How to createTHE PERFECT PARTY PLATTER

Whether you’re finding yourself in tier 1, 2 or 3, the end of the year is upon us – which means, some sort of celebration is in order. We love a good party platter, as it’s just as effective for a party of 2 as 6, and can add a festive touch to any Zoom catch up. We’ve caught up with Toria Smith, founder of Grape & Fig, to get her expert advice on how to create the perfect party platter at home.

At GRAPE & Fig, the secret to our success so far has been what we call the ‘Grazing Table’. It combines food, stunning floristry installations and ‘tablescape’ styling, which together create pure magic. We create bespoke displays made up of locally sourced cheese, cured meats, antipasti, dips, breads, fresh honeycomb, fruit, nuts, sweet treats and more (not a beige canapé in sight) – we aim to bring people together, foster conversation and create a visual feast for the eyes as much as for the palate. The traditional cheese platter with an accompanying stick of celery and a few grapes is really a thing of the past in our book.

But these wonderful displays aren’t just for brand events and celebrity parties – you can create a magical masterpiece at home, very easily and surprisingly economically. You can get those creative juices flowing as well as ‘wow’ your guests at your next soirée (even if it’s over Zoom, or only your immediate family). Here’s how….

Why choose a platter?

• They’re easier to create than you think, and there isn’t ‘a right way’ to put one together. Your platter should reflect your own personality, and each one being completely unique is what makes them so beautiful! They also don’t break the bank to create – all of the ingredients can be purchased at your local supermarket.

• They are simply beautiful to look at. As the old adage goes, people eat with their eyes, and people seem to marvel at these creations before digging in, which makes the experience hugely satisfying for all (even if you’re only creating these for yourself and a partner).

• They foster conversation at events and parties (even over Zoom), bringing people together and mingling right away. This sociable dining experience also makes people relaxed too.

• Such platters become a main decorative feature on the table – no need for a separate, expensive flower display in the middle of the table, your platter should take centre stage and will speak for itself!

• You can go back to graze time and time again – nothing cooked, raw or hot/cold on the platters – so perfect to put down and leave (we recommend for a maximum of 4 hours) for everyone to help themselves throughout the evening.

Food for thought

• Shop local, supporting your local artisan cheese makers, delicatessens or bakers.

• Try to include as many fresh ingredients as possible, you’ll really taste the difference. If you have a local market pop down to see if you can get some gorgeous fresh fruit and vegetables.

• If you or your guests have any allergies or dietary requirements, feel free to swap in other ingredients – for example, we like to use sweet potato pakora and falafel instead of cured meats and cheese for our vegan customers.

• You can use whatever boards you have at home, no matter the shape (circular, square, rectangular…) or the material (from wood or marble to ceramics).

The signature GRAPE & Fig ‘how to’ platter method:

1. FAN IT OUT

The first tip is to show off the star of the board – the cheeses. We suggest having at least three options — a soft, cow’s-milk cheese (like Brie), a crumbly blue (like Stilton), and a hard cheese (like Manchego). But instead of plopping down your cheese wedges randomly we recommend cutting and fanning them out into a triangular shape. It instantly fills up the board and makes it look more appetizing, creating a little bit more of an intrigue.

2. EDGE IT UP

Next step, create an “edge” by using produce that’s a bit more sturdy, like oranges, grapefruits, cucumbers, even round cured meats. Cut those slices in half to create a sharp edge, and place them around the perimeter of the platter. You’re essentially creating a little barrier between the rest of the platter and the outskirts. That way everything will stay intact, even as you move the board from room to room.

3. PILE IT ON

With what you have left (cured meats, fruit, sun-dried tomatoes, and the like), make mini piles on the board. Style them into little florets, sectioning them out across the platter. No matter what produce you use, create whole, dense sections with one type of produce and one type of colour. It’s the key to keeping your cheese boards stylishly cluttered rather than messy.

4. FILL IT IN

Even with those mini mountains, you’ll likely have small gaps in between your piles. That’s where your looser objects come into play; think olives, blueberries, blackberries, nuts or pomegranate seeds. Place whatever you have in those gaps to make the board look super dense and stunning. The idea is not to have any space left where you can see the actual board.

5. MAKE IT POP

As for the finishing touches, there are a few extra ingredients to sprinkle on if you really want to go the extra mile. Grab your delicate ingredients — figs, honeycomb (or a drizzle of honey, if that’s all you have), some cut strawberries, ground pistachios — and place them on top of contrasting colours. If you have edible flowers or herbs, that’s stellar — it’ll give the platter quite the sensorial experience. It just elevates your graze, taking it from normal to something that looks really gorgeous.

6. SHOW IT OFF!

GRAPE & Fig are the UK’s first and finest ‘grazing’ caterer, founded by Toria Smith in 2017. She brought the concept over from Australasia after seeing the incredible meters and meters of grazing goodness at Byron Bay coastline weddings whilst travelling there in 2013. What started as a passion project has gained incredible momentum and ‘Grazing’ is already the ‘next big thing’ in catering, with GRAPE & Fig leading the charge.