by Chrysa Smith

Another Saturday night at the Smith house. Only this time, after-dinner dessert was not served the usual ‘out of the box’ way. This night was the Chocolate Buffet.
Yes, in honor of St. Valentine’s Day, I opted to stay in, have a few friends over and celebrate in a pretty, moody way. And it looked just great, don’t you think?

Whether it’s Valentine’s Day or any other holiday, a special way to jazz up the buffet is to use varying height ‘bases’ as platforms for the food. Quite a few years ago now, I purchased a tiered set at Costco’s for about $20. And I use it all the time. It consists of three wrought iron stands which hold the square white plates. But you can virtually use any square or round shaped item—a coffee can, a shoe box—whatever might work as a good surface area with support. I took a red tablecloth (usually reserved for Christmas) and I draped the bases and surrounding countertop, leaving folds for a soft effect. A few fern (left over from a floral arrangement), a couple of candles (from my dining room) and voila! A restaurant-style buffet. It’s easy, cheap and pretty —these are a few of my favorite things.
To keep it from being an overwhelming feat, I enlisted my guests to each bring one chocolate dessert of their choice (thus the empty plates), and they came with ‘Magic Bars’, Canolis, Chocolate Mouse Cups, Devil’s Food Cake—while I supplied the healthy, mega strawberries (thanks to Wegman’s). Again, a chocolate theme can translate to other galas: A Final Four party with orange cupcakes decorated to look like basketballs and a brown tablecloth that looks like a wood floor; An Easter Buffet with plates replaced by baskets and fern replaced with colored Easter eggs; An Independence Day BBQ Buffet with red tablecloth, white plates and blue napkins–add flags in place of candles and red/white/blue streamers instead of fern.
You get it. A theme is all you need and the ideas will follow.