts, etc.

    Blue Plate:

The food is served onto plates and the plates brought to the table. There are no serving dishes on the table. This is good for controlling portion sizes.

    Country or American:

Serving dishes are set on the table, and passed around. The textbooks say to pass to the right, but the key thing is to get them all passed in the same direction. Direction of passing becomes important when something needs to come after something else like gravy for mashed potatoes.

    Buffet:

Food is placed on a side table or counter. Restaurants put the expensive food like the roast last so the customer’s plate is already full when they get there. At home the correct order is plates, main dish, veggies/potatoes/rice, rolls last. Anything that goes on something else needs to be just past it in the line.

Preferably, napkins and silverware are on the table but if they have to be in the buffet line, they need to be last so guests do not have to hold them while serving themselves. Dessert can be served to the table (like blue plate style), served at the table (like family style) or be in a different buffet area. It is best to have a means of clearing the table before dessert is served. Salads can be in the buffet line or pre-served to the table.

    Ranch Buffet:

Guests serve themselves at the stove from the cooking pots. The plates are set on the table at the seats along with silverware and napkins.

Advantages and disadvantages of each style:

Blue Plate offers good portion control. Need to make the food last for two meals? Want to make sure the kids get a serving of vegetable? Is someone dieting? Also, you don’t need to own any serving dishes. Fewer dishes to wash. Blue Plate is especially good if you have a very small table since you don’t need space for serving dishes. Buffet needs some place to set up the buffet.

The number of dishes of course impacts the space needed.

Family or Compromise style gives some portion control also, since the host/hostess is doing the serving.

Buffet is the fastest service when you have a large group.

American (Country) and Buffet is less work for the hostess since everyone serves themselves. Guests like to determine exactly how much of each thing they are getting. It’s easier to get seconds with Country style.

Family style avoids the problem of passing hot or heavy serving dishes as in Country style. It also lends itself to showing off the intact roasted turkey, roasts, fancy desserts, etc.

Ranch buffet is the easiest, but shows off your dirty stove.

Next week see one of these styles in action.

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