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Q&A: Plating and Presentation


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It occurs to me that one of the problems with home-plating is that we just don't have the resources around that a restaurant kitchen would.

Abadoozy,

I agree with that statement, although there are many restaurant supply stores all over the country, and with the increase in specialty shops both online and locally, these barriers are dwindling...

...I think deblar had a point when she (he?) said that sometimes the problem is the raw ingredients. Some of you pros can correct me if I'm wrong, but I have to think that sauces, vegetable choices, and garnishes are often chosen with the final plating in mind.

You would be suprised, as far as I am concerned at least, if there are any other pros out there, let us know, but I usually create a dish from what I have on hand. Rarely do I order a product just for one dish, and if I do, it is a specialty item that is only avaialable for a short time, and is usually so expensive and such a treat that it would be overkill to have it on one or more dishes. Again, I make sure that all of my items on a plate are functional and are adding sustinence or flavor to a dish.

.....9 times out of 10, cooking at home, I'm not going to go out of my way to perfectly roast a squab breast just for prettiness. (I don't want to pick on Shalmanese - it's just the most recent post with pictures, and I can so relate to the feeling of "I'm so frantic doing everything at once that I tend to try and plate as fast as possible"!)

I challenge you to try to roast that squab breast perfectly 10 times out of 10, whether or not your plate it perfectly for a family dinner is another story....

So what's my point? I guess I'm just wondering if it's just a losing proposition to get a casual dinner to look as good as a finely-plated course served in a good restaurant. Hell, even most restaurants don't work too hard on plating - when's the last time you had a gracefully plated burger and fries? Some recipes - the big, the bright - take well to a good plating. Others? meh. Last night I roasted a chicken and served it with cauliflower in a quick cheese sauce. Tasted great. Looked like crap, and I'm not sure if anything that I could do quickly on a weeknight would make it look better.

... and that's fine. The food police aren't coming to arrest you. LIke I said above, when I am at home, I do not plate perfectly every time. Sometimes function ovecomes form. But when it is a special occasion, or there is a reason for me to do it (sometimes just becuase I am feeling artsy), I do the absolute best that I can.

Tonyy13

Owner, Big Wheel Provisions

tony_adams@mac.com

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Swiss Chef,

I am glad that you found a usefull resource for your antique plates.  Those pics look good, but are very old school (I guess antiques are kind of "old school" too, arent they?...:biggrin:).  I think that the name of this course should have been contemporary plating and presentation, that would have been more appropriate to both my knowledge, and the help that I am able to assist with.

Old fashioned!? .....Horsefeathers, poppycock and balderdash! :raz:

Edited by SWISS_CHEF (log)
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Okay, I tried it again tonight, slightly more successfully, I think. I'm wishing now I hadn't been trying to be bleudauvergne and had taken the photo from a seated position because there was a fair bit of height to the potatoes and onions.

The lighting was all that great either so you can't see that the chard is in rolls. Oh, and I globbed too much mustard on the plate.

bratwurst.jpg

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Old fashioned!? .....Horsefeathers, poppycock and balderdash! :raz:

Sorry... :unsure: Didn't mean to offend.....

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I guess I've broken two rules: adding rosemary twigs <i>and</i> lemon slices!

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Richr,

I am hungry now!! Good pic, that looks wonderful, and while I agree with your rosemary not being functional, if you are using your roasted lemons and juicing them to order on your chicken, than I think that they are absolutely in place. Great job!!

Okay, I tried it again tonight, slightly more successfully, I think. I'm wishing now I hadn't been trying to be bleudauvergne and had taken the photo from a seated position because there was a fair bit of height to the potatoes and onions.

The lighting was all that great either so you can't see that the chard is in rolls. Oh, and I globbed too much mustard on the plate.

This is really cool from where I am looking... you guys have started to critique your own plates based upon what we have discussed in the class, a sign that you have gotten something out of our discussion. Bravo, and keep up the cooking and critiqueing (sp?).... :raz:

Tonyy13

Owner, Big Wheel Provisions

tony_adams@mac.com

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I'm a she! LOL

And I've been cooking profesionally for 23 years..so I think I look at food as more then just my/ their dinner plate.

I take alot of different things into consideration. colors, tastes, size, temperature, chemistry, enviroment, semitry, practicality and "wow" factor.

I like the use of antique plates, in context. If you have a plate with alot of disign, use it for a simple food, if your food is dark ,use a light plate, if your food is ornate, use a simple design. Try to incorpeart your food into part of the design as a collor accent. Play with it.

I work at ...www.innforks.com

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Hi! I'm not Tony but I've been stabbing at my monitor with a fork for the last 10 minutes...lol! That looks SOOO good ;-).

Scallops on sauteed leeks with a balsamic reduction glaze on a WHITE plate. Am I getting any closer Tony? :sad:

1_1.jpg

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I made this pasta/shrimp/capers/olive oil/butter but I am not happy with the way the pasta looks on the white plate. I think it looks anemic I wonder if pasta might look better on a black plate?

dscf0021.jpg

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Scallops on sauteed leeks with a balsamic reduction glaze on a WHITE plate. Am I getting any closer Tony? :sad:

Swiss Chef,

You have to tell me if you are getting any closer. How do you feel about the dish? Do you feel that it looks better than previous plating attempts? In my opinion, I feel that yes, it is closer to what we talked about in the course lecture. But again, my word is not the end all say all. I like the plating of this dish better than I did of your previous dishes, but I do not think that any of them are bad.

As far as your pasta dish goes, I think that it looks great just the way that it is!! I would think that it would look ok on a black plate, but I personally would steer away from the blue plate. The black would allow the pinkness of your shrimp to sing, and the pasta wouldn't look sort of dingy (not your fault, it happens whith pasta made from semolina and whole eggs). Overall, I am happy with the fact that you guys are participating, whether or not your plates are perfect in my eyes or not....

Tony:/ What do you think of glass plates? Do you ever present on them? What goes particularly well or poorly with them?

Glass plates are tough, not too much goes on them. The only time that I feel like glass plates are nice are when they are being served on a table that has a white tablecloth (and so we are back to a "white" plate....). I feel that they do have their applications, but they are less readily available for home cooks, so I dind't go too far into talking about them. I find that desserts usually seem to look relatively well on glass plates, usually becasue hot food causes steam to make it look cloudy, as well as fat is nearly impossible to hide. With desserts, I usually see the plate dusted with powdered sugar, which can hide some of the imperfections on the plate. Overall, not a huge fan, but again, they absolutely have their applications.

Tonyy13

Owner, Big Wheel Provisions

tony_adams@mac.com

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I made this pasta/shrimp/capers/olive oil/butter but I am not happy with the way the pasta looks on the white plate. I think it looks anemic I wonder if pasta might  look better on a black plate?

dscf0021.jpg

Again speaking as a complete amateur, I think a dusting of some saffron or other red spice around the rim of the plate would create the contrast neccesary. As it is, the pasta sort of bleeds into the plate. Also, when serving pasta, I like to do plate with tongs and give a little twist at the end to give a nice neat pile.

PS: I am a guy.

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Scallops on sauteed leeks with a balsamic reduction glaze on a WHITE plate. Am I getting any closer Tony? :sad:

You have to tell me if you are getting any closer. How do you feel about the dish? Do you feel that it looks better than previous plating attempts?

Thanks Tony and everyone else,

Here is what I see is wrong with my shrimp plate:

In the picture the pasta looks dead... even though it didn't look so white in real life. I think the flash did that.

If I was plating this in a restaurant I would twist the linguine with a long two pronged fork into a tightly rolled tube and center it in the plate almost timbale style then lean the 5 shrimps against the column of pasta, then finish with with the capers and maybe drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil.

I tend to stay away from herbs and spices dusted around the rim because it was always considered so "80's" in the kitchens I cooked in.....personally I like the look of a dusting but most of the serious chefs I cooked with frowned upon it. I usually only do it for people that aren't really serious foodies. (I hope that doesn't sound smug)

On another note: Tony, I have only just noticed that you worked at the Manoir aux Quat' Saisons! Raymond Blanc has been a source of inspiration for me for at least 15 years. I had (now lost, I think I loaned it out and never got it back) his cookbook, which I really loved...talk about platings! WOW! I do still have The Gourmet's Tour of Great Britain and Ireland, Sir Clement Freud, Bulfinch 1989 which had a couple of killer platings from MaQS one which looks like a Miró painting and another which is equally as delightful! Did you work there in the late 80's and have a hand in these platings? What an honor it must have been to work in such a serious and respected kitchen! Bravo!

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As far as your pasta dish goes, I think that it looks great just the way that it is!!  I would think that it would look ok on a black plate, but I personally would steer away from the blue plate.  The black would allow the pinkness of your shrimp to sing, and the pasta wouldn't look sort of dingy (not your fault, it happens whith pasta made from semolina and whole eggs).  Overall, I am happy with the fact that you guys are participating, whether or not your plates are perfect in my eyes or not....

Hmm. I find myself more than a little ambivalent about the "always white" thing. White plates are great for formal western platings but more rustic preparations can come off looking a little lackluster (or worse, silly....)

Actually, I find that I look to the culture of a certain dish to get ideas on how to plate it -- for example, with the pasta dish above, maybe play on the idea of asian noodles and use a) a rectangular white plate or even more daringly b) a shallow blue chinese soup bowl? Asian soups look so much nicer in patterned bowls (IMO) for example.

Another big example is middle eastern foods. I find that clay pottery and heavily ornamented dishes can really flatter the food. For example, here is something I posted on the dinner thread recently, a moroccan grated cucumber salad:

gallery_17531_173_2834.jpg

The plate is some cheap thing I rescued from a friend's flooded basement. I've held on to it all these years because I think it really works well for certain things. I don't think this particular salad would have looked nearly as nice on a white plate. And what would moroccan food be without all those stunning clay tagines...Indian food also comes to mind. I have served deep red rogan gosht in a white bowl (when I was cooking at my SIL's), but it looks so much better when I serve it out of deep brown clay bowls at home.

Obviously, having idiosyncratically patterned dishes would be impractical in a restaurant setting, (not to mention that the food and setting of a typical white tablecloth restaurant would make clay look completely out of place) but for a home cook who gravitates towards foods of certain countries, it might be worth getting a few pieces that flatter that particular cuisine?

But anyway, I ain't no chef. Just wanted to throw another possiblity out there :smile:

Edited by Behemoth (log)
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By the way, can I just add that I am really intrigued by the way the sauce is applied here? Very Jugenstijl, somehow.  :smile:

Actually my balsamic reduction was a little thin so I couldn't place as neatly as I wanted to so I had to apply it quickly in a large circle from a pointed top mustard bottle.

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If I was plating this in a restaurant I would twist the linguine with a long two pronged fork into a tightly rolled tube and center it in the plate almost timbale style then lean the 5 shrimps against the column of pasta, then finish with with the capers and maybe drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil.

How about pasta with a colorful (ie tomato) sauce? I tried "plating" my standard spaghetti with italian sausages by putting the pasta & sauce on separately (deconstructed? :wink: ) and then arranging the sausages, but it ended up just looking silly. Big gloppy pile spaghetti, pile red sauce, line o' sausages. I didn't even take a picture 'cause it looked so dorky.

"What, after all, is more seductive than the prospect of sinning in libraries?"

Michael Dirda, An Open Book

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rack20of20lamb.jpgMy Webpage

Any thoughts on this? Pistachio and panko crusted Ontario Rack of Lamb, rosemary jus,  Maple-Soy Asparagus, and truffled mash potato.

Yes, I certainly have thoughts about that! It's beautiful and looks delicious, and I would like to eat it. :smile:

Did you cook, plate, and photograph that?

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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