From weddings, to baby showers, to holiday entertaining, it’s all happening this spring. And, the most beautiful way to display your 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.
- 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 décor 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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