Our challenge to Diana Twyman, co-owner of the Miller Bakery Café with her son, Jack Strode, was to decorate a holiday table that would be functional, beautiful, durable and simple enough that a regular person might be able to learn how to do something similar. Oh, and we wanted the table to take on a certain life of its own, to become the view from a window onto the holidays, to be have a sight line that that goes on forever.
1. Figure out your color scheme. According to Diana, who quickly enlisted the assistance of her friend Terry Cera, they decided that they needed a color scheme that was festive, but could work with minimal changes from Thanksgiving all the way through to New Year’s Eve.
2. Focus on lighting. In order for the decorations to carry your eye down the line of a table for 20, Diana and Terry bought a garland. “The garland had beautiful winter scenes on it, flowers and pearly things,” she says, that they covered with shiny gauzy material that might be intended to drape on a tree. “We just used it to soften the lighting down the middle of our big, long table.”
3. Choose a centerpiece for the focal point. Once that is done, you can put smaller lower things that echo or complement the center. “We chose a sparkly white centerpiece,” Terry says, “that could then be offset by multicolored champagne glasses, wine glasses and votive candle holders.”
4. Channel your guests. Terry and Diana chose accent pieces and accessories that would not obstruct conversation that let you see the person across from you. There were relatively few tapers scattered around the table and, like the votives, the candlestick holders did not necessarily match.
5. Think about utility. “Because these are restaurant tables, and guests are served plated food,” Diana explains. “You don’t need as much open space on the table. Most home dining room tables are wider than this table, so there would be more room for food and family-style service.”
6. Keep a neutral base that will withstand a color change. “Even a change in the napkin color would make the table look different,” Diana says. Transparent glassware also inhances a simple basic design.
7. Use what you have and change the inexpensive decorative touches. “We bought the garland with the lighting already in it. We used glassware we already had. The tapers and taper holders we already had. The votives we already had,” she says. There were a few pieces borrowed like a crystal vase. “We bought the sparkly fruit, the ribbon, the lights, the centerpiece and smaller glass trees. We bought the garland, the mesh and the sparkly branches with little red gooseberries.” The rest, Diana says, was brought from home. Purchased items from Michael’s came in at less than $300.
8. Remember the goal. Terry and Diana never lost sight of the fact that they “wanted to showcase a beautiful room and make it feel homey, warm and inviting.”
Holiday Menu Suggestions
Starters and Small Plates
Sweet Potato Goat Cheese Puffs
Spicy Pulled Pork Bites with Smokey Chipotle Mayo
Meatloaf Cupcakes with Mashed Bacon Chive Icing
Bison Sliders with Caramelized Onions, Smoked Gouda and Sundried Tomato Mayo on Pretzel Bun
Blackened Tilapia Sliders with Juicy Mango, Crisp Lettuce and Lemon Cilantro Mayo on Pretzel Bun
Soups and Salad
Butternut Squash and Ginger Soup
White Winter Bean Soup with House Made Sausage
Baby Spinach with Candied Pecans, Blue Cheese, Granny Apples and Warm Bacon Dressing Chopped Romaine, Diced Tomatoes, Parmesan, Red Wine Vinaigrette
Lobster Truffle Linguini with Portobello Mushrooms, Garlic, Parsley and Truffle Oil
Stuffed Portobello Mushroom Steak Stuffed with Mushrooms, Onions, Garlic, Pine Nuts, Feta, Topped with Mozzarella, Feta and Parsley Pesto
Crab Meat Stuffed Flounder with Brown Sugar Sweet Potatoes and Almond Green Beans
Grilled Pork Chop with Apple Bourbon Glaze, Brown Sugar Sweet Potatoes and Brussels Sprout
Miller Bakery’s Signature Buttery Croissant Bread Pudding with Golden Raisins, Toasted Pecans Served Warm with Fresh Blueberries, Whipped Cream and Whiskey Caramel Sauce
Caramel Apple Spice Cake with Apple Cider Frosting
Warm Chocolate Lava Cake with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Raspberry Sauce
---Selections from catering menu, Miller Bakery Café