Some may say that the fashion for a properly set table has gone out of style. But at home or in a restaurant, there’s something soulful and elegant about sliding a cloth napkin from under metal forks, beautiful glassware and real china. In New Orleans, many chefs have a design sensibility that extends from the kitchen to the dining room table, and if local home store displays say anything, it’s that table finery is making a comeback in a big way.
At Root and Square Root, chef Phillip Lopez is obsessed with special dishware that matches the spirit of the food he creates. No detail is left unchecked: There are thick bamboo boards for charcuterie, slate tiles that carry expertly crafted salads and mains, hand-wrought ceramic dishes. Clever, stark-white bowls with "drip" edges hold nitro-blasted fruits and sorbets. All manner of shapes, sizes and mediums become a palate for Lopez’s smart, modern and approachable foods. Titanium spoons with that? Yes, of course.
Chef-owner Michael Stolzfus dresses his tables at Coquette with sleek stainless utensils, white Steelite dishes, lovely hand-thrown Heath ceramics, locally made wood boards and handmade stemware. The feeling is elegant rusticity, simple and natural in design, to beautifully enhance Stolzfus’ stunning food.
Handmade pottery pieces evoke a homey, natural feel. The bowls, platters and other vessels at Noodle & Pie have great texture. Matte or high-gloss glazed clay, bamboo and glass partner well with the mixed textures of Asian food. In more classic European style, the tableware at Le Foret adheres to an elegant white format, with simple lines and a few pieces in intriguing shapes, such as the eye-shaped platter.
Pêche chefs Donald Link and Ryan Prewitt create an upscale-casual vibe throughout the award-winning restaurant with reclaimed wood, cool marble and glass. On the table, plates and serving dishes are kept minimal and modern in white to highlight the silver and green of the dressed whole fish. More camp-rustic are the brushed-aluminum oyster trays piled with coarse rock salt.
Want to dress your own table? Belladonna is always a great source for the latest in table design, changing colors and styles to comport with season and reason. Nearby at the recently opened West Elm there are more than a few displays of ceramic dishes in currently fashionable off-round shapes. Of-the-moment table settings also showcase bits of whimsy via plates embellished with funky images of tarted-up rabbits, foxes and wolves. The glassware here is also a key part of the tablescape, with squat or tall glass cylinders in clear, amber or bottle-green offering bits of sparkle and color.
In New Orleans we eat well and dine well. We dress to go out, "dress" our po'boys and, when occasion calls, make sure the table is well dressed too.