A Catering Secret that will make your party platter sing – The Garnish!

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Poached Salmon with Champagne Grapes, Lemon and Cucumber Slices from FreshFoodinaFlash.com.

Poached Salmon with Champagne Grapes, Lemon and Cucumber Slices

Whether it’s planning my own parties or working with catering company, Along Came Mary, “the garnish” is the secret to giving your food a professional touch. Yes, the food has to taste amazing. Yes, you have to provide a welcoming and party atmosphere with music, decorations and possibly a theme. Yes, you must make introductions for conversations to flourish. But “the garnish” is the big secret caterers use to make their food sing at a successful party! Such a simple idea, but so important. We eat with our eyes, so make the food look delicious and special.

Melissa's Muscato and Champagne Grapes and Plum Bites.

Melissa’s Muscato and Champagne Grapes, Plum Bites

In their containers, these Melissa’s grapes look enticing, but watch what happens when you add them to a platter.

Melissa's Muscato and Champagne Grapes look like a still-life painting.

Melissa’s Muscato and Champagne Grapes look like a still-life painting.

I simply pulled these beautiful Muscato and Champagne Grapes from Melissa’s Produce along with their Plum Bites out of the package and plated them artfully.  Set them on a beautiful platter next to some art objects and it looks like a still life painting.

Cheese Board with Melissa's Muscat grapes from FreshFoodinaFlash.com.

Dress up a cheese board with Muscato grapes, blueberries and mixed nuts.


This is one of three cheese boards set out for a party with Brie, Goat Cheese rolled in Herbs de Provence, Kerrygold Dubliner cheese, mixed nuts, blueberries and Muscato grapes from Melissa’s.  I love the cheese board in the background, a cross cut of a tree from Boards by Joel made in my home state of Minnesota.

Poached Salmon with Champagne Grapes, Lemon and Cucumber Slices from FreshFoodinaFlash.com.

Poached Salmon with Champagne Grapes, Lemon and Cucumber Slices

This is one of my favorite presentations.  A filet of salmon is poached in foil with lemon slices and it’s presented on a fish plate with baby field greens on the side.  A cucumber is sliced thin in a food processor or mandoline, keeping the slices together, so they can be fanned out along the side of the salmon and then champagne grapes are placed at either end of the filet.   I’ve also used the cucumber slices to layer on the fish to resemble fish scales.  To do this, start at the tail of the fish and layer toward the head of the fish.

Salmon with Balsamic and Pesto Drizzles from FreshFoodinaFlash.com.

Salmon with Balsamic & Pesto Drizzles.

The garnish in this preparation is more elaborate, but a pretty edible flower – a nasturtium is added to make a nice spring presentation. Just make sure whatever you garnish with is edible. Never put anything on a plate that cannot be eaten.

Waldorf Salad with Red Walnuts

Waldorf Salad with Red Walnuts

Sometimes you simply need to garnish with a sprig of an herb that is in the dish or in the case of salad, place some of the “goodies” on the top once you are done plating, as in this Waldorf Salad with Red Walnuts.  The beautiful red walnuts and some blue cheese are placed on top to highlight these items and to have them look fresh and untouched. Garnish ingredients are generally listed at the end of a recipe.  Don’t pass by these tips in a recipe.  It can make a big difference in how appetizing your dish will look.  Now that you’ve learned the secret, practice garnishing tonight!  Even if you are the only one who will see your dish, I promise it will taste better with a pretty garnish!

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