Ask B: When to Arrive at a Party

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Dear B, 
We were invited to a “wine tasting and cheese picnic party” and we weren’t sure when we should arrive! We didn’t want to be the first people there, but it was a “tasting” and we didn’t know if they were going to be introducing the wines etc., and needed everyone there to start on time! I needed MBB’s advice!

Sincerely,
Don’t Want To Be Tardy to the Party 

Tardy to the Party,This is an excellent question! A good rule of thumb is to arrive either on-time or within 15 minutes of the start time listed on the invitation (unless the invitation states otherwise).  So in the future, if you attend another wine tasting and cheese party that starts at 7:00 p.m., strive to arrive by 7:15 p.m. at the latest. This will ensure that you’re prompt, and even if you’re early, you can enjoy a glass of wine while you catch up with the host and/or hostess! In the event you are running behind due to circumstances beyond your control, be sure to phone the host and/or hostess to let them know.

A Tale Of Two Settings (Part 2)

Hello dear readers! Have you been chomping at the bit waiting for part two of a Tale of Two Settings? Well your prayers have been answered! Here are table setting tricks of the trade, a collection of table tidbits if you will, to help you navigate silverware, dinnerware, and everything in between. Enjoy!
  • Napkins can be folded or secured with a napkin ring, and placed to the left of the forks, or atop or above the dinner plate (depending upon the size of your table and formality of the meal). Here are some of my favorites:
1. Hen House Linens; 2. Neiman Marcus; 3. Couleur Nature; 4. Juliska; 5. Williams-Sonoma; 6. Williams-Sonoma
  • Utensils work their way in, (*Remember that famous scene from “Pretty Woman” where the little pistol Vivian aka Julia Roberts learns about etiquette at the Beverly Wilshire?) the small fork is the salad fork, and the large fork is the dinner fork. Think of the utensils in the order of the meal – you start the meal with the salad course so the salad fork is the outermost utensil; next you have the entree with the dinner fork, etc. 
  • Always have water glasses on the table, you don’t want to have dehydrated guests! These can be actual glasses or goblets. 
  • Once you reach the dessert course, bring dessert forks or spoons to the table along with the plated sweet treat. If you wish to set the table with the dessert spoon or fork, simply place it above the plate (if you have place cards, the dessert fork or spoon goes between the place card and plate). 
  • If you’re serving a salad, you have several options: a) you serve the salad with the meal and use a salad plate, placed to the left of the fork. b) you serve the salad as a first course and place the salad plate atop the dinner plate, and remove it from the table when serving the entree; c) you serve the salad directly on the dinner plate with the rest of the meal. 
  • If you’re using place cards, position them above the dinner plate (and in this case, place the napkin atop the plate), and either hand write them or have them printed. Here are some of my favorites: 
1. Sugar Paper; 2. Kitchen Papers; 3. Crane and Co. 
  • If you’re serving soup, remember to set the table with soup spoons which go to the right of the knife. 
  • Position the knife blade so it’s facing the plate. 
  • Confused about which bread plate is yours? Follow Emily Post’s trick: Using both hands, clasp the tips of your thumbs to the tips of your pointer fingers, making a lowercase ‘b’ with your left hand and a lowercase ‘d’ with your right hand. This little trick will remind you that “bread” is on the left and “drink” is on the right.
  • For casual dinners, your everyday china, flatware, and glasses work beautifully. Whip out the formal china, crystal, and silver for more formal meals (holidays, formal gatherings, celebrations, etc.)
  • Condiments needn’t be placed directly on the table, rather place them in serving dishes on the table; for instance, if you’re serving Parmesan cheese with some delicious fettuccine, pour the cheese into a ramekin with a little spoon and offer it to your guests – they will be delighted to get their Parmesan cheese from such an exquisite vessel!  
  • Don’t forget salt and pepper shakers, preferably ones that coordinate with your table setting. Also, for formal dinners, consider crystal shakers. Here are some of my favorites:
1. Juliska; 2. West Elm; 3. Williams-Sonoma; 4. Michael Aram

A Tale of Two Settings (Part 1)

This past weekend we had the pleasure of hosting a fabulous family dinner, and as I prepared for the magical evening, I reminisced about our first dinner party: thoughtfully planning the menu – Barefoot Contessa of course! – arranging lush bitter green and white hydrangeas for the centerpiece, and carefully setting the table. A novice to entertaining, I remember double and triple checking each place setting, making sure everything sat in the correct spot, as proper table setting protocol can be tricky! Years later, much the wiser, and having hosted many a dinner party, I’ve learned a great deal about setting the table and want to share my pearls of wisdom with you, my dear readers!

Whether you’re setting the table for a casual meal or more formal holiday gathering, here’s the first installment on my “Tale of Two Settings.” Keep an eye out for part two with table setting tricks of the trade. *Helpful hint: Print this table setting guide and keep it in your kitchen so you can “Bring the Buns” and refer to it whenever you need! 

Table Setting 1: Informal (casual dinner parties, weeknight meals etc.; the setting you will use most) *Keep in mind you can make this setting more basic if need be, by removing the salad plate and salad fork

Dinnerware: Juliska; Silverware: Williams-Sonoma; Glassware: Williams-Sonoma; Linens: Purchased in France 
1. Salad plate: Sits to the left of the dinner plate.
2. Salad fork: The outermost fork, sits to the left of the dinner fork. 
3. Dinner fork: The interior fork, sits to the left of the dinner plate.
4. Napkin: Sits atop or above the plate and can be folded or secured with a napkin ring. 
5. Dinner plate: Sits atop the place mat and is the cornerstone to the table setting. 
6. Place mat: Sits beneath the dinner plate.
7. Knife: Sits to the right of the dinner plate. 
8. Spoon: Sits outside of the knife, to the right of the dinner plate. If you’re not using the spoon until desert, either place it above the plate, or leave it out of the initial  setting, and bring it with the desert plate during the desert course. 
9. Wine glass: Sits to the right above the knife. 
10. Water glass: Sits to the right above the knife. 



Table Setting 2: Formal (used for formal gatherings, holidays, etc.; the setting you will use least)

Plates: Bernardaud Constance; Charger:Anna Weatherly; Silverware: My grandmother’s silver; Water glass: Williams-Sonoma; Wine Glass: William Yeoward; Champagne Glass: Tiffany and Co.; Linens: Purchased in France

1. Bread and butter plate: Sits to the left of the dinner plate, above the forks. 
2. Salad fork: The outermost fork, sits to the left of the dinner fork.
3. Dinner fork: The interior fork, sits to the left of the dinner plate.
4. Napkin: Sits atop or above the plate and can be folded or secured with a napkin ring.
5. Salad plate: Sits atop the dinner plate, and is removed after the salad course.
6. Dinner plate: Sits atop the charger and is the cornerstone to the table setting.
7. Charger: Sits between the dinner plate and place mat. (*This is a really just a service plate).
8. Place mat: Sits below the charger.
9. Dinner knife: The interior knife, sits to the right of the dinner plate. 
10. Salad knife: Sits to the right of the dinner knife.
11. Spoon: Sits outside of the knife, to the right of the dinner plate. If you’re not using the spoon until desert, either place it above the plate, or leave it out of the initial  setting, and bring it with the desert plate during the desert course. 
12. Champagne glass: Sits to the right above the knife. 
13. Wine glass: Sits to the right above the knife. 
14. Water glass: Sits to the right above the knife.
*If you’re having a fish course, sit a special fish fork farthest to the left of the dinner fork, as this is the first fork used during the meal; a fish knife would also sit to the right of the dinner knife.
Hope these table setting guides help, and keep an eye out for part two of this post!