Why serve a stuffy sit-down dinner at your next get-together when you can impress friends and family with a gourmet grazing table?
Dating back to medieval times, these elaborate feasting tables also served as displays of opulence by British aristocrats in the 1800s. And they’re back in vogue because they’re typically easier than serving a plated dinner and they allow guests to mingle while enjoying an array of flavorful foods at their convenience. Plus, when grazing tables are done right, they are a feast for the eyes as well.
Follow these simple tips to create a lavish grazing table for your next gathering:
Start with your surfaces
First, cover your table with an elegant table cloth. Next, create visual interest by piling on your serving vessels—we’re taking decorative platters, mounted trays, different-sized cutting boards, woven baskets, mason jars and dainty ramekins for sauces and dips.
Generate a sense of height by placing larger items at the back of the table and smaller ones up front. Be sure to choose an array of eye-catching patterns and colors and arrange your elements in an artful, inviting way.
Choose your ingredients
Grazing tables often consist of an assortment of seasonal fruits, veggies, meats and cheeses. But there really are no rules when it comes to feeding friends and family in this dramatic, decadent manner.
Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Apple slices, berries, figs, grapes, grape tomatoes, melons, olives and other fruits
- Broccoli, carrot sticks, cauliflower, marinated zucchini and other vegetables
- Sliced chicken, ham, turkey, salami, prosciutto and other meats
- Crab legs, oysters, shrimp and other seafoods
- Chicken strips, sliders, mini quiches and other finger foods
- Brie, buffalo mozzarella, cheddar and other soft and hard cheeses
- Bruschetta, French onion dip, hummus, spinach dip and other dips
- Baguettes, crackers, crostini, croissants and other breads
- Pistachios, almonds, cashews and other nuts
- Chocolates, cookies, petit fours, macarons and other desserts
You can also add beverages to your grazing board. Depending on the guest list and time of day, you might choose a pitcher of orange juice or mimosa or individual glasses filled with lemonade, iced tea, sangria or your signature cocktail.
Have extra food in reserve
Preparation is key when entertaining. Keep ample food in reserve and pay close attention to your grazing table during your gathering. If certain foods are more popular than others, you may have noticeable gaps in your display. Refill these mouthwatering morsels as they begin to run low. You don’t want your elaborate presentation to suffer—or your guests to go hungry.
Apply finishing touches
It’s important to adorn your grazing table with a variety of delicious foods. But it’s the presentation that will truly make your meal memorable.
After you are done arranging the flavorful fare on your grazing board (be sure to group it in a logical manner, such as placing the dip near the crackers), garnish it with fresh herbs, like sprigs of thyme or rosemary. Then take your presentation to the next level by adding beautiful serving pieces (e.g., cheese knives, serving spoons, tongs), candlesticks and fresh flowers to the table.