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Serving dish suggestions?

BF and I do fair amount of casual entertaining. We've used up most of our kitchen space for cooking gear/tools and don't have much left for serving dishes. We have a few very simple large dishes and bowls, but I was wondering if anyone had suggestions on dressing up plates, bowls, mixing bowls, pyrex dishes, etc. to be more presentable. We normally let people serve themselves from the kitchen, but I'd like to work on the presentation a little more without having to buy a bunch of new big dishes we don't have room for.

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  1. My grandma always laid lettuce leaves or other greens on serving plates - I use this trick to cover up my ratty cookie sheets, etc when I need big serving pieces. A colorful teatowel swagged around pyrex or bowls can dress them up a bit. Cool serving utentils (spoons, forks, etc) don't take up much space and look good.

    1. as in- you let guests serve themselves family (buffet) style when you're entertaining?

      if that's what you mean- you could enhance the presentation by putting a nice tablecloth or something on the counter first. you could also pile books or something on the counter under the tablecloth so dishes are on different levels.

      4 Replies
      1. re: excuse me miss

        Yes, usually we leave everything in the pots/pans/baking dishes and let people serve themselves. It works and no one minds, but I'd like to spruce things up a bit.

        1. re: geekyfoodie

          Can you swap out dishes that have baked on goo for clean ones? That would go a long way toward a nicer presentation. And making the entire serving area brighter and more festive would work. You could use a table cloth and set it at differeing levels, as EMM suggested. I would also have flowers, candles, or whatever you feel is appropriate for this particular occasion.

          1. re: geekyfoodie

            at my family events the food is usually all set out on the dining or kitchen table- and we eat on our laps or sit on a cusion at the coffee table. you could also use colorful- i forget what they're called- those things you put under a hot dish to protect your table.
            maybe name cards on each dish to describe what it is?

            1. re: excuse me miss

              Trivets are the things you put under a hot dish - I need more of them. But, I have a set of everyday placemats with cork bottoms, and they also work well to protect the table. When I'm serving a more formal meal, I'll put a cloth napkin or placemat on top of the corked backed placemats, so that they "match" the rest of the table setting.

              The other thing is that I find that serving dishes actually don't take up much room - serving platters can be stacked on top of one another and bowls can be stacked within one another (I try to put those little round "plate protector" discs between them so that they don't get scratched). I also often just use extra dinner plates and various sized bowls (soup, cereal, etc.) to serve food on. You can pile up steaks nicely on a dinner plate and garnish with some herbs etc. Another idea is to look around your home and "see what you have" - maybe you have some ornamental bowls that you can actually use to serve food - if you are worried about harming them, or about food interaction with the medium, you can line the bowl with foil/saran wrap first.

              I have a *tiny* New York kitchen with at the most 4 or 5 square feet of counter space, limited storage space and a ton of kitchen equipment, dishes and glasses - not to mention ingredients. You'd be amazed how much you can store if you keep reorganizing. I've moved to consecutively smaller kitchens, and somehow everything still fits and I seem to keep amassing more. I also use areas other than the kitchen to store sets of dishes, cookware that I use less often, even pantry items.

              I know this is digressing from the OP's request for dressing up cookware to serve the food, but I also feel that when I've done so much work to prepare a nice meal, I like to serve it in serving dishes at the table. Lately I've been using several cazuelas a lot - an oval gratin dish and some round ones - they can go in the oven and then look pretty nice on the table. Another option, of course, is for you to plate the food in the kitchen, and serve it to your guests that way - no serving dishes needed, no extra washing up.

        2. Look for baskets that will hold mixing bowls, pyrex dishes, etc. They are easily found at many discout stores, open markets, garage sales, etc. When the baskets are not being used to camouflage serving dishes, they can be used as storage, hung on the wall, or as decorative accent pieces in your home.

          1. The first thing i would look at is the general conditon of the stuff you cook/prep/serve in. If it is in good condition, looks nice...then your accessorizing needs would be minimal. Like you said, you are doing casual entertaining, I doubt your guests are not surprised to find that you aren't serving from wedgewood and waterford platters and bowls.

            2 Replies
            1. re: KaimukiMan

              Agreed - but you can find some really nice looking serving dishes at places like Marshall's, Target and Tuesday Morning, for v. little money.

              1. re: MMRuth

                I understood the issue was space, not $$.