By Carleton Varney- Special to the Palm Beach Daily News
Morning table service seems to be rare, these days, in the country’s elegant resorts as well as in inns and bed-and-breakfasts. Instead, the custom for travelers is usually a wake-up call and a little later a trip to the buffet table, where serving dishes await with hot cereals, biscuits, bacon and scrambled eggs. Perhaps there will be a cook at a side table flipping omelets of your choice. Make mine with tomato and onion, please!
Whatever the meal, a buffet translates to easy dining. And if you’re entertaining at home, setting up a buffet also can be a great way to feed a crowd.
At luncheon and dinner parties, I sometimes find the table pre-set with the appetizer course, which is followed by the host’s instructions, in so many words, to get up and reach for a plate on the buffet. At other gatherings, the meal begins at the buffet itself.
There are all kinds of buffets tables and consoles, however, including traditional English-style mahogany pieces with a center drawer to hold the silver flatware. I’ve also seen buffet tables with glass or marble tops, which are so easy to clean.
There also are long Asian-inspired lacquer tables that fit the bill when the décor calls for it. At the moment, I’m designing a residence in the Midwest, and I recently found just such a table from Paula Roemer’s great Asian art emporium, Paula Roemer Antiques, 501 Belvedere Road, just west of South Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach. Her store is a wonderful resource for Asian tables, lighting fixtures, consoles, fabrics, decorative accessories or even outdoor lounge chairs; you can get all the details by calling 602-1250. Paula offers the best there is.
One of my great friends in Palm Beach always serves buffet style in her glamorous residence, and the serving dishes on the buffet table are always just right for what is served. I love to see colorful ceramic pieces, for instance, when salads are the fare of the day.
A buffet table should be some 6 or 7 feet long, long enough and deep enough to hold platters, plates and glassware, as well as the serving dishes along with, perhaps, a few candlesticks. Add a vase of flowers if there’s room. Fresh blooms always make a dining room more inviting.
Another tip: If you have room and the crowd is large, you might pull the buffet table away from the wall so that people can serve from both sides.
Put the plates on one end of the buffet. And if they’re not already on the dining table, place silverware and napkins on the other end, so that your guests don’t have to juggle too much as they fill their plates. I find that cake stands — or even inverted serving bowls — come in useful to raise the height of the platters, to make serving a little easier. It’s nice to see dishes labeled, too, especially if the fare is unusual. Place-card holders with cards work well for this purpose.
P.S. As I’ve mentioned before in this space, I sometimes stop for lunch at a restaurant offering informal buffet service — the Carving Station Buffet at 720 U.S. Highway 1 in Lake Park. The restaurant has been owned and operated for 17 years by Spiros Lorenjatos, who offers everything from sliced turkey to roast beef and pork loin, from salads and vegetables to a dessert station. If you’re in the neighborhood — and hungry! — I recommend the restaurant for an easy and quick lunch or dinner. And if you stop by, do tell Spiros that Carleton sent you.