Chances are you're going to lay out a buffet table for a party sometime this holiday season. It might be for a huge party (like this wedding reception for 400) or a simple get-together with a dozen people in your home. Here are a few buffet table tips that we've picked up through our own catering and party-throwing experience. • Think two-sided: If at all possible, set up your buffet table so that people can approach it from all sides. This cuts down on traffic congestion and helps them get food faster.
• Go high: Try to use height - tiered cake plates and dessert servers are great for this. Put your highest serving dish in the center of the table and go down from there. The more you can stack and layer, the more room you create. Also, it's easier for guests to reach in.
• Put cutlery at the end: Nothing is more annoying to us than a buffet where you have to pick up all your cutlery, napkins, and sometimes cup at the beginning of the buffet line. Everything except plates should go at the end so you don't have to be balancing all that other stuff while scoping out the food.
• Make it easy: As much as possible, put food in individual servings. Put anything in individual cups - like small shooters of soup, or individual servings of mousse - at the end of the tables, where grazing guests can reach in and snag one without going through the whole line. • Have backups: If you're taking care of the buffet at an especially large party, it's hard to replenish the table while people are still clustered around it. Have backup platters full of food to instantly replace any that are getting low or sparse-looking.