Setting the Perfect Holiday Table

By Lee Rennick

Joyous strains of “Rockin’ Round the Christmas Tree” filling the halls, gingerbread cookies in the oven, and lights twinkling on the tree, these are the signs that the holiday season is here. This means families and friends coming together over many meals, so we asked Lori Sain-Smith of Daffodilly Designs to share some ideas for holiday table-scaping, with pieces from The Peddler, and Mitchell Murphree of Five Senses to furnish us with recipes that are sure to please.

Sain-Smith and Murphree have put a local twist on trends that top party planners are seeing around the country.  There is a move towards the use of vintage décor and tableware with fresh flowers and greens in rich colors.

This nostalgia includes a return to comfort foods with a twist, served in reduced portions as small plates. Another trend is do-it-yourself foods using fresh local produce.

Cocktail parties, made fabulously glamorous during the 1950s and 1960s, are coming back with custom designed drinks to match the occasion.

Tastings with Friends

As the Christmas season brings us together, there are parties to give and to attend. This year entertaining is all about small conversation groups, an antithesis to our plugged in world. Put together stations of finger foods around different rooms in the house near small seating areas allows small groups to gather.

Put fresh greens and heirloom ornaments together at each station. “Incorporating fresh cuttings and florals allows for a natural holiday aroma,” said Sain Smith. Or create your own traditions with antique-look angels and candles on a hand-me-down buffet or sideboard. The Peddler has a wonderful collection of Christmas décor with the feel of days gone by to use when putting together your tablescapes.

Mitchell Murphy from Five Senses has created a tasty sweet potato biscuit that can be filled with an assortment of tasty treats.

As we all know, the weather in Tennessee can be warm or cold around Christmas. When the weather is warm, take advantage of the good weather with cocktails by the pool. Or out on a back deck.

Cocktail parties, a staple in the age of Mad Men, are coming back. The most important part is to have a themed drink. Go to any of the local fundraisers, and a signature drink is a must.

The key to the perfect holiday drink is to give it a holiday twist with apple slices, cranberries, and cinnamon sticks with fresh apple or cranberry juice. “Use fresh cranberries as accents to drinks and around candles in lanterns or vases for the perfect pop of red,” said Sain Smith.

Fives’ Fall Fizz In Shaker place:

One thick apple slice
One splash of cranberry juice
Two pinches of fresh apple or cinnamon
Three splashes of brown sugar simple syrup

Muddle ingredients and shake with ice. Pour the mixture into a champagne flute so that it fills the glass about halfway up. Top off with Prosecco. Garnish with fresh cranberries, apple slice and cinnamon stick.

Breakast after Santa

After the gifts are unwrapped, Christmas morning is a time for family to come together over breakfast. Every family has their own breakfast traditions, some do biscuits and gravy, others do waffles, and there is nothing like making pancakes together!

Make your Christmas morning breakfast fun with Santa placemats, then blend them with mix and match glasses and plates. Add a centerpiece of fresh greens and white roses in a vintage wood bowl.

Maybe you buy your family matching pajamas for the morning, wear goofy hats when opening presents, or after opening packages your family goes to serve a meal to those less fortunate. Christmas is what you make of it.

Christmas Dinner

After the packages are unwrapped and the football games begun, it is time to settle down to the perfect Christmas dinner. When setting the scene for Christmas dinner, Sain-Smith suggests using heirloom pieces. “[It] is always charming … [when] incorporating them into … the holiday season ... When we use our collections, we connect all generations with timeless traditions. Special touches, such as [a] German Nativity Pyramid, create the perfect centerpieces when enhanced with fresh rosemary and hydrangeas at the base.”

A Southern tradition that Sain-Smith continues to use in her family is Cuthbertson’s Christmas tree pattern fine china. “Produced for over 92 years ago,” said Sain Smith, “Cuthbertson’s Christmas tree pattern is the original. Over the years many manufacturers have since marketed Christmas tree designs on ceramics and glassware but none, we feel, are equal in overall appeal to Cuthbertson’s ‘Original Christmas Tree’.”

For a larger and more formal presentation, Sain-Smith suggests the use of magnolia leaves and richly hued flowers. Instead of a tablecloth, art papers or table runners can be used.

Sometimes the perfect accent can be as simple as a monogrammed napkin arranged on the plate with a fresh spring of rosemary.

For those who want a less formal setting, The Peddler can help you pair bright red dishes with cheeky snowmen and snowwomen to make the table setting light and fun. 

The Perfect Holiday Table

Whether you are traditional or like a more modern look to your table, fresh greens and herbs mixed with décor from your childhood, or new pieces from The Peddler that remind you of Christmases past, will set the stage for sharing food and good times with those you love.