I’ve been asked this question a couple of times: what kind of serving ware do you have, and why?
It’s a pretty easy question to answer, and the answer is mostly dictated by your needs. I host a fair bit and am often in need of things that will display and serve food for more than ten people. I’m either serving four or ten, never much in between. Regardless, once you’re equipped to serve 10 +, you’re equipped to serve four people.
In my dream home I will have a butler’s pantry and stock it full of my china and serving ware, it will be amazing and look something like this:
But will most likely look like this – a cupboard;
Storage should be a big consideration when expanding your collection, so consider a china hutch or some extra shelving in the basement before buying a 60 piece china set!
You can get pretty specific here and have different types of platters based on the type of “main” you’re serving, but since space is at a premium most of the time, I opt for one or two simple plates that will fit well with anything and everything.
Traditional meat platters have draining canals built into the plate/tray to ensure that the meal isn’t sitting in its own excess juices. Traditional fish platters are often more oval and shaped so that you can serve a whole fish.
I for one enjoy my oval platter because I can fit a roast, a turkey, fish, chicken and burgers – the list goes on! Unless you’re doing a bunch of hosting and really need your massive roasts to drain, you should be good with any sturdy platter.
Cake stands and domes
If you only buy one thing that’s fancy and fun, it should be a cake stand. You can find a million and one variations, from fanciful blown glass, to a simple pedestal. The amount of whimsy is entirely dependent on your needs. I have five now. Yup, five.
Three are the same brand, same style, but different size variations; they’re great for providing continuity in presentation, and give me some wiggle room in sizing the cake. Another one is white china with a beautiful silver leaf design, perfect for small cakes and cupcakes. My fifth and final one is plastic has a dome; perfect for outside or countertop permanence.
If a store-bought cake stand is out of your price point, consider taking to pinterest to see what you can make! You’d be surprised with a thrifted plate and candle stick or vase can do. The same principle applies to dollar store finds – the opportunities are endless when combined with spray paint.
These may seem pretty ridiculous, but you’d be amazed how much space they save, especially if you’re working with a small table or buffet. You can pick up some decent ones through the Bay or other major department stores. I am not fan of cup-cake only tiered stands; I prefer the that ones will let you put anything on them.
Circular stands are nice but because there are no corners, and you get a bit more square-inch coverage for display, that being said I also love my square stand.
These are a small expense, but will go a long way to making your table look that much more put-together. You can find these at your local thrift shop, as they’re usually in abundance once a shop/restaurant closes.
Simple circular designs won’t fail you, but I’ve opted for a fun ruffled edge shallow bowl in plain white and found matching condiment spoons at Pier 1 imports for about 2$. Great for mustard, ketchup, aoli etc.
They look a little more polished than having a large ketchup bottle with stained ketchup crusts around the rim. This being said, if it’s just me and the hubby eating dinner with a friend, the condiment bowls stay put. Let them see the ketchup crust!
Decorative serving plates
If you have personally been in my kitchen, ever, you will know that I have about 4 different sets of decorative serving plates, and at least a dozen themed plates (all-in) for Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Alice in Wonderland etc.). I’ve acquired them on an “as needed” basis, or because they’re just plain old pretty. Although completely un-necessary, I think that they really bring an element of fun to a table.
My fun Christmas plates hold cookies and chocolates during the christmas season, while the turkey ones hold various Thanksgiving paraphernalia and pumpkin pie. Can you see where I’m going here?
I recommend you grab a set not only for their seasonal value, but also because of their utility. Chances are, if you’re serving eight for dinner and your china set is for eight, you’ll need some extra plates or bowls for the gravy boat, the extra cheeses or others, why not make them seasonally appropriate?
Yes, you need them.
Because serving mashed potatoes in a heaping pile on a plate is not cool.
I try and find ones that will match my china, so white. I have about eight different serving bowls of various sizes, all of which match even though none of them are from the same sets/patterns. This is mostly a home sense, Target and The Bay collection of various brands, and they’re perfect!
Garage sales are a great place to find them, as are estate sales. Chances are you won’t find as many at your local thrift store, because everyone can use a big bowl, so they usually get snatched-up. If you can though, focus on getting an entire set!
No one was ever poorly looked-upon for having a pie server or a cake knife. No one was ever looked upon poorly for NOT having them either, I just find they make life easier.
A cake knife is usually long enough to span the diameter of your cake or pie (and spare you the awkward re-entry of the knife, or dragging it through a half-cut cake). Pie servers are also mighty handy, and will save you having to put your fingers all over the food you’re serving as you try and balance it on a knife blade.
The same goes for a carving set: it will make carving the turkey or roast beast that much easier. No, electric knives are not allowed.
Salad servers are also a good idea, because you may not want your massive tongs or two forks scrapping around inside a nice bowl.
A soup ladle that isn’t neon green plastic will also be handy.
The following are utensils I recommend you grab when the occasion presents itself: ice-cream scoop (no one likes a bent spoon), nice tongs (for serving thick cuts of meat, or vegetables), carving set, pie servers, large spoons (for mashed potatoes and things that can be scooped), a large fork (for things that need to be forked), a large pasta spatula (the ones with sieves and tines).
This is the kind of thing you don’t think you need, until you start wondering where your gosh-darn bread basket is!?! They’re great for holding crackers, chips etc., so next time you see one, think about taking it home with you.
You can do a classic wire basket, or check out the cool ceramic ones.
Anything beyond this set of accoutrements and you’re entering into china hutch territory. Things like a soup tureen, punch bowl, chip and dips etc. are nice, but not necessary. Chances are you can make things work with what you already have. This being said, I will never pass up the opportunity to look at cute salt and pepper shakers or more decorative little bowls.
What’s in your serving ware collection?