Chef tossing vegetables in wok

Make Your Dinner Theater

Six simple ways to make your entertaining more entertaining

It's the little touches that make ordinary food extraordinary, whether the artful drizzle of icing on pastry or the flourish with which a baker slices and wraps your bread. Here are some simple touches you can add to each element (drinks, appetizers, entree, dessert) of tonight's meal, or the next time you entertain guests, that are sure to add some flair. 

Tie a citrus bow. Cut long slices of peel from a lime, lemon and orange with a vegetable peeler. Cut into even strips about 4 inches long, tie into loose knots, and float on drinks and cocktails. 

Decorate with herbs, micro-greens or edible flowers. This is so easy yet so elegant. Simply buy a selection of fresh herbs at the market (dill, rosemary, parsley…) and arrange artfully around your appetizers. Micro-green mixes and flowers such as nasturtiums also work well.

Substitute leaves for serving trays. Another great way to make even ordinary appetizers look special is to serve them on banana leaves. They're nature's placemat. The big, green, inexpensive leaves are available fresh or frozen at Asian supermarkets. 

Stack the entrée. Gourmet chefs in high-end restaurants stack their food and so can you. Here's the secret: Remove both ends from a clean, empty soup or vegetable can. Coat the inside with a little olive oil to make it slippery, place in the middle of the plate, then layer with potatoes or rice, followed by meat or fish, and finally vegetables. Tamp down and carefully slide the can off. 

Paint the plates. To fill in the empty plate-space around each stack of food, put your sauces into plastic mustard or ketchup dispensers – the same ones you see at diners – and squeeze out some artful squiggles. Delight your family or guests by writing their name (or a special message). 

Invest in edible gold. This can make a special occasion really memorable and act as a fitting end to your meal. Buy some gold leaf or less-expensive gold flake from a gourmet foods shop. Both work particularly well atop chocolate desserts and, yes, it is totally safe to eat in small quantities.