There is a certain satisfaction to having set a table well. We’ve outgrown the college practice of eating out of the box (or have we?), and it is important that we master the art of easy entertaining. For guys, it means extra points when trying to win someone’s admiration. And it’s really quite rewarding to pull off a great setting. It’s a practice that’s often neglected but is extremely important. The table setting sets the bar for the dinner, and shows how much effort your host is putting into the evening.
Too often, it becomes a last-minute task, when we have neither the time nor the wits to know where to put the correct flatware, napkins, plates and glassware.
I made a checklist of items one needs for a proper table setting. Nothing ornate, I stuck to the basics. These things are easy to find in big box stores like S/R, and are accessible to anyone.
The number of placemats is really a function of the number of seats on your table, but it would be good to keep a few extra pieces in case they soil. I suggest two sets—an easy-to-clean plastic type, and a plain fabric, plain-print set. It’s really a matter of taste. Remember that they should be machine washable and easy to dry and press.
There are so many choices out there. Remember when buying a place setting to include: the dining plate, the salad plate, the soup bowl, the dessert plate, coffee cup and its saucer.
They come in two styles. Asian and European. The Asian plates have no band so the food, perfect for Filipino dining, fills the plate with mixed sauces to the edge. The European (ala Noritake) have a banded platter to keep the food in the center of the plate. Again, it is a matter of choice. We like the Asian plates, they are less fussy.
Salad plates can double as dessert plates if you like, but please never use the coffee saucer for anything other than what it was made for.
Pinoys like sawsawan so pick up small bowls, either round or square, for patis and toyo, or other sauces.
Unless you received flatware as a wedding gift, it would be good to invest in weighted stainless steel sets—or if you are willing to splurge, silver. What we mean by weighted is that when you hold your knife and fork, there is some heft to it—something akin to hotel silverware. Weight gives it a sense of elegance, and appeal. Again, it is about budget. If you aren’t too finicky you can always scour flea markets. In our video, we show you how to set the table.
The napkin is also a matter of choice. You can place it on the center of the plate. Secure with a napkin ring if you’re feeling extra fancy.
Keep it simple with a water goblet and wine glass—which should increase depending on the number of wines you’re serving.
There is a lot of thinking that goes into tablescaping, though not necessarily a lot of work. A few vases with grocery-bought flowers will always be a nice touch. Having said all this, it’s important to keep the focus on the food, your family and friends. Guests can smell stress the way dogs can smell fear.
Again, keep it simple, and invest within your means. Meanwhile as for your questions on how to put the above elements together, watch our video.