We’re living the golden age of visually-driven food trends. From rainbow bagels to unicorn lattes to over the top milkshakes — more is more and color is everything. Event planners and caterers are jumping on the bandwagon and giving party-goers the ‘camera eats first’ food they crave. Visually driven displays like grazing tables are gaining in popularity and cropping up at more and more parties and events. If you went to a wedding this summer, chances are you saw a grazing table or two. A grazing table offers an interactive, visual statement that people can’t seem to get enough of and today we’re sharing some expert tips on how to style your dream table.
What is a grazing table?
“A grazing table is an open spread of food that is interactive and beautifully displayed,” Lindsay Anvik, founder of Babe & Butcher a catering company in Charlotte, NC, tells SheKnows.
Anvik says people go nuts for grazing tables because there’s truly something for everyone. Not into cured meats? Try the cheese. Vegan? Go for the gorgeous fresh fruit or nuts. It’s a modern twist on a buffet that serves as both party décor and food.
“We usually make them the centerpiece of the room or sole focal point. It draws your guests in and allows for an easy flow of conversation and mingling. Plus, it creates a piece of art that you can eat and allows your clients to choose their own adventure,” says Courtney McKay, Head Chef and Owner of In Good Company, a catering company in Nashville.
Pick a theme
Before you start mapping out your grazing table, pick a theme. Your theme can be as simple as meats and cheeses or your favorite fresh and local foods — think spreads, fruits, cheeses, honeys, etc. Or go for something more specific like different types of crostini, a seafood spread, dessert bonanza or barbecue favorites. It’s all about personal preference and style, so choose the foods that you love to eat and want your guests to enjoy — and that will hopefully look pretty too!
“I love working on tables that have unusual themes or flavor profiles. One of my favorite tables ever was born out of a woman who was having a lemon themed baby shower, so she wanted a lemon focused grazing table. To this day it is probably my favorite just because it was so unique,” Anvik said.
What to buy
McKay recommends shopping in-season at your local farmers market for all of your grazing table components.
“While at the market, you should be able to find different jams and honey to drop onto your table. Grab large bunches of grapes of different shapes and sizes as well as larger fruit that you can cut up and leave some larger pieces for a dramatic effect. The key is to add different textures and colors,” McKay tells SheKnows.
Another idea is to go to your local cheese shop and ask for suggestions based on your budget and what else you plan on serving. Be mindful of the types of foods you select and make sure they are able to hang out at room temperature during your event.
“I would not suggest throwing a lot of soft cheese on a table that is going to sit in the sun for hours on end,” McKay said.
You don’t need to go overboard with ingredients — this isn’t a feasting table at Louis IV’s palace. Just make sure to spread your ingredients out and fill in the holes with brightly colored fruit or unexpected treats.
Executive Chef Kyoo Eom of Dirty Habit in Washington, DC says some of his favorite grazing tables have included whole wheels of cheese, charcuterie, whole loaves of freshly baked breads, desserts, blocks of honeycomb and beautiful flower pots.
What McKay loves most about grazing tables is that there are no rules. “That’s what’s fun about a grazing table. You can add a little bit of this and a little bit of that and it still works.”
McKay likes to lay out butcher paper on her grazing table and put out all of the food on top which makes for a breezy cleanup. Use all different types of serving dishes and glassware of varying heights to add dimension and interest to your grazing table.
“I find a lot of strange serving pieces and glasses that we use on our tables from estate sales for next to nothing. Pick some of your favorite things, keep it simple, set it out, and enjoy your party.”
Chef Kyoo Eom likes to use marble tiles instead of plates to build his display. He also likes to use flower pots to hold cookies and chocolate.
Location is also very important. You don’t want to put a grazing table in the corner of the room, it should be easily accessible to guests from every angle of the table – this helps mitigate the dreaded buffet line from forming.
Finally, don’t forget the non-edible items too. Flowers and plants add depth and texture to a grazing table and make the display more photogenic (which is, after all, the point these days!).