Expert Advice: How to Set the Table, Courtesy of Food 52

We tend to be an informal bunch at Remodelista (have you seen Sarahs video for setting an outdoor table?), but we do like a well-set table for special occasions. So we checked in with Amanda and Merrill at Food52 for a tutorial on the art and science of setting a table. Heres what they have to say:

Weeknight Dinner

Above: For weeknight dinners, the basic table setting includes a dinner plate, a fork, a knife, a spoon, a napkin (were currently covetingHeirloomed Linen Napkins; $34 for a set of four), a drinking glass and a wine glass).
RM: Whats the rule for utensil placement?

F52: Place utensils from the outside in, according to what youll be using first. The fork sits to the left of the plate, and knives to the right (blades facing in, toward the plate). Spoons always go to the right of knives.

Informal Place Setting

Above: More formal than how you would set the table for a weeknight dinner but less formal than a full-on fancy affair.

RM: What about for a dinner soire or a lunch party?

F52: An informal place setting a la Emily Post includes a salad fork, a soup spoon (if youre serving soup), a dessert spoon (or fork), and a dinner plate. The salad plate sits to the left of the forks. A bread plate and knife is placed above the forks. And above the knife and spoons, a water glass, a wine glass, and a tea or coffee cup.

Formal Place Setting

Above: A formal table setting for a mutli-course (imaginary) dinner party.

RM: And if youre going all-out?

F52: Lets say youre serving oysters, soup, a salad, a fish course, and an entree. Emily Post says you need a charger, also called a service plate (while it does feel very formal, etiquette dictates that its a proper part of the formal table setting), plus a dinner plate. To the left of the plate, youll need a salad fork, a fish fork, and a dinner fork. To the right of the plate, youll need an oyster fork (its the only fork that sits on the right of the plate), a soup spoon, a fish knife, and a dinner knife.

Going Rogue

For big group gatherings, no need to set the table at all. Stacks of plates, bunches of silverware, piles of napkins; let your guests help themselves.

Above: Dare to mismatch; if youre having a crowd, youll probably need to marshal all your plates.
Above: Ditto for flatware; we know people who entertain frequently who keep an extra drawer of mismatched yard sale finds for this purpose.

RM: What are five things from theFood52 shop you always have on your daily table setting?

F52: The Modern Grain Salt Cellar, a Copper and Brass Pepper Mill, a French Ceramic Butter Keeper, Beeswax Candles, and Heirloomed Linen Napkins.

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