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White plates are as commonplace as sauté pans or wooden spoons in home and restaurant kitchens. They’re sleek enough to never complain about playing second fiddle to the food you so thoughtfully prepared. But sometimes, especially when you’re a hoity-toity chef who doesn’t want their restaurant to be too too stuffy, sleek just isn’t right—it verges on slick.
And that’s when chefs turn to their grandmas. Or so it seems.
At the very nice Brooklyn restaurant Luksus, Chef Daniel Burns pairs Redzepi-blessed food with beer from Tørst, the restaurant's accompanying bar (he and Danish brewer Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø have a book coming out in May called Food & Beer).
But it’s not a restaurant you need to put heels on for, and you won’t feel uncomfortable guzzling beer or laughing really loudly while enjoying—really enjoying—a balanced act of foams and barks and earthy flavors like licorice and dulse.
The music had something to do with it—but the plates are where I realized that the chef wanted us to have fun at his restaurant, because he was having some, too. There were beautifully made, heavy bowls and plates from K.H. Würtz (who makes the ceramics at Noma)—and then there were shiny, antique plates with floral designs. Like my granny has! Rumor has it that the chef found these plates in a parking lot.
Either way, your grandma’s plates have been taking the chill off restaurants as of late. See exhibits B and C, below, from restaurants in Los Angeles and Seattle:
And they’re making me want to bring them out of the dusty cabinet of yore. Here’s how to revisit floral antique plates in a way that is the right amount of grandma chic:
- Use them just for bread plates: Having floral designs in small amounts means they’re a fun surprise instead of the main occasion, at risk of interfering with the colors of your food.
- Mix granny plates with other styles: modern ones, imperfect hand-painted ones, brightly colored ones. Give your white plates a break—they’ll be too stark in this case.
- Play up the colors on the plates by serving food that either matches, or is a neutral-colored food. That way there’s no risk of clashing.
- Isolate them just to the dessert course. Add in some dainty tea cups and it’s like you’re in Britain.