The Plates Ina Garten Never Uses When Hosting A Dinner Party

When it comes to the dos and don'ts of hosting a dinner party, celebrity chef Ina Garten has advice for everything from the 11 entertaining rules you shouldn't break to the recipes for the easy hors d'oeuvres she serves at her own parties – and even the best style of serving ware. While it can be tempting to pick bold colors and fun patterns — especially for parties with a specific theme — Garten suggests keeping things simple and setting the table with white plates.

Colorful or patterned plates can distract from the food, which should be the center of attention. If you don't own white plates, or you prefer something with a warmer tone, you can also opt for neutral, light hues like beige — just keep in mind that the plate should easily serve as a background for a diverse array of recipes. If you really want to make a statement with your plates, consider finding ones that have an unusual shape or an interesting border.

Factors that affect your eating experience

Ina Garten isn't the only one who advocates for using white plates. Scientists have discovered that there is a good reason these are the preferences of many restaurants. According to a 2022 study published in Foods on the aesthetic appeal of plate patterns on food perception, people are more likely to enjoy eating food that is eaten off a white plate — and, in some instances, even reported that the food tasted sweeter — as compared to eating the same food off a dark plate. One possible reason for this difference is that the lighter plate creates a stronger contrast between the food and the servingware.

Color is just one of many factors that impact a person's dining experience. When hosting a party, it's also useful to consider how sound affects the ways we experience food and drink. Since music can evoke strong emotions, the playlist that you choose can influence the overall mood of your party, which in turn can sway how your guests feel about your food. As with white plates, when people listen to music that they like while eating, food may taste sweeter.

More party hosting tips

Besides the small plates for individuals, Ina Garten also recommends opting for white as the color for large sharing platters and allowing guests to serve themselves from these, rather than having single portions plated for them. In this way, everyone can choose exactly what they want to eat according to their dietary restrictions, allergies, and hunger level, which helps to avoid food waste.

Another key component of a dinner party table is the napkins. Garten is in favor of cloth napkins for a little extra elegance. Linen or cotton napkins can be easily tossed in a washing machine to be cleaned afterward, requiring minimal additional effort. They also have a lower environmental impact than paper napkins, which are used once and then thrown away. If you want to make your table setting more colorful, cloth napkins are a great opportunity to choose something bright. In this case, patterns can even be helpful since they hide stains. You can use them to help support a theme of your dinner (pumpkins for autumn, anyone?) — or you can match them to your carefully curated floral display.