The Little Things in Life: Food Presentation

by Maxine Glass - Date: 2007-01-19 - Word Count: 1124 Share This!

While it may seem silly, the appearance of a little radish rose on my salad plate has the power to tickle me from head to toe. Maybe it's my fondness for the concept of edible art. Moreover, can you deny that a pretty dessert or any other dish just seems to taste better? Even the slightest special touches in culinary preparation and presentation transform the mere act of eating into a full-blown aesthetic experience. Sprucing up a buffet for a party or a sit-down meal for guests (or an especially spoiled loved one) is easier than you might think and makes all the difference. People will be truly dazzled by these extra little touches. Here are some ideas to get you started in the art of food presentation. Good luck!

Presentation Basics

Color- When it comes to color, it's all about creating contrasts. A dish with a white sauce is going to look boring on a white plate. When it comes to "plating" food, put a few colorful vegetables next to visually bland items like mashed potatoes. Even a dollop of yogurt can look spectacular atop a bowl of split-pea soup!Chargers, the circular settings under plates, are also a great opportunity for color and contrast. They come in all different colors, textures, and materials. Nature- The best food presentation incorporates the beauty of nature. A simple vase of flowers can do so much for a table, but experiment with less common items like pinecones. Fill a vase with crabapples and pinecones for a great-smelling autumn centerpiece. Mix flowers and fruits for especially beautiful and interesting centerpieces. For example, intersperse white flowers with limes in a silver bowl, or combine bright lilies with tropical fruits. While porcelain and glass serving platters are common in food presentation, don't forget wood! Natural and even exotic woods work beautifully to display items like breads and cheese. Odd Numbers- A good rule of thumb in any type of decorating is that an odd number of items grouped together is more visually attractive. Just as you would, for example, place a group of three pillar candles on the fireplace mantle, keep the same rule of odd numbers in mind when decorating your table or buffet and when garnishing plates.Whiteware- Nothing is as elegant or as easily adaptable as a set of basic whiteware, including white platters, plates, and white linens. You can dress it up or down for different events. On The Plate

Smaller is Better- Take a cue from fancy restaurants and create smaller, more elegant portions. Slice vegetables like bell peppers into thin strips. Use plates with a smaller basin for food, but a larger rim to create the illusion of a larger portion. Arrange the food vertically or fan it outward from the center for more artistic arrangements.Garnish- While this may seem obvious, only decorate with edible food. You want people's taste buds to respond to everything on the plate. Moreover, the garnish should correspond to predominant flavors in the dish. Garnish with sprigs of rosemary for a chicken dish with rosemary in it.Sprinkle- If a food looks boring, sprinkle on some fresh chopped herbs, nuts, or finely chopped vegetables. Squeeze Bottles- Forget the ladle! The big thing with sauces right now is to paint and drizzle designs over your food with a squeeze bottle. Drizzle thin lines of teriyaki sauce back and forth over dumplings, for example. Curls, Roses, and other Edible Accoutrements

Butter Curls/RosettesHeat a butter curler under hot water for a moment and pull gently over a stick of firm butter to create curls. Dip in hot water between each curl. Use softened butter and a piping bag with a flower nozzle to create pretty butter flowers. Remember to keep chilled until right before serving!Vegetable CreationsCarrots- Use a vegetable peeler to cut strips of carrot, roll each into a spiral, and secure with a toothpick. Submerge in ice water for several hours and the carrot strip will remain curled after removing the toothpick. Cherry Tomatoes- To create a cherry tomato flower, cut a small X on the blossom side of a cherry tomato. Partially peel back the tomato skin in the four sections with a sharp knife to make four petals. Cucumber/Zucchini- Create fluting along a cucumber or zucchini slice with a fork. Green Onions- For green onion "brushes," cut the roots and most of the top portion from a green onion and make several cuts at both ends to produce a fringe. After being submerged in ice water for a couple hours, the onion ends will curl back like brushes. Leeks- Make pretty leek "asters" by first cutting off the roots and the bottom a little. Cut into 3-4 cm parts. Using a sharp knife, make many cuts along leek but don't split the bottom. Soak the leeks in cold water for a day and the flowers will curl out. Sprinkle with beet juice for a touch of color.Radish- Slice small triangles all around the radish and peel back the red skin to create flower petals. Or, make several cuts radiating out from the top center of the radish, soak in cold water, and the radish will "open" on its own. For a cute and simple trick, slice the radish very thin and use the round slices as petals for a flat flower. You can use a carrot slice for the center of the flower and scallions or cucumber peel for the stem.Sweet TouchesChocolate- Let a bar of chocolate come to room temperature and carefully draw a vegetable peeler along the bar to create long curling strips. Use the narrow side to create thin curls and the broad side to make bigger curls. To make chocolate leaves, find some nontoxic, broad leaves such as mint, rose, or lemon. Brush melted semi-sweet chocolate on the underside of the leaves, wiping off any that runs to the front of the leaves. Repeat layers of chocolate to make sturdier leaves. Place chocolate leaves, chocolate side up, on a baking sheet lined with wax paper, and freeze until hard. Then, simply peel away the real leaf from the chocolate leaf. Fruit- Make strawberry fans with stemmed strawberries. Simply cut many, small slices into the strawberry almost to the green stem but not quite through and then fan out the strawberry. Or for an easier trick, brush fresh fruit with a mixture of water and meringue powder, and then immediately sprinkle with (granulated) sugar for a frosted look. Sugar- Powdered sugar (or cocoa powder) can easily create designs on top of brownies or a cake. Cut out a design from a piece of sturdy paper, such as swirls or stars, and then lay the piece of paper over the dessert. Sift the powder on top and then carefully remove the paper. Voila!

Related Tags: food, tips, cooking, recipe, meal, drink, presentation, gourmet, table, setting, plating, garnish

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