A thousand magazines are published every holiday season with impossibly gorgeous and unattainable-looking tablescapes.
From the thousand-dollar antique champagne bucket to the haute-cuisine menu, it would be difficult for any host to live up to the expectations set by the professionals.
But Michaline Tomich, founder of MixDesign, has a different take on it.
"When decorating a table at home, I think people don't realize they can use things they already have to integrate and make it fancier," she said.
Horseshoe Casino's Director of Hospitality and Chef Chris Baulo agrees. Baulo created an inventive yet familiar menu that was both visually pleasing and engaged the appetite.
"I think having the opportunity to show folks that you can be very creative is important, even with the simplest of ingredients that you would normally find and use for holiday meals," Baulo said.
In Tomich's tablescape at the Horseshoe Casino, the design incorporated sleds, branches, antique books and picture frames to create a sumptuous yet homey atmosphere.
"We wanted to find a way to showcase the food as art, so we brought the frames in to glorify the food and bring a bit of vintage feel to an elegant setting," she said. "When you pull crates, ornaments, sleds, ice skates - when you add in those antique elements with floral, you kind of end up with new creativity."
Above the table was a hanging focal point that brought the holiday feeling home.
"The piece above the table was inspired by adding found objects to an elegant setting," Tomich said. "The clash of context in adding those things often makes décor more welcoming and approachable."
To showcase the food, Tomich and her team used risers and a system of picture frames as food serving platters.
She also encourages table designers not to overclutter. "Make food the hero," she says. "Leave spots on the table to glorify the food."
And indeed the food was the star of the show.
Baulo's menu includes:
Moulard Duck Breast, Port Glazed Figs, Baby Winter Vegetables
Roasted Red Kuri Squash
Suckling Pig Chops, Baby Turnips, Carrots and Beets
Mile High Apple Pie with Cinnamon, Walnut and Pecan Streusel
Honey Pistachio Glazed Smoked Turkey Wings
Spinach Stuffed Leg of Lamb, Roasted Garlic and Hot House White Aspargus
Don't be intimidated by the fancy-sounding menu, however. Baulo notes, "Just like anything else, if you have a good plan it will come out great."
To showcase the food, Tomich suggests elevating the serving dishes.
"Stand back from the table and pick a spot that is the high point," she advises. "Cascade down from that. Don't get wrapped up in doing things symmetrically."
And for home cooks, it's easier than they might think to impress guests.
"I think you need to have items that will please your masses," Baulo said. "I don't think you should ever try to please everyone, but have a good variety. Think about your guests with allergies, vegetarians, no garlic, etc. This way they know every year you will be throwing the best party."