This title comes as a recurring theme in the Etiquette and Entertaining column. It was recently requested by a reader to give some quickie ideas for entertaining with carryouts.
With summer in full swing and fall lurching on the horizon, a hostess needs all the help the creative mind can produce. Short cuts must be available in the home, the landscaped garden and certainly the table. It was not many years ago that if the silver were not gleaming, the centerpiece a winner of the garden club show and the food from page 10 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, then you couldn’t invite guests for a dinner party. Parties of this caliber have become fewer and fewer for obvious reasons. Rather than become a hermit, an alternative needed to be explored. New restaurants have recently been popping up like fireworks. What has emerged as a relatively new opportunity for entertaining is… carryout! Restaurants, fast food establishments, and county clubs offer pick up meals from their menus. Even FedEx has gotten into the mix – for a price. Email your favorite dining place in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc. They will package your menu selection, call FedEx and it will be delivered to your door in time for dinner the next night. With all of the options, how to present this purchased prize is still up to your creativity.
Let a silver tray be your new best friend. Any food or drink will look better with a shiny presentation. Use this tray often.
Always discard and destroy all packaging – bags, pizza boxes, plastic forks and paper napkins. Do not advertise for anyone.
Arrange foods creatively on trays, plates or in serving bowls. Even mixed, cut-up fruit placed on a large plate with a dip or powdered sugar in the center will become very appealing. Add a few mint leaves around the edge of the plate to set off the chilled treat.
Purchased fried chicken looks yummy in a large basket lined with a seasonally colored cloth napkin.
Baskets work to increase the appeal of most foods. A glass bowl may be placed in a basket to be used for slaw or potato salad.
Barbecue Ribs prepared and purchased at the grocery store may be kept warm on the outside grill set on low. The addition of bottled sauce will keep the meat from drying out. Serve on a large platter.
In the food presentation, always let fresh herbs assist in garnishing the serving plates. Some fresh flowers will add color but check the internet to determine that your flower is safe and not poisonous.
Paper doilies will gracefully allow your Brownies or Lemon Squares to appear as though they just popped out of your oven.
A small saucepan filled with water, whole cloves and cinnamon sticks simmering on the back burner will set the stage for a home cooked “something”. Scents speak volumes.
Flowers or fruit used as a centerpiece on the table will complement the foods you have artfully arranged.
When presenting those “creative wonders”, serve them Buffet Style on the table. It will be prettier than on a served plate.
A final tidbit: do Not, under any circumstance, talk about what you have done or how you have done it. As my Mother always noted, “Some things are best left unsaid!”