I like to imagine that one day, my Sunday night suppers will feature fresh bread and fine linens and sparkling chandeliers and all of my children singing “The Hills are Alive” in 17-part harmony while my husband, Miles Teller, accompanies them on the viola.
Alas, that day is not today.
Today, Sunday night features takeout Chinese food, some of my best girlfriends, and a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” marathon. Now, don’t get me wrong; there are few things I love more than my best friends, especially when Larry David and dumplings are involved. Still, I see no reason not to try and make the night a little less, um, plastic. I’m of the firm belief that sugary, MSG-laden, artery-clogging takeout not only looks better when you plate it nicely and spruce it up with a few garnishes, it also tastes better. And there’s something almost — dare I say it? — chic about eating General Tso’s chicken off of a wooden skewer.
Here are my tips for turning your next Seamless order into a could-be catered meal.
1. Pick an unexpected theme.
It’s more fun that way. I went with a subtle floral theme to give the whole event a cuter, heightened, feminine flair. For a cool $2.95, I grabbed a 19.5” by 27” sheet of wrapping paper from Paper Source and put it to work as a pseudo-tablecloth. I like that it’s a little less stuffy than a real tablecloth. You also might remember these silk blooms from my bar cart styling post.
2. Decorate the plates with garnishes.
Garnishes tend to make things look fresher, so I scattered a mix of chopped chives and microgreens on all the plates. The red and green peppers were just a fun pop of color.
3. Put votive candles in the empty takeout containers.
Go for containers that initially contained the least messy food, like white rice. Then pop in a plastic votive, unless you’re a daredevil like me and can keep your eye on it the whole night. Waxed paper container + fire = not exactly ideal.
4. Dip fortune cookies in chocolate and add fun toppings.
I dipped the edges in white chocolate and added sprinkles, but you could go for dark or milk chocolate and top with everything from toasted coconut to crushed candy canes to mini M&Ms. You could even decorate them with your guests. Whatever you do, make sure to let the restaurant know you’ll need a few extra fortune cookies (and assume several will arrive broken).
5. Cut egg rolls diagonally in half and plate on a tray.
It’ll allow you to purchase half as many egg rolls, for one thing, but they’ll also look less like egg rolls. And that diagonal cut is the definition of class.
6. Serve something kabob-style.
It just puts a new spin on something you’ve seen served the same way over and over again, and it takes a few minutes to throw together. As I mentioned, I did this with General Tso’s chicken, but even chicken and broccoli would look nicer on a kabob, alternating between veggie and meat.
7. Re-wrap chopsticks and prop them up in a jar or holder.
A tiny detail that has a pretty big visual impact. Unwrap the chopsticks from their paper packaging, then re-wrap using a barely-there piece of Scotch tape. You’ll expose more of the wood on the actual utensils. Then, let them stand in a container to provide some much-needed height. I stuffed the sauce packets from the original takeout order into the jar to keep the chopsticks standing tall. Waste not.