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  • Writer's pictureNicole Buist

Elevate Your At-Home Fall Buffet

The fall and holiday season bring so many opportunities to entertain we thought we'd share some tips on how to set up a great looking buffet at home. Many times, at home buffets end up looking sort of lack luster despite the best of intentions. Having worked in the catering business for 4 years while in college, I learned a few things that are very simple to do at home to create a beautiful buffet in your own home.

The first item that will be very helpful is a sturdy folding table that you can move around your home to wherever you want to set up your buffet. We actually have 4 of these Lifetime ones we got at Costco several years ago. They are amazing. You can set them to 3 different heights. The lowest setting is the perfect height for little kids to pull up a small chair. The middle height is a standard table height for adults to sit and the highest setting is a bar table height. This is the height I use when setting up a buffet so it's easy for guest to comfortably serve themselves.

You'll want to cover the table with a tablecloth or other large piece of fabric to set the base of your buffet. Here is the beginning of where you can start getting really creative. This example is a fall themed buffet so I'm using a neutral base but you could imagine a black tablecloth for Halloween or a festive holiday tablecloth for a December dinner party.

The number one thing you can do to upgrade your at-home buffet game is to add different heights to your buffet as this is where most at-home buffets 'fall flat' :) This is another opportunity to be creative as you look through your home for items to use as lifts. In this example I'm using a large serving dish turned upside down and a wooden wine box.

When I worked in catering we'd often use milk crates turned upside down. Sometimes the fabric from the tablecloth might seem slippery and so you can cut up some non-slip shelf liner to stabilize your lifts.

It's best to have varying heights for your lifts to add interest to your buffet. Once they are added and are secure, you'll also want to drape a relevant fabric over the lifts to disguise them as necessary. In this case, the stained wood of the winebox is pretty so I'm leaving some exposed. I wanted the upside down serving dish to be fully covered.

Next, I added the serving dishes I planned to use along with utensils and some gourds. Each fall, I always buy a bunch of gourds during our family pumpkin patch or apple picking days so I had several around to make interesting clusters on this particular buffet. If you were doing a holiday buffet, you could add clusters of ornaments (shatterproof!) or small potted, poinsettias. You could also cut some fresh evergreen branches and put them in a clear vase with a small string of lights or one of those electric tealight candles. For a spring buffet you could do small piles of citrus fruits (lemons, limes, oranges etc.) or small potted daffodils. Similar to how you want to use different heights of lifts for your serving platters, you also want to use varying heights of these types of accessories. For this buffet, I added a pitcher of dried wheat to add some height. It would have looked better with one of those stainless steel pitchers but I don't have one of those so clear glass it is! I bet if you look around your house you'll find many things that would work on buffet that you might not have thought of before.

This small buffet was still looking a little off to me I think because it was set up against a super neutral wall. So I added one more large picture that I just rested against the back wall. If you compare the picture below to the picture above, doesn't it look a little more pulled together?

Having several of those pop up tables allowed me to easily double the length of this buffet. I decided to put the plates right on the buffet like they would be at a restaurant and added more serving dishes including a spot for dessert to be served. I've had the two tiered, rectangular serving stand at the right side of the buffet for years and I can't tell you how many times I've used it. I love it! In this buffet, I'm using it to hold the silverware but have used it on both ends of buffets for small appetizers or desserts. Another trick I learned from my catering years is to add a folded napkin under the small sauce bowls which will be prone to drips. This way you can periodically just swap out the folded napkin and the buffet looks fresh again.

If you have the space, it's really nice to set up a buffet to serve your food because it frees up space on your table for a beautiful tablescape and might be more comfortable for your guest to get their food instead of passing large serving dishes around a table. You could do small buffet for add-ons to your meal like a hot chocolate bar, a chili station, a mash potato bar, or a mac-n-cheese bar. The possibilities are endless and you can really turn on your creativity. Have you done any at-home buffets recently?

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