2020-2021 has seen us all become pretty excellent – or at least, better – home-cooks. But our hosting skills (and frankly, conversational panache) need a pep talk and fresh directionality.
When we get out of this and can gather around a table again, we’re all about making sure that table has read the room. Environmental responsibility and funneling joy into any social occasion will be high on our list of priorities. Here’s our primer for how to elevate your next home long table.
Palate prepper: bright bubbles
Europe has never felt so far away. But luckily we have all the ingredients we need here on home soil to pull some of its dining rituals into our present. Start your evening with an aperitif. Different countries (and even regions) have their own thoughts on what this sacred libation should be. In France, muscat is a must in Alsace, while pastis is preferable in the southeast. But if the politics of this palate prepper are making your head spin, sparkling wine is a universally acceptable apéro. Synonymous with a celebratory mood, it’s an ice-breaker for guests who don’t know each other and doesn’t force an immediate ‘white or red’ decision upon them. An elegant méthode traditionelle sparkling without the Champagne price tag is Howard Park’s Jeté Brut Blanc bubbles. This non-vintage pinot noir and chardonnay blend is made in Western Australia and lends a fine acidity and creamy palate towards stimulating appetites and loosening residual lockdown tension. With notes of citrus zest, white flowers and meringue, it makes an ideal match for the likes of oysters and other savoury hors d'oeuvres.
Future forward: sustainable tableware
By now we’re all on board that the world is warming and climate stressors like fire and flood are coming more frequently and ferociously. The recent IPCC report reinforced that as a globe we need to stop extracting fossil fuels stat. Melbourne artist and experimental designer Jessie French has already been thinking about this. She’s spent years researching algae — and how we can make tableware from carbon-sequestering plants. Her post-petroleum eating and drinking vessels are all handmade and one-of-a-kind. They can be composted, as well as reworked into new pieces infinitely, making a talking point in more ways than one.
Playful silhouettes: ceramic vessels
When we’ve been deprived of new sights and textures, we’re not opposed to bringing more playful and sensory experiences to the table. Byron ceramicist Layla Cluer is loosening things up with her table-centred practice, softedge. She’s dispensed of rigid, conventional dinnerware shapes in favour of tactile, sinuous vessels you’ll be hard-pressed not to find yourself spontaneously caressing. Her signature, the Ewer, is a voluptuous 4.5-litre pitcher designed to make light work of refills during a long Sunday lunch. The pieces feel like something between stone and soft skin when they come out of the kiln, and expand the sculptural possibility of an everyday table setting.
Sculpturally lit: candleholders
Candleholders are having a moment. It might be the desire to dress up the spaces we’re spending a lot of time in. Or to add a soft glow to the dinner table during hard times. Either way, they’ve become a mood-lifting and comforting addition during all seasons. Foreseeing this newly essential need, the clever folk at Modern Times commissioned a collection of contemporary candleholders from Australian artists. Sculptural hand-built pieces like Kerryn Levy’s double stems, Tanika Jellis’ volcanic glaze organic forms, and Bettina Willner’s coral-like holders support solitary moments and inspire gathering and connecting again. When you’re eating, make sure the candles are unscented, so you don’t crowd out the food. Beeswax candles are perfect. Depending on your candleholder of choice, you might like regular or twisted tapers, large pillars, or tealights.
Loud linen: napkins and tablecloths
Fine dining institutions often deck out their tables with crisp white tablecloths and heavily starched napkins. Frankly, there’s no need to be so formal at home. ULO founder Dinzi Amobi-Sanderson believes in the power of frivolity to lift spirits. Her Abbotsford-made textiles are inspired by the importance of sharing time and space with others. The cloth napkins are made from wax print cottons from Ghana, Tanzania, Nigeria, and Senegal — the bright colours and prints are all about encouraging joy. Mix and match this autumn rosetta aside black-and-white gingham. Supplement with white linen napkins, if you’re feeling overwhelmed with how bold future-forward tables will be.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Howard Park Jeté Sparkling.