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all in the presentation how to pretty up your party food table by Yee-Fan Sun | 1 2 3
Call me shallow, call me frivolous, but this I believe: looks matter -- when it comes to party nibbles that is. Yes, yes, I know that food's meant for eating. It's about flavor; it's about texture; it's about taste. None of which should be remotely affected by how a given food strikes the eye. But see, as with all good things, anticipation is a big part of the full appreciation. Food that looks lovely offers promise; it makes you look forward to taking a bite, providing enjoyment well before it ever hits your taste buds. Which is why when it comes to setting up the party spread, good cooking (or smart shopping if you're taking the lazy way out) is just the beginning. Before you host your next big get-together, check out these tips on how to create a buffet table that delights the eye as much as the stomach, inviting folks to dig in…

1 Flower power. Pack a table with nothing but platters full of little eats and the result, while good for the belly, is likely to be aesthetic chaos. This, then, is where the centerpiece comes in. It gives the table a firm focus, a visual anchor; it draws the eye. Still, I'm not going to get all Martha Stewart on y'all. Few folks I know -- myself included -- have either the time or the inclination to craft the kinds of elaborate seasonal centerpieces extolled in domesticity magazines. But a bunch of fresh flowers popped in a vase? Heck, it's a no-brainer. Which is why flowers tend to be my table centerpiece of choice. Pick up your favorite blooms while you're shopping for groceries for your fete, find a container for them, plop the arrangement on the table and move on to dealing with the food.

2 Not just for drinking. A cool container can snazz up even the most ordinary of offerings, so get a little creative; there's no reason to limit yourself to objects that are expressly made for the purpose of serving a given food. If you happen to have a set of lovely little serving bowls and dishes, fabulous -- by all means, now's the time to use them. But if not, there's no need to run out shopping just yet. Think outside of the box: try raiding your glassware collection. Cocktail glasses and wine glasses might be meant for drinks, but they also make dandy serving dishes for ice cream and custard, a colorful fruit salad perhaps. Less-tippable brandy glasses, meanwhile, work well for dips, as do those short stout old-fashioneds. Looking for a slightly different way to serve the standard raw veggies? Cut them into longer strips, and serve vertically by standing them up in juice glasses.

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