From weddings, to baby showers, to holiday entertaining, the most beautiful way to display hors d’ oeuvres, snacks or desserts is by creating a grazing table. If you are unfamiliar with the term, a grazing table – or a grazing board – refers to a decadent display of food, artfully arranged.
Often the display is housed on a large piece of butcher block, the size of a table top or table runner, which has been treated with food-safe coating. But, smaller options, created on oversized cutting boards, are perfect for smaller gatherings.
Inspiration for grazing tables can be found everywhere. But, creating a Pinterest-worthy display is harder than it looks! Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to create the perfect grazing table that will impress – and satisfy – your hungry guests.
- Pick a type. First, you need to decide what sort of grazing table or grazing board you want to create. Snacks, such as olives, cheeses, meats, dips and spreads are a top choice. But, vibrant fruit displays or delicious desserts are impressive, as well. A note of caution: mixing piles of pepperoni and cheese with chocolate and cakes is never recommended and will simply create a hodgepodge.
- Size wisely. The grazing table should encourage your guests to sample a wide variety of options. Small, 2-bite sizing or “pop-able” portions are ideal.
- Divide and conquer! Corral bread, rolls crackers and breadsticks within tiny ramekins, wine glasses, or Mason jars to avoid a soggy (and unappetizing) mess. The same goes for olives, marinated mushrooms, roasted peppers, etc. Keep containers consistent (all Mason jars or all white ramekins) to keep your composition clean.
- Create a focal point. Start with the largest item(s) that you want to feature (a large wheel of Brie, for example). Work outward, balancing color and type of food.
- Reach for new heights. Adding cake stands, tiered plate racks, or compotes helps create dimension and interest, and is particularly important if your display will be seen from all sides. Keep containers neutral. Clear glass, white china and wood allow you delicacies to take center stage.
- Arrange and repeat. When arranging the display, balance colors and foods (bright strawberries, for example) at regular intervals. The process is something a bit like designing wallpaper, with a regular repeat.
- Slice the bread. While a whole loaf of bread looks beautiful in photos, it’s not easy for your guests to wrestle with a knife on a crowded display table. So, slice the bread, but leave 1/3 unsliced for visual effect. This also holds true for wheels of cheese and cakes.
- Fill it up. A grazing table or grazing board looks best when it’s abundant. So, keep plenty of extras on hand to fill in. Baby carrots, bunches of grapes and pre-cut celery are fast and easy to toss as your party progresses.
- Go for a wide swath of each item. This, of course, depends on the size of your board or table. But, using too few of each piece tends to looks like a jumble sale.
- Don’t forget the garnish. Kale, parsley, or fruit add professional polish.
- Utensils are essential. Don’t forget picks, spoons, or tiny forks.
- Keep food allergies in mind. Unless you can confirm otherwise, especially with a large group, nuts are a no-no. Strawberries and mangos, which are commons allergens, should be contained to avoid cross contamination.
- Make if bloom! Edible flowers, such as sugared pansies, give the display star-quality. But, edible flowers can be tricky. Sometimes, only the bloom is edible. Sometimes only the leaves. Here’s a definitive guide to edible flowers. And if there’s any doubt, leave them off, as some common flowers can cause stomach distress.
- Use decor items extremely sparingly. The point of a grazing board is to make the food the star. So, holiday nutcrackers or summer seashells are best used elsewhere.
- Variety is the spice of life. Include options that encourage unique combinations. A cracker topped with thinly sliced cheese and pesto is a completely different “bite” than that same cracker and cheese paired with spicy roasted peppers, pickled artichoke, or prosciutto.
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PHOTOS: Used with permission by Unsplash.
Susan Said… WHAT?! is your guide to a life filled with style and was named one of the Top 50 Beauty Blogs in the World by RebateZone.com. You’ll find everything from fashion, jewelry, beauty and accessories, to gorgeous gardens and stunning interiors and DIY projects, plus the latest ideas events of all kinds. Susan Conforte McNeill is an author, entrepreneur, and co-founder of the literacy organization Success Won’t Wait!