Use an unexpected dish.
When plating food, rather than putting everything on a plate, try using shallow bowls for entrees, or coffee mugs and wine glasses for desserts.
Play with height.
Fill a small bowl with the side dish or sauce and set it directly on the plate, to liven-up a flat presentation. When serving the chicken and rice, pour the sauce in individual bowls or ramekins and serve directly on each plate so guests can top their meals with sauce. For stir-frys, serve rice on the side in a small bowl.
Divide dessert into small pieces, with sauce and berries on the side, to provide an elegant presentation that allows guests to customize the dish to their tastes. So instead of making strawberry shortcake with biscuits, whipped cream and berries, serve “fingers” of toasted pound cake with individual bowls of whipped cream and warm strawberries in sauce. Guests can dunk the cake into the berries and cream as they like.
Use bread in fresh ways.
If dinner calls for bread, consider breadsticks served in a glass, pitcher or even a vase. You can also wrap two fresh-from-the-oven breadsticks in a napkin and tuck a sprig of fresh rosemary inside.
Aside from being pretty, the rosemary will infuse the warm bread with delicious flavour.
Layer the flavours.
Use the side dish or vegetable as a “bed” for your meat, placing the entrée on top of rice, mashed potatoes, cooked spinach, or even cold salads.
Play with shape.
Don’t serve meat the same way every time. Try cutting it into chunks and putting onto skewers, or simply cut thicker slices than usual.
Make a mold.
Rice that’s a little sticky is perfect for shaping. Press it into greased cups, rings or molds, then turn out onto serving plates for fun shapes.
Pasta will add texture and visual interest to your plate – plus it’s a great side dish substitute.
Swap the sauce.
There’s no rule that says sauce should be the last thing on the plate. Showcase your main dish by creating contrast between the meat and the sauce, when you put the sauce down first.
Build up the plate.
Create height on the plate, whenever possible. For meat with mashed potatoes, spoon sauce down first, then top with a mound of potatoes. Lean slices of meat against the potatoes and add vegetables for a final touch.