Now that fall has officially arrived, my thoughts (like the leaves) have already turned to the upcoming season and the many entertaining opportunities that go along with it – from crisp harvest brunches to fireplace gatherings, from Halloween bashes to Thanksgiving spreads... 'tis the season for setting a table. I'm afraid I'm not much of a cook, though I do thoroughly enjoy a beautifully arranged table. And while few people still formally entertain – complete with finger bowls, butter knives and five different kinds of spoons – there are still plenty of ways to organize a memorable gathering, one that delights ALL the senses, not just the taste buds.
In preparation for this blog post, I read – with great amusement – Emily Post's Etiquette chapter on formal dinners (1922). And I quote:
The requisites at every dinner, whether a great one of 200 covers, or a little one of 6, are as follows:
Guests – People who are congenial to one another.
Food – A suitable menu perfectly prepared and dished.
Table furnishings – Faultlessly laundered linen, brilliantly polished silver, and all other table accessories suitable to the occasion and surroundings.
Service – Expert dining-room servants and enough of them.
Drawing-room – Adequate in size to number of guests and inviting in arrangement.
A cordial and hospitable host.
A hostess of charm - tact, sympathy, poise and perfect manners—always.
And though for all dinners these requisites are much the same, the necessity for perfection increases in proportion to the formality of the occasion.
Oh my... my anxiety levels just went through the roof. Let's focus on a few more realistic, yet thoroughly inspiring ideas for fall entertaining. How about an outdoor autumn brunch, complete with cozy blankets for each guest – and a great wine offering - should the weather turn chilly?
The wise concept of “eating what's in season” should really apply to the table décor as well. And there are plenty of seasonable items to choose from, other than the ubiquitous pumpkin: think apples, pears, chestnuts, berries, mushrooms, moss...
I love this edible centerpiece, reminiscent of old Flemish still lifes, seriously dramatic yet deceptively simple in its ingredients: pomegranates, grapefruit, persimmons and tangerines.
I'm a big fan of the artfully arranged buffet, serving both as conversation starter and generally making for a more casual, easy-going dinner party.
If orange is the new black, then purple is the new orange. Pick your favorite hue: aubergine, mauve, lilac, eggplant...
If orange is an absolute prerequisite for your fall entertaining, try combining it with cobalt blue for a fresh new look.
Organic, rustic touches work well for any fall table: antlers, burlap, feathers and a few sprigs of fragrant rosemary.
My most favorite among fall's decorative devices is the humble cotton stalk: natural, rustic yet fluffy, a harbinger of what's to come... a white Christmas?
I wish you all a wonderful fall season, or as William Cullen Bryant puts it:
“Autumn...the year's last, loveliest smile."
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