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Paper or Plastic - Dinnerware, That Is


weinoo
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So, the Mrs. and I are having a small brunch for family; should end up with about 13 people here in our apartment.

Now this being NYC, my dinnerware/silverware/glassware collection can comfortably be used for about 8 people..that's generally the largest group we have for dinner. Actually, I have enough glassware and silverware for 16 by cobbling together pieces of various sets - it's plates and bowls that I come up short on.

So, I'm thinking I might go out and buy some high quality plastic type plates and bowls; my question is how gauche is that?

And do you use paper or plastic for larger get togethers where you don't have enough "real" stuff?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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How often do you entertain? You can always get an inexpensive dish set for these occasions. I got a set not even on sale at Bloomingdales of all places and I still have it and it has gotten a lot of use. It was 100 bucks, but it also serves 12. I am not really a fan of plastic or paper so that's why I went that route.

Having said that, if all the guests are friends/family, they certainly aren't going to care as they are surely there for the company. ;)

(I'd also consider what you are serving and if it will hold up on paper/plastic.)

Edited by ambra (log)
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This may not fly with the people you know, but if a gathering this big is really rare for you, is there any chance you could ask to borrow the pieces you need from one of your guests? Given the size of NYC apartments, you probably don't want pieces you virtually never use taking up space, regardless of the material they're made of.

I don't think it's ever occurred to me to use paper or plastic, apart from for picnics and barbecues (where there was an excellent chance of things being lost or damaged). I've just stuck with inviting smaller numbers of guests, although I almost inevitably end up using very obviously mismatched pieces.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
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Given the size of NYC apartments, you probably don't want pieces you virtually never use taking up space, regardless of the material they're made of.

This is the main point - the storage of pieces I'd rarely use. But I do have and pay for storage down in the basement of our building, so...

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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We have a large group here in August every year...our Annual Dog Weekend. And every year I say to myself, well, it's just too much work and I'm going to use disposable plates, foam (yechh) or paper, to cut down on the cleaning.

And then every year we use a plastic set again. I bought it about 10 years ago, 3 plates for a $1, etc, and we use it year after year. And I wash it year after year.

I hate eating from foam or paper and thin plastic just makes it onto my eating radar. And yes, the rest of the year it sits in a container in the garage.

But then I have a lot of storage space. :wub: No help here I'm afraid.

Darienne

 

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I avoid plastic/paper as much as I possibly can. Part of the reason is the environment but I think even more is the horrible mouthfeel of plastic utensils and the fragility of even the high-end paper plates. I can easily accommodate 16 or even more but totally mismatched pieces if I go above 8. Most of my extras came from thrift stores. The extras are in banker's boxes for most of the time but get pulled out for an annual Danish lunch.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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My first thought was stackable Melamine ware for those occasions, and invest in some nice cutlery. I agree with previous posters - plastic forks are an abomination at a sit-down meal. They're only fit for food on the go, and even then only barely. (I carry a full personal set of metal utensils in my purse.... :blink: )

ETA - I should mention that I'd consider buying a complete setting for 16 in high-quality Melamine, so that you've got a full non-mismatched set for these larger occasions. I'm guilty of cobbling together settings from various and sundry settings, and it irks me to no end that I can't lay the table to match. That's just me being OCD, though. :rolleyes:

Edited by Panaderia Canadiense (log)

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

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I'd say paper and/or plastic plates are okay for finger-food or maybe brunch, but not for a more formal dinner. Plastic cutlery, on the other hand, is an abomination that should not be tolerated :wink:

I agree - high quality plastic or other disposables are readily available. With more time in the future you could search out some of the cool disposable bamboo dishes that are being used in all sorts of high end catering these days. In the short term, fer a casual event, go with high-end clear or black plastic, the likes of which are being sold at any party supply store, or possibly even target / walmart-type places. And use real flatware.

My grandmother (whom I love dearly) switched to foam / paper years ago for all big family gatherings. I can't tell you how much I detest eating Christmas dinner off of a paper plate. Sigh.

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I'm another one of those who avoids disposable paper/plastic products when I can. Another option at Target/Wal-Mart type places are 6" or 7" glass plates (I can't remember which) that work well for buffet parties. The ones I have come twelve plates to a box, which doesn't have any extra packing material so it's quite compact. (That was pretty important as I lived for nearly a decade in a small pre-WWII condo without much storage space. Maybe larger than NYC, I'm not sure, but still...)

I second borrowing from a guest--one of my neighbors routinely borrowed my flatware and stemware for her parties, and it was no trouble at all. (She was a good enough friend that she borrowed even for work & various other parties to which I was not invited, & it was still no trouble at all.)

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Yes, I do. I wouldn't do it in your situation (a cheap dinner set would do--me, I'd go to my local Chinese discount store and spend some change on some generic white plates), but if when I cater for ~20-25 I run to the supermarket and buy plastic bowls, plates and cutlery. Why? Well, I don't have enough actual plates. Close, but not enough. And on top of all the other cleaning I have to do, I really don't want to have to clean 20+ bowls, plates, cups, etc. Not to mention the fact that when people aren't all sitting at a table, it's more likely I'm going to end up with broken glass/china/etc ... possibly in the sole of my heel a few days later.

Chris Taylor

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Melamine will take up the same amount of storage space as real china, it will have to be washed like real china, so, labor-wise they are equal. I'd much rather be eating off discontinued real china than melamine.

Yet another source for reasonably-priced dinnerware: IKEA.

Melamine IMO is barely more pleasant than the disposables.

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I do and have. We feed 50+ for Christmas eve and I buy those Chinet paper platters. They stand up against everything, including salads and gravy.

But...have you considered renting? You can rent a very small amount of china, glasses, silverware, etc. It is not expensive and all you have to do when you are done is rinse and put back in the racks that they provide. We've done that in the past when we were having 25 or so folks and it was wonderful. The plates are very plain, but nice looking.

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If there is such a creature as Garden Ridge in NYC, I bought 3 dozen clear glass plates and bowls for a brunch I was doing for my daughter's graduation. A buck apiece. I keep them in a big Rubbermaid tub in the guest room closet (OK, so NYC apartments probably don't have a guest room closet) with Wal-Mart a-dozen-for-$3 washcloths in between pieces and haul it out once or twice a year. I have to cobble together flatware, two services for 12 and two for eight, two of which I borrow, but it works.

I use paper/plasticware at work for lunch, because if I wash my "real" stuff I always wind up washing everyone else's coffee cups and bowls they've left in the sink. They pay me too much an hour for me to spend it washing dishes.

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Melamine will take up the same amount of storage space as real china, it will have to be washed like real china, so, labor-wise they are equal. I'd much rather be eating off discontinued real china than melamine.

Yet another source for reasonably-priced dinnerware: IKEA.

Melamine IMO is barely more pleasant than the disposables.

HERE is a white stoneware 18 pc. set of six dinner plates, lunch plates and bowls at IKEA for $24.99.

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Mitch, check out Yoshi Dinnerware. There are are a lot of attractive sturdy plastic dinnerware that will allow you to concentrate you time on the food and being with your family.

Some of the disposable products out there are biodegradable and or compostable if it makes you feel better

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I bought a bunch of plates and bowls at Corning outlet. They ran close to a dollar a piece. Very thin, stack great, unbreakable. I have a lot of fun "accidentally" dropping a plate and watching people's reaction (only close friends and family). Think about all the trash that can be avoided if we don't use paper/plastic plates. In NYC of all places...

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Melamine will take up the same amount of storage space as real china, it will have to be washed like real china, so, labor-wise they are equal. I'd much rather be eating off discontinued real china than melamine.

Agreed. I've never been a fan of melamine - it has a weird feel and sound.

Yes, I do. I wouldn't do it in your situation (a cheap dinner set would do--me, I'd go to my local Chinese discount store and spend some change on some generic white plates), but if when I cater for ~20-25 I run to the supermarket and buy plastic bowls, plates and cutlery.

The other day I was in just one of these stores, but the product in most of these stores is not any cheaper than IKEA, and in most cases is certainly not as nice as some of what's available at IKEA.

Yet another source for reasonably-priced dinnerware: IKEA. Melamine IMO is barely more pleasant than the disposables.

Agreed. See above.

If there is such a creature as Garden Ridge in NYC, I bought 3 dozen clear glass plates and bowls for a brunch I was doing for my daughter's graduation.

Nope...closest one appears to be about 350 miles from here :shock: .

HERE is a white stoneware 18 pc. set of six dinner plates, lunch plates and bowls at IKEA for $24.99.

I actually have a set of those already - very serviceable.

So what did you decide to do?

I will most likely go back to the flagship Fishs Eddy store, located right near the Union Square greenmarket. They made their name buying up old and discontinued lots of restaurant ware. Now they still do that, but they also have their own brand name dinnerware - unfortunately, it's made in China and I'm trying to avoid buying Chinese made dinnerware, which also causes problems with buying at IKEA.

The stuff I've bought at Fishes Eddy is mostly restaurant grade dishes from Homer Laughlin and Syracuse China Company - it's all made in the good ole USA. They have a whole section in the back of the store with all sorts of plates, mugs, cups, saucers, bowls, etc. for $1 to $4 a piece, depending on size. The other day I picked up some nice 9" plates from Homer Laughlin for $3 a piece, and some cool looking gold-rimmed small bowls for $1 each. What I like about this stuff is that, while it's not unbreakable, it takes a lot of abuse without chipping or cracking. The stuff I have from IKEA gets chipped up practically from looking at it.

With just a few more plates of various sizes, I'll be able to cobble together enough real dishes for the party.

And then I'll move the stuff that I don't need on a regular basis downstairs to my storage bin!

As for flatware, I already have two services for 8. While neither is complete (and what happens to those teaspoons I'll never know) I definitely have enough stuff for the brunch.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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