Plates, bowls and other serving dishes are critical to the success of any dinner party — whether they’re lined up neatly along a buffet or scattered around the dining room.
“I always, always, always try to have some family-style dining going on,” said Bronson van Wyck, a New York event planner whose book “Born to Party, Forced to Work” was published by Phaidon in October. “It goes to that idea of the basic human need that we have to break bread with each other.”
And the key to choosing the right serving dishes, Mr. Van Wyck said, has to do with visual balance.
If you have an elaborate floral centerpiece on your table, for example, plain serving dishes are the way to go.
On the other hand, “if you don’t have anything in the center that’s beautiful or catches the eye,” he said, “you’d better have some great serving dishes” — with compelling shapes, materials or patterns.
But it’s not just about the way your table looks: Platters, bowls and plates that please the eye often have the inexplicable ability to enhance our other senses, Mr. Van Wyck noted: “Even Shake Shack tastes better on fabulous Royal Crown Derby Aves china.”
How large should your serving dishes be? You need various sizes in your arsenal, but “if you’re going to err in one direction, I would err on the side of smaller ones,” Mr. Van Wyck said. “Because you can always bring out two.”
Should they have patterns? It depends on what you’re serving. “If I’m going to do something like smoked salmon, which is a lot of pieces together, I would maybe do one with a print,” Mr. Van Wyck said. “But if I’m going to do really composed hors d’oeuvres or sushi, I would do solid, to make those things stand out.”
Do they have to be fancy? No, Mr. Van Wyck said: His favorite oven-to-table serving pieces are colored Dutch ovens from Le Creuset. “I don’t believe in every single thing being fabulous, because it’s too much noise sometimes,” he said. “We want warmth and sincerity.”
Stormware Fruit Bowl
Handmade gray-and-white porcelain bowl
$75 at Haand: 336-350-7957 or haand.us
Hand-thrown stoneware casserole with blue finish
From $60 at Workaday Handmade: workadayhandmade.com
Two-tone wood bowl with ebonized interior by Shippee Turning Company
$348 (not including serving set) at Spartan Shop: 503-360-7922 or spartan-shop.com
Porcelain bowl with fish-scale pattern and blue-fade glaze by KiBiSi
$200 at Royal Copenhagen: 011-45-3814-4878 or royalcopenhagen.com