Table Settings? Cool. Game On.
It has been pointed out to me a time or two—or 90—that I can be competitive. I used to act shocked and bewildered and would deny it until the accuser collapsed in a heap of quivering apologies.
I’ve mellowed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still competitive; I just don’t bother denying it anymore. And I’ve found that most of my writer friends are, too. But too much competition can wear friendships thin, and our core group of four vowed to leave professional competitiveness behind. For the most part, we’ve been successful.
However, we didn’t ban competition from other areas of our lives, and our annual dinner party has become a game of deliberate one-upmanship as well as a riotously good time. It started three years ago with a decadent disco display (complete with mirrored ball, lots of ABBA, and a cardboard John Travolta) from our most reserved member.
Since then, it’s been game on. Our thriller writer went with skull-and-crossbones dinnerware and accessories arrayed on black velvet, Dead Guy Ale from a small coffin filled with ice, and her son escorting us to our seats with a distressingly realistic knife in his back. Then the Victorian mystery writer did lace linens, a profusion of doilies,
extravagant flower arrangements and a menu written in French that none of us—even the hostess—could read. For all we know, she never served a thing on that menu.
It’s my turn. I want an early start, so I meet my friend Terry Knight for breakfast at First Watch. Terry has to work, so she’s only able to be with me for my first stop, which is next door: Pier 1. I’m not sure exactly what I’m looking for, but I figure I’ll know it when I see it.
Only I don’t. Terry does. She pulls down a carafe covered with sea grass and says, “Wouldn’t this be cute for sangria?”
A vision of my table comes to me, and I mix colorful square plates in muted shades of yellow, red and green with rattan placemats, and pair them with rustic kitchen towels for napkins rolled into antiqued napkin rings that feature a built-in place card. Glass plates painted with orange and yellow pears can hold olive oil, and Dolomite serving plates could hold mounds of pasta. I’ll fill small bowls with nuts and olives and scatter them across the table, and the bronze leaf serving plate could hold aged cheese. Three sea grass and hyacinth baskets for a centerpiece, and I’ll line the medium one with a kitchen towel for breadsticks, fill the large with eucalyptus stems and stuff the little one with lemons.
Sadly, Terry has seen the manic light in my eyes and goes to work before I can drag her around town looking for my next inspiration.
Which I find at Z Gallerie in Coconut Point. Something about the large hourglasses strike my fancy, and I’m soon cause for concern for the saleswoman when I clear off a table and begin putting my vision together. There’s nothing cohesive, but as I play I notice that a lot of things
seem to be glittering.
The saleswoman contributes rhinestone salt and pepper shakers and blue Capiz plates to rest on white Capiz placemats. I notice that the large glass beverage dispenser I hadn’t removed from the display table looks perfect, and, once I have that piece incorporated (I’ll fill it with refreshing mint julep), everything else is easy.
Rhinestone frames for place cards (after the Contentious Nicholas Sparks Debate of 2006, T and J are no longer allowed to sit together), and they’ll glitter nicely in candlelight. Salad for the silver “Bling” bowl, and I’ll make up predictions of bestsellers for the oversized silver fortune cookies I’ll put at each place. An hourglass will go at each end of the table, and I’ll scatter “gems” across the center. Over-the-top. Feminine. Fun. There will be giggling!
But before I commit, I must visit The Good Life in the Collection at Vanderbilt. I adore what I’ve put together so far, but now that I’m immersed, I think I should make an effort to use the dinnerware after the dinner party. I have my antique china for formal occasions, but my casual settings could use an update.
And casual dinnerware doesn’t get more fun than the Tracy Porter designs at The Good Life. Another plus with locally owned stores? They know you! Scott listens to my ideas and clears off space at the counter himself as I start layering Porter’s peacock designs.
The richly painted dinnerware is fun, but the peacock theme and colors make it feel opulent, too, and I could see myself being delighted for years to come. Every possible dish has a perfect container, condiment bowls, segmented trays, a tall footed bowl, a tray with peacock tails for handles. There are divine salt and pepper shakers, and a covered butter dish.
But it’s when I see the stunning, massive salad bowl that I know my mind is made up. I can already see a Caesar with my homemade dressing and croutons in it, which leads me effortlessly to the rest of my menu of grilled scallops and asparagus, a crisp white wine and an apple tart for dessert.
I’ve found peacock feathers online and will fill tall vases with masses of them, light white tapers in chunky crystal candle holders and cover the table and chairs in inexpensive tapestries. I have a fake fur stole (don’t ask) to curl down the middle, and I’ll add more opulent dashes from things
I already own. As Scott helps me out to the car, I can’t help but grin and think, “I win!”
Casual, Funky, Cool Dinner Party
1000 Immokalee Road, Naples
4945 S. Cleveland Ave., Fort Myers
17901 Summerlin Rd., Fort Myers
Bohemian Chic table for four, $410 complete setting
Essential Colours square dinner plate, $6
Essential Colours square salad plate, $5
Painted glass pear plate, $6
Ceramic lotus bowl, $3.50
Dolomite serving plate, $12-$30
Bronze leaf serving plate, $20
Sea grass-wrapped carafe, $10
Square rattan placemat, $8
Kitchen towels, $15/set of 3
Place card napkin ring, $4
Sea grass baskets, $24/set of three
Glitzy Girl table for four, $740 complete setting
Capiz dinner plate, $25
Capiz salad plate, $8
Miette covered candy dish, $9
Marquis salt-and-pepper set, $23
Apothecary beverage dispenser, $50
Mouse cheese knives, $20
Capiz pearl placemat, $22
Bling bowl, $90
Diamond paperweight, $17
Marquis photo frame (5-by-7-inch), $27
Silver fortune cookie, $15
The Good Life
Collection at Vanderbilt
Peacock Opulence table for four, $935 complete setting
Tracy Porter “Vivre” footed bowl, $48.50
Tracy Porter tray with condiment bowls, $48.50
Tracy Porter three-section tray, $46
Tracy Porter “Artesian” peacock tray, $80
Tracy Porter “Artesian” peacock salad bowl, $205
Tracy Porter salad fork and spoon, $29/set
Tracy Porter peacock salt and pepper shakers, $26/set
Tracy Porter covered butter dish, $43 Pimpernel “Peacock Tapestry” placemats, $40/set of four