How to: Set the table
How to: Set the table
Setting the table can be the best part of planning a dinner party. It lets you take a break from the preparations (the cleaning, the cooking, the stashing of clutter) and focus on making a beautiful statement. Here's how to do it right:
Build from the ground up
Start with your tablecloth. If it's thin -- silk, perhaps -- you'll want a protective layer underneath. (A quilted cloth underneath gives items on the table some traction, since it stops the tablecloth from sliding around.) Lay the tablecloth out so the seam runs evenly down the middle of your table and hangs about a foot and a half over the edge. Any longer and guests may get their legs tangled in it.
Next comes the runner. It's a great way to add colour to the table if you need it and protection for the table if you don't. Place warm serving dishes along the runner.
Now put out trivets for warm dishes, and candle holders in between. Starting this way lets you see how the food should be brought out so guests can reach the mashed potatoes or the turkey plate without burning themselves.
Dinner plates are centred where your guests will be sitting; salad or bread plates should be slightly above and to the left.
Start from the outside of the plate and work your way in, toward the dinner plate, thinking of each course as you go. Utensils for apps are farthest from the dinner plate; those for the main are closest to it.
Starting on the left that means: a salad fork, fish fork, dinner fork, then your dinner plate, then fish knife, dinner knife, soup spoon and fruit spoon. Dessert fork and spoon (the fully set traditional table has so many spoons!) face in opposite directions at the top of the dinner plate.
Remember that all knife blades face toward the plate.
There's an assumption that the world is right-handed (no doubt this assumption bothers all the southpaws you know), so wine glasses go to the right, above the knives. The idea is that you'll hold the glass with your right hand and be able to reach it and rest it easily, with your right hand, on the right-hand side of your plate. All glasses go in this area -- starting from left to right, we have the water glass, red wine glass, white wine glass and champagne glass.
Traditionally, napkins are folded in rectangles and placed under the salad and dinner forks, but it's also acceptable to place them on top of dinner plates where they can serve as decoration as well.