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    Preparing Lobster for Competition

A Well Set Table

By Kathy Hester

Black Table SettingSetting the scene for a wonderful dinner is worth the effort. A welcoming table is one of the keys to a relaxing, enjoyable dinner. Of course, the food plays a big part too - but you already know that.

If you have a beautiful natural wood table you can forgo a tablecloth and use place mats instead. I always use Noritake china because it creates such an elegant table all on its own. Don't under estimate the presence of a perfectly folded napkin. Personally, I prefer it on the base plate rather than in a wine or water glass. I find it can be awkward for both the server and the guest if it is in the glass.

Make sure the napkins are well pressed and starched before folding. It makes it easier on the servers and has more impact on your guests. An un-starched napkin is the limp handshake of a restaurant.

Use mainly solid color or white plates for the food. After all, it is the true centerpiece of a great meal. You can add in a few accent pieces or use a square salad plate while the rest of service round ones are utilized. You want the effect to match the atmosphere of your place.

There is always a question of setting wine glasses down as wine is ordered or if it is set as a matter of course. I think it's fine to set them ahead of time if you are using it as a tool to sell more wine. But if you have beautiful, hand blown wine glasses specific for certain wines, it's more dramatic to have them sent out to a table that is less glasses.

I think it's easiest on everyone if the silver for the entire meal (including dessert and coffee) is set before hand. The silver alone adds a certain presence to your table. Of course, you will be adding more depending on the guest's order, but that too can add to the ambiance.>

Fresh flowers and candles are always welcome, but try to reach out of the rut many places get into. Try adding fresh herbs to your usual bouquet. In the winter, try adding a few small leaves of rainbow kale or ornamental cabbage for a twist. Remember, you are creating the first impression of your restaurant as soon as a guest walks through the door.