Setting a Great Buffet

A few essential elements that go a long way in making serve-yourself food and drinks simple, elegant, uncluttered and accessible.

Kinfolk Magazine is a growing community of artists with a shared interest in small gatherings. The publication was created as a collaborative way of advocating a natural approach to entertaining, and reinvigorating timeless forms of connecting with friends and family.

The focal point for setting a great buffet should always be on the quality of the food, rather than the extravagance of the display. While visual appeal is important, it’s more essential that the offering of food should be diverse, wholesome, and easy to access. There’s no secret to the perfect buffet spread — just think practically.


Offer Diversity

For any feast, no matter how casual or fancy, it’s nice to have a variety of options, particularly for the wide array of folks that are not able (or choose not) to partake of certain foods, like gluten, dairy, meat, etc. If you’re having a potluck, simply feel free to assign those people with particular food preferences to bring a dish they are comfortable eating. If you are in charge of the whole meal, try to have at least one hearty vegetarian dish so that everyone can amply fill up.

Lighten Up a Little

While celebrations and parties are often an excuse for heavy, decadent dishes, make sure you have at least a few offerings that provide a lighter, fresher alternative to the traditional indulgences. Good options include seasonal fruit salads, greens, cheese and fruit plates and crudité. You can liven up the buffet with edible décor, like bunches of grapes, spring carrots, raw green beans — even edible flowers that can be added to the top of salads, like nasturtiums.


Make it Accessible

Put plates at the beginning of the line, and napkins and silverware at the end; no need for this to be elaborate — you can simply put cutlery in a sturdy jar or in a ceramic bowl. If you have room, also set beverages and glasses towards the end of the line. For a more casual affair, just fill a galvanized tub with ice and put beverages directly in there.

It’s generally best if the buffet can be accessed from both sides, so if your room has space, create a walkway around the entire table. If you’re tight on tabletop space think about having other furniture — like a bureau or entryway table — do double duty.

To put food in easy reach, it’s helpful to elevate some of the dishes. This can be done with a bit of improvising from things around the house — a stack of old books, a small wooden crate, a pile of thick cutting boards or an upended bowl — really anything that brings some visual variation to the table without proving an obstacle for reaching any of the other dishes.

For your own sanity as host, triple-check before guests arrive that everything one might need for serving is already out on the table — napkins and silverware, plenty of glassware, large serving pieces for each of the dishes, salt and pepper and any other accouterments necessary for the meal. If it seems helpful, make small name cards for each of the dishes so that guests can easily tell what they’re helping themselves to.


Relax and Enjoy!

Hospitality is a certain kind of art form, but one that everyone can master — don’t let fear of following the right rules or etiquette prevent you from inviting people into your home. Entertaining should be fun and laidback, not uptight and stuffy, even for a more formal or elegant meal. It’s guaranteed that each guest around the table will feel more comfortable if the hostess feels at ease herself, so don’t fret about details that won’t matter much in the long run. As long as guests have full plates of sumptuous food, they’ll be happy!

Do you have any tried-and-true tips for setting up a great buffet?


(Images: Kinfolk Magazine)

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