Let’s Dish! How to Buy Dinnerware

 

Whether you’re a gourmet chef or take-out aficionado, you’re going to need some plates and bowls. You can simply pick the color or pattern you like, but it’s better to bring home a set that will last.

We caught up with our housewares buyer Emily Faltesek to get expert advice on purchasing dinnerware. She shares three things to consider:

Your Budget

Dinnerware comes in four types of material, and each has a different price point and characteristic.

Earthenware is the oldest for of dinnerware and is made of unrefined clay fired at low temperatures to create a glass-like surface.

“This is the lowest end,” says Faltesek. “The problem is that it doesn’t hold up to repeated use in the dishwasher, and it chips and breaks easier. You may spend less up front but you’re not getting the best bang for your buck.”

Stoneware is more durable than earthenware and is chip resistant. It’s made of refined clay and is fired at a higher temperature.

“Stoneware holds a glaze better than earthenware, and so it comes in cool designs and patterns,” says Faltesek. “It doesn’t chip as easily and holds up to the microwave. If you’re just starting out, stoneware is a good option and a good value.”

Porcelain is more durable than earthenware and stoneware. It offers a glass-like surface, and is fired at higher temperatures.

“Porcelain is made of a material that’s thinner and lighter weight,” says Faltesek. “It’s made from a finer sand, and is sturdy and doesn’t chip easily.”

Bone china is considered to be the strongest and most durable form of dinnerware. It’s fired twice at a higher temperature than porcelain and is dishwasher and microwave safe.

“Bone china is high quality; the finest fine china,” says Faltesek. “It’s super lightweight, durable and chip resistant. Animal bone ash is added to clay which makes it stronger.”

Your Needs

How many pieces you need depends on the size of your family and how often you entertain. Faltesek says enough to serve 12 is a traditional amount to purchase, but this number can be adjusted based on your needs and available storage. Dinnerware is sold in one of three ways:

Boxed sets come in 16- or 20-piece sets and provide service for four. They usually come with a dinner plate, salad plate, soup bowl, teacup and saucer.

Place settings are the most common way porcelain and bone china is sold. A place setting comes with five pieces: dinner plate, salad plate, bread plate, teacup and saucer.

Open stock is dinnerware that is sold by the individual piece. This is a good option for someone who might not need separate salad and bread plates, or if you want to add to what you already have.

Faltesek recommends open stock. “I always buy open stock because if you break a plate or want to replace a scratched add bowl, it’s easy,” she says.

How many different sets to buy is another consideration. “Conventional wisdom says you need two sets: casual, for everyday use, and something more formal,” Faltesek says. “That’s not true anymore.”

Instead, determine if you’re frequently having big formal dinner parties. If you’re not, one set will do.

Your Style

Finally, you need to find dinnerware that represents your personal style. You’ll find options in every color imaginable, but you can never go wrong with white, says Faltesek. “White dinnerware is a big trend, especially in modern style,” she says. “You can use it for any occasion; it’s always appropriate.”

While you can use it alone, white dinnerware also serves as a foundation. “Layer fun colors or metallic with salad plates or bowls,” says Faltesek. “You can be trendy and fun for the season without spending tons of money replacing everything later.”

The best thing to know about dinnerware is to buy what you love. “Have fun,” says Faltesek. “Otherwise dinnerware is just taking up space in your cupboard.”

Summer Fun: How To Host a Shrimp Boil

shrimp boil

 

Summer is the time for outdoor parties. If you’re looking to host a casual large gathering and you love shellfish, there’s nothing better than having a shrimp boil. This type of party requires very little prep and cook time. You simply boil the ingredients and serve.

 

Grab your calendar and put a shrimp boil on the schedule. Here’s the simple recipe from Food.com:

  • 4 pounds of large or jumbo shrimp, heads off
  • ½ cup shrimp boil seasoning, such as Old Bay
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 12-ounce can of beer
  • 2 large onions, cut in quarters
  • 8 red potatoes, cut in quarters
  • 6 ears of corn, cut in half or thirds
  • 2 pounds of spicy sausage

 

Fill a large stockpot with four quarts of water, and place over high heat. Add Old Bay, salt, water and beer. When the water is boiling, toss in the potatoes and onions, and cook for 8 minutes. Next add the sausage, cooking on high for 5 minutes. Then add the corn, and continue to boil for another 7 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook for 4 minutes. Drain the liquid, and pour the contents into large bowls, shallow pails or on a tabletop covered with brown paper. Give guests plates and plenty of paper towels. Serves eight. Enjoy!

Create Your Winter Bucket List

Photo credit: Pinterest / Attagirlsays
Photo credit: Pinterest / Attagirlsays

When the temperatures drop, it can be very tempting to hibernate in your home, but don’t let the season get away without making memories. Create a winter bucket list of fun activities that are best done at this time of year, and start checking things off. Here are 10 ideas to get you going:

 

  • Decorate a gingerbread house
  • Make peppermint bark
  • Hold a snowball fight
  • Go on a horse-drawn carriage ride
  • Participate in a secret Santa gift exchange
  • Go for a drive and look at the Christmas lights
  • Volunteer at a local food bank or shelter
  • Bake cookies
  • Toast marshmallows in your fireplace and make s’mores
  • Go skating on an outdoor rink or pond

 

What are your favorite wintertime activities?

 

Last-Minute Thanksgiving Details

Thanksgiving is this week, and in the midst of your holiday preparation it is easy to overlook a few details. Here are three quick tips to help you with your last-minute planning:

1. If your turkey isn’t completely defrosted, don’t despair. Immerse the bird in the plastic wrap and put it in ice-cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes to avoid dangerous bacteria from developing, according to Butterball. It will thaw quicker than leaving it in the refrigerator.

2. Double-check your menu. Go over each recipe and make sure you have all of your ingredients. You don’t want to have to run around on Thanksgiving morning looking for a store that’s open because you’re out of flour.

3. Count your place settings. Make sure you have enough plates, forks, knives and napkins for everyone. Don’t forget the settings you’ll use for serving food, and have a couple on hand in case someone brings an unexpected guest. If you’re shy a few settings ask someone to bring extra.

How to Host a Friendsgiving

What’s better than Thanksgiving dinner? How about two Thanksgiving dinners!! Family gatherings are important and traditional, but a growing trend is hosting a Friendsgiving, a special Thanksgiving-style dinner with your favorite friends.

Hold it before Thanksgiving to create a trial run for the big day, or after to make the most of leftovers or serve something completely different.

Here are some things to consider before hosting your Friendsgiving:

Consider potluck. Friendsgiving is the perfect time to hold a potluck, making it easier than Thanksgiving because no one person will be in charge of the entire meal. Assign specific dishes or a category, such as veggies or dessert. Or be bold and enjoy whatever dishes show up in hand.

Set a theme. Another dinner-planning idea is to choose a theme and have guests bring something that fits. For example, set a theme of Italian, Chinese farm-to-table or even deep-fried. This could be a nice break from your Thanksgiving leftovers.

Make sure to accommodate special diets. Check in with friends and see if anyone has food allergies or intolerances, or follows a special diet, such as vegan or Paleo. Then make sure you have enough on your menu to fill them up.

Think about drinks. If you are serving alcohol, plan how you’ll stock your bar. You can make it easy and serve just wine or beer. Or create a special cocktail for the day, such as a special martini or mixed drinks. Or set out what guests will need for the most common drinks.

Decide if you want a special décor. Thanksgiving dinner usually includes a special holiday tablescape with a centerpiece, place settings, napkins and place cards. Friendsgiving, however, can be as festive or casual as you wish.

Do you hold Friendsgiving? Share you favorite tips in the comments below!