festive grazing tables aisling Larkin

Festive Grazing Tables

Grazing tables are not only one of the hottest eating trends of 2019 but also the most perfect way to bring people together. They create a relaxed convivial atmosphere, feed a crowd with as little or no stress and can really wow your guests. 

There is no slaving over a hot stove all day, no rules or recipes; just indulge in some delicious shopping, pour yourself a glass of something lovely and begin the fun assembly. 

Festive Tables for Eating Mindfully

A key tenant of mindful eating is NO RESTRICTION. Food does not hold a moral value. Food is just food. How we interact and behave around food is the key behavioural factor we need to bring mindful awareness to.

Grazing Tables allow us to learn there is nothing off limits, no good foods or bad foods, no restriction and deprivation.

Find what you love, choose it, bring a gentle and mindful awareness to the deliciousness of your chosen food and savour every second of it.

So, what is a grazing table? 

Simply, it is  feasting table. An elaborate tablescape laid out to look beautiful. It is abundant, exciting and loaded with a section of foods, lovely festive decor and some tableware. 

What are the benefits of a grazing table ?

The biggest lure of grazing tables is the ease they offer to the host and the relaxed, sharing  and mingling atmosphere they offer to guests.  As the host you have so much more time to chat with your guests than if you were hosting a formal dinner party. Most of the food is prepared in advance  and the clean up at the end is pretty minimal. Visually is it very striking for your guests, a very Instagram worthy occasion. 

How to Prepare a Grazing Table 

Grazing tables are incredibly simple yet stylish and versatile. However a few simple tips to implement before your guests arrive. Remember – seasonal and abundant is key here.

Include plenty of flavours and an array of textures to ensure there is a good variety for your guests.


Where possible go to the local greengrocer, the supermarket that stocks the Irish cheeses, the butcher or shop where you can get some Irish charcuterie. 

Here is your basic shopping list :

  • Cheeses – about 5 types each with a distinctive texture and flavour. Something hard like a 30 month old age Parmigiano-Reggiano. Cut it into small bitesize pieces. As this is an aged cheese it will be packed with umami. Think about a soft, melty, mellow cheese like a port salut, a blue cheese for that high impact flavour, a vintage gouda for a nutty, carmel flavour and a soft goats cheese or brie. To ‘fancy it up’ drizzle with some local honey and top with some chopped hazelnuts or walnuts. Try buying a camembert or a Mont D’or in the box. Spike it with 3 cloves garlic and some fresh rosemary and bake in the oven. Add to the table mid way thought the evening. A block of real honeycomb and some fresh figs can add great drama to the tablescape too.
  • Crackers & Breads – a selection of textures, sizes and flavours is great. Think creamy cheeses and crunchy crackers. Never underestimate the love people have for a good old Tuc cracker or a Carrs cheese melt. Group the crackers in small mixed platters, keep them close to the cheese and spread them around the table. Breadsticks, pretzels, rice crackers, warm brioche buns and a delicious homemade brown bread scattered in real butter will be essential too. 
  • Meats  –  a selection of dry cured salami, prosciutto, bresaola and chorizos are perfect along with some fresh meats. Sliced smoked chicken, fresh mortadella, spiced beef, warm cubes of artisan black and white pudding, sausage rolls, cocktail sausages will all charm and delight your guests. Pate  –  do not skimp here –  spend the money and buy or make an amazing chicken liver pate. I promise you there will be no regrets. Pop some pickles or cornichons on the side. 
  • Seafood platter  –  keep this chilled until the guests arrive but think elements like smoked salmon pate, garlic butter prawns, crab claws, prawn cocktail and hot smoked salmon on brown bread with a lemon and black pepper aioli. 
  • Antipasti  – Olives of all kinds are the best option here,  a few stuffed peppers and some roast red peppers. 
  • Nuts  –  think roasted and salted cashew and peanuts, pistachios in their shell and spiced almonds. 
  • Dips – hummus, ranch, pesto, tapenade, quince and seasonal chutneys are my top recommendations here. A  few little labels here will be great or else buy ones in nice jars and just pop the lid and add a spoon. 

Fruit and Vegetables – Go directly to the green grocer for the best seasonal options. Simple green leaves in the centre dressed with a  little Greek olive oil, some lemon juice and sea salt will act as a garnish for topping little crackers etc.

Then crudities; carrots, celery, peppers, radish, and piccolo cherry tomatoes.

To add to this get some pomegranate, medjool dates, physalis, fresh cranberries, oranges and clementines. raddichio or endive leaves and figs. Also add in some pears, grapes, passion fruit and black cherries. A whole pineapple can add real drama to the decor too.  Some dried and fresh fruit work really well also. 

  • Hot options  –  arancini balls, gourmet pizzas, spring rolls, tempura prawns, falafels, scotch eggs.
  • Dessert –  handmade chocolate truffles, Turkish delight, chocolate florentines, warm mince pies, candy canes, homemade artisan marshmallows. 

Tablescaping Aesthetics  

Festive decor and styling is the key to nailing the grazing table trend. Choose rustic wooden boards, marble slabs, glass platters, brown paper bags, ramekins, mason jars or porcelain bowls to wow your guests. You may also need to create some height for visual impact, a 3D table created with plinths, boxes, crates… anything you have really can add a real sense of drama. Add signage, herbs and greenery for a show-stopping look. Eucalyptus, ferns, holly with berries, mistletoe, pine cones and fresh rosemary are all perfect.

From a psychological point of view, research has shown that even a small upgrade to a quality napkin and a slightly heavier  ‘real’ plate can hugely add to the enjoyment and satiety we get from an eating experience.Choose the best you can here. Always keeping your guest’s comfort and enjoyment at the fore and make sure to supply cheese knives, spoons and any other tools required. 

Multi-Sensory Design  

Again keeping with the festive vibes, twinkly fairy lights can add a wonderful Christmas wonderland effect. It will naturally emerge through the list of foods above but remember the importance of a combination of a variety of colour, texture and flavour. Aromas will be hugely appealing so including items like oranges studded with cloves, fresh fragrant rosemary and even some sprigs of a real Christmas tree to really heighten the sensory experience.  You want your tablescape to create curiosity, intrigue, excitement and most importantly a real sense of a luxe experience.

Remember to consider guests special dietary needs and food safety. Only put out the perishable about 20 minutes before your guests arrive. Only place small quantities out and replenish stocks as the night goes on. Label the special dietary options and keep foods separate if required. 

And lastly, ENJOY . This is your wonderful party, your guests will be truly wowed, so kick back and enjoy the great atmosphere. 

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