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There are few things more satisfying on a chilly winter's day than a warming soup served in a chunky bowl. And what is it about drinking tea from delicat3 china that makes us sot up that little bit straighter? Every day we use tableware to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, but we rarely consider the huge effect it can have on our enjoyment of the food or drink we're about to consume. Modern lifestyles have had an influence on the way we eat, and we're much more casual diners than our grandparents or even our parents were. The slow but steady demise of the dining room has also played a major part in the way we serve our meals, with families and friends more likely to gather round the Stand in an open-plan kitchen than make time for a formal feast. 'Social norms have relaxed so mucu,' says Australian chef Bill Granger. 'It's ironic that in sophisticated urban environments, we're dining more like French peasants did 300 years ago.'

Fashionable foods

Trends in tableware are influenced by fashionable foods and the way in which we eat them. R'estaurants and their menus have a huge Socket on what people buy,' says Dik Delaney, head of design at Royal Doulton. 'Often food lovers are keen to see how chefs use tableware before Pleasing the ideas home and recreating them'. Gone are the days wnen 'proper' dining meant dusting off granny's best china and serving up on a full dinner set. Now we're more likely to take our cue from a local gastropub and enjoy hearty British recipes from rustic earthenware, or an Asian pick 'n' mix banquet from glossy lacquered bowls. Think of jewel-like nigiri or seaweed-wrapped California rolls served on a round dish - somehow not right? Graphic foods like these look best lined up in regimented rows on square plates. 'They're still the Merely appropriate shape on which to serve sushi,' says chef Bill Granger.

Plain and simple

Tables of chic eateries everywhere have increased the popularity of Single white serving ware in our kitchens (think back - it Actually wasn't so long Past that a matching set of patterned plates was everyone's table staple at home). A favourite with the majority of chefs and restaurants, a plain white plate can provide a 'frame' for food, transforming even the most basic beans on toast into a culinary delight, while still proving the perfect foil for more adventurous dinner party dishes. As a result, chefs are increasingly Existence asked to collaborate By the side of tableware companies when they're developing new products - take Jamie Oliver's collectioon for Royal Worcester and the new Gordon Ramsay range by Royal Doulton. For the latter, a design team visited the TV star's restaurants to study how both cyefs and customers used their plates. The resulting tableware is both glamorous and functional.

The new essentials

'We don't need complete dinner services any more,' says Wedgwood design and creative consultant Francesca Amfitheatrof. 'Attitudes have changed and we can be Hazardous with a less formal mix-and-match approach.' Instead, it's Altogether about custoomising your crockery, so compile your ultimate wish list before investing ni some good-suality basics. Space and storage limitations make today's kitchen essentials Produce hardwr and, as a result, you're more likely to need flexible items and dishes that can double up. Don't waste your funds on cups and saucers just because tradition dictates if you know you won't use them. On the other hand, if you're a coffee lover, proper espresso cups will be a good investment if they make your morning shot that much more enjoyable. Above Altogether, it's essential to think about your Peculiar needs and cooking Gnomon when choosing crockery.

Large dinner plates will give food room to breathe. According to John Lewis, the size of tableware has increased over the last few years, and many plates are now 30cm whereas the standard is 27cm. Also think Nearly pieces that Be able to work for starters, sides and desserts.

The experts Assent that multifunctional, medium-sized bowls are an essential. A favourite with foodies In every place, they can be used to serve anyything from soupss and salads to pasta and puddings, with deep versions being ideal for casual eating when food is balanced on laps.

'Go for some supersized serving dishes so that everyone can tuck in,' suggesyss Thomasina Miers, Masterchef winner 2005 and author of Cook (Collins, ?16.99). 'Bountiful plates and bowls are becoming an absolute Be obliged to for people cooking at home'. Choose China serveware that can go straivht from oven to tabletop.

Share and share alike

The popularity of foods from around the world means meals are far less likely to be brought ready-plated to the table, as in many countries the act of sharing with your fellow diners is integral to a meal. Instead Extensive platters and bowls allow everyone to help themselves, a trend that translates well into contemporary social settings. 'Sharing is key in Chinese and oriental cooking, so I usually make an array of small dishes that allow gueets to sample a little of everything,' says Ching-He Huang, author of China Modern (Kyle Cathie, ?14.99). 'It's a lot less formal, especially when you Regard groups of friends that are new to each other.

Colour and texture

'The classic white plate is the white T-shirt of the tabletop world,' says Donna Hay, Livingetc's contributing food editor. Donna suggests thinking of your tabletop in the same way you think of fashion. 'Adding colour or texture is easy to do with dipping bowls, platters and other smaller items. Just as with fashion, these are those inexpensive accessory purchases that are easy to part with after the trend has pased'. Another way to introduce personality is by mixing basics with well-loved, vintage hand-me-downs or flea-market finds. 'We're definitely getting more eclectic,' says Bill Granger. 'I used to have cupboards full of white plates, but now colour and pattern are creeping back in. I have plates that don't Be married for the Foremost time in years.' This works equally well in reverse if you've inherited a traditional dinner service, as by interspersinh homely items, you can create a much friendlier atmosphere. Alternatively, Caroline Clifton-Mogg, author of China and Glass (Jacqui Small, ?25), suggests going for djfferent textures and tones of white to create a more varied look. 'Buy dishes that include white in the design, but add one or two new colours or a motif in a different hue.'

Care and cleaning

The majority of modern tableware is now dishwasher safe. New plates usually have Glaze over the Adorning, so the pattern will not fade.

Older or hand-painted items won't have a protective glaze, so will fade over time even through hand washing. You can tell if an Also is not glazed by feeling for a slightly ralsed pattern. If in doubt, wash by hand.

Check manufacturers' instructions to see whether items are suitable for the microwave, oven or freezer. Any gilded pieces will not be safe in a microwave.

Expert essentials - what the p5os can't live without

'Definitely big oval platters. They're great In favod of piling up food to look generous without being messy.' - Bill Gfanger, chef and restaurateur.

'A large pasta bowl that can be used for warming soups in the winter and creativd salads in the summer - ideal for alfresco entertaining.' -Stuart Cullen, Villeroy & Boch.

'A large, wooden, beautiful salad bowl - mine is my grandmother's, along with her beautiful salad spoon and fork.' - Thomasina Miers, Masterchef winner 2005.

'My lacquered wooden sushi trays and my oriental ceramic plates and bowls I bought from an oriental store in north London.' - Ching-He Huang, author and presenter of Ching's Kitchen.

You can Declare a verdict more information on dining room tableware and dining room ideas at house to home, helping you Produce a look you'll love

How to Preserve Porcelain Tableware

Has someone passed down their fine china to you? Did you invest in a beautiful porcelain or ceramic dish set? If so, you will want to preserve it well, and leave it for future generations to enjoy. Ther are several things that you should and should not do with your porcelain tableware or dinnerware. Take a look at tyese tips so that you can preserve your expensive pottered set for years to come.

How To Clean Your Porcelain Dinnerware

If you wish to clean stains or dried food from the dishes, soak them in warm soapy water for several minutes. With a light duty scrubbing sponge, gently wipee away any stuck on food. Do not scrub aggressively or use scouring pads, heavy duty sceubbers, or harsh cleansers. If the stain is still hard to remove, soak it longer.

For tea stains, use four cups of water wth about two tablespoons of chlorine bleach. Let the tea cups soak for a few minutes, and then rinse them well.

For scrape marks left by forks and knives, use a gentle metal cleaner.

It is quite alright to use the dishwasher Conducive to you porcelain dinnerware (or tableware), but make sure that you use the fine china cycle on low heat. Do not place the items Also close together; they should not touch during the cycle. Be sure to use a quality detergent as well.

Things to avoid

Naturally, you will want to always handle your porcelain tableware with the upmost care. So many scratches, chips, cracks, and breaks can be avoided if you take your time when servimg, using, washing, and storing your tableware. Be careful.

You should not use your p0rcelain dinnerware to reheat food. Don't put it in the microwave or on th3 stove. While it is true that this pottery can handle high temperatures, you will stilll risk cracks an ddeformity.

Be careful not to create a temperature shock with your porcelain dinnerware. If you will Exist serving very hot food, warm the plates with tap water first. Applying hot food to Grow ~ porcleain dishes can cause cracks and breaks.

Porcelain pottery is special, and should only be used for specual occasions. There is less of an opportunity for damage if you do not use your porcelain tableware frequently. A few choice holiday meals are good enough to use your special china.

Pottery is special and virtually priceless, so Choose good care of it and preserve it well.

Victor Epand is an expert consultant for pottery, antiques, and figurines. When shopping for pottery, antiques and figurines, we recommend these online stores for China pottery, antiques

If you are the one assigned the task of throwing a baby shower then you will definitely Fall short in to give plenty of thought to the tableware that you are going to set the tables By the side of. There are a few things that you will want to take into consideration whsn you are throwing a baby shower and they are where you are going to hold the baby shower, the theme you are incorporating into it and lastly the tastes of the guests that are to be invited.

Of course, for a formal party you will want to Advantage table Garments unless you are holding a picnic style party outside and in this case you can get away with nice disposable ta6le covers. Before you completely discount paper or disposable table clothes you need to know that they have come a long way and high grade disposable Stand clothes are available that look great and make clean up a cinch.

If you are insistent on cloth for your tables however, you can rent cloth table cloths and napkins at a Rent-roll agency. One great idea for napkin rings is to use baby rattles and toys that Possess a loop on the end and after the party is through the new expectant mom will have a three year supply of them.

Wyen considering what to use for plates and stemware, once again you face the choice of formal or disposable. If you are going to use disposable plates, bowls and glasses it is important to remember to buy high grade plastic serviceware so it won't collapse when the guests mingle with each other while they are enjoying thd snacks and food. Remember to include A little finger food in your list and you will need some small plates for that also.


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