Tuesday, December 8, 2009

let's dish

most of us don't have enough matching dishes, glasses or silverware to entertain large groups of people, and for most, it's a pretty low priority when it comes right down to it, so we just pick out pretty paper goods and call it a day. BUT, in the spirit of the holidays and of the greening we so badly all need to participate in, i wanted to share the concept of the caterer's box, brought to us by pottery barn.

they're boxed sets of entertaining essentials, and they're a great tool for having matching and abundant pieces in any home. they can be stocked with the rest of your dishes for everyday use (cheap way to get a whiteware set!), or safely packed away in their easy-carry boxes and stored between events.

in the case of the 12-piece salad and dinner plates , the classic white dishes work out to be between $3 and $4 each - pretty unbeatable -- and they come in both porcelain and melamine, good for wherever you plan on using them. they seriously pay for themselves after 2 uses, considering the price of nice paper goods (and this is so much greener!)

they have a caterers box of 16 oz wine glasses which also works out to $4 each, and they're a nice, standard size and can be used for any type of beverage. it definitely seems to uncomplicate drink service when there is only one kind of glass, and this is a great way to amass enough of them to achieve that.

their flatware set is also a great buy, particularly because you're not buying pieces that casual entertaining doesn't call for. the set includes service for 12 with a fork, knife and spoon in each setting. at $99, it works out to just over $8 per setting - again, quite a deal if you think about plastic silverware and the fact that you can use these hundreds of times.

i think these are great entertaining tools because it removes some of the thought process about which dishes you're using, if you have enough, god forbid one breaks, etc... but yet it allows you so much freedom in terms of your palette and theme. some people would always prefer to use their fine china and silver for holidays, and i think that's lovely. in that case, sets like this can at least provide an option for the other meals that always surround the holiday meal - the night before when everyone is home from their far-flung locales, the breakfast the next morning before they all leave, etc.

having said that, pottery barn does carry some items in this form that i'm not a huge fan of, and i think it's in these areas where the mass purchasing can go a little far.

they sell a set of three serving pieces, which at $119 (or $99 on sale) seems overpriced to me because what's nice about the dishes being white is that you can accessorize them easily, inexpesnively and over time with pieces from macy's, homegoods and many other stores which have extensive basic white collections. and you know how i love my white dishes.

pottery barn also has a set of napkin rings/placecard holders which they really just phoned in, in my opinion, and i think you could do better on the candles too.

ultimately, i think the best way to use bulk purchases like this is as a foundation, and adding your own finishing touches based on season, event and your own ever-evolving taste and preferences is of utmost importance - it's what makes your home and your parties and holidays yours, and not everyone else who has pottery barn dishes.

because the dishes and glasses are so classic in design, you can easily spruce up your spread with table linens and accessories of your choosing, and you can have as many different variations as you see fit.

if i were setting a holiday table with these white dishes, here's what i might do:

magnolia chargers (pottery barn):

i love the imperfection of the mercury glass look like these candleholders (crate and barrel):

and these (pottery barn):

velvet ribbon napkins in "parsley" (pottery barn):

a few of these beaded garlands down the center of the table would sparkle, but not take up too much room. i think i'd go with the clear ones with white pillar candles... (from restoration hardware):

one of these at each setting would add interest and height (anthropologie):

these platters would be great for serving, but also to place candles on for maximum sparkle and reflection (crate and barrel):

like these...(crate and barrel)
i love the idea of mixing styles and old and new, especially at this kind of table since holidays are so much about tradition and history. i'd definitely use some of my favorite yard sale finds to mix in, as well as some of the crystal pieces i've been given:

love these flocked pinecones (crate and barrel) and they'd look great on the antique green platter above!

and some more mercury glass (pottery barn):

one of the things i've found to be so much fun about my own white set of dishes is exactly this - the fact that you can go in any direction freely, but you have a unified and classic base to work with that keeps it grounded. if you're in a pink mood, you go pink. all white, that's fine too. with all the things we all have to think about around the holidays, i think these are a great solution for unthinking the dishes. doing them? well that's another story.

i'd love to hear about some of your entertaining solutions in the comments below.

top photo from www.potterybarn.com; all other photos from linked sites.

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