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WANT to take a buffet from “just OK” to “Hey!”? These manufacturers and designers offer goods — and good advice — for putting height, hot hues and wow-factor features into station presentations.


This month, Miami Shores, Fla.-Based Front of the House gets a rise out of buffets, as it launches three hot new height-adding buffet products at the National Restaurant Association trade show in Chicago.

The company's Metal Risers, in cylindrical and multilevel designs, are manufactured with a brushed chrome finish that “gives a rich luster to complement any decor,” says CEO and creative director Simone Mayer. The risers fit most 8 1/2-inch-diameter to 12-inch-diameter bowls and plates.

Keying on the “latest cutting-edge trend [toward] small bites,” Mayer says, is the company's Slanted Bowl Holder — a versatile multilevel display made to fit most 7-inch- to 12-inch-diameter bowls. The holder offers an alternative to flat food presentation, according to Mayer, while its epoxy-coated-iron construction provides “function and durability.”

Also in hardy, contemporary epoxy-coated-iron is Front of the House's Sampler Holder. A tiered display unit designed to hold 12 of the manufacturer's Mini Martini, Mini Flared or Mini Tulip one-bite vessels, the Sampler Holder gives caterers “a new way of serving that is innovative, elegant and functional for all of their one-taste main dishes, appetizers, desserts, soups and cordials,” Mayer states.


If you liked playing with blocks as a child, chances are you'll be a fan of The Ultimate Spread's award-winning acrylic Sushi-Ushi display.

The Santa Monica, Calif.-based manufacturer's cutting-edge Sushi-Ushi, introduced last May at the Las Vegas Gourmet Housewares Show, consists of a clear, rectangular, acrylic slab that rests on top of multicolored, multi-shaped blocks. “The blocks are not attached, allowing the caterer to arrange them in a playful and artful manner underneath the slab,” says company owner and designer Vikki Smith. Meanwhile, the “superior optical properties of acrylic — acrylic is eight times clearer than glass,” Smith says, highlight food colors, shapes and textures.

Available in a 36-by-6-by-1-inch version with 24 blocks, and two smaller versions with 18 or 12 blocks, the Sushi-Ushi also “affords endless possibilities for usage, such as a stand for shot glasses or a base for tea-light holders,” Smith suggests.

Some caterers, she adds, are so caught up in what she sees as today's trend toward “freedom of expression” in food presentation, they're forgoing the platter portion altogether. “Caterers are buying individual packages of our many-colored blocks and splashing them here and there to [decorate] a white linen tablecloth,” attracting guests to pick up the blocks and “interact with their surroundings,” Smith says.


Carving Ice's blocks may not be ideal for tossing about on a tablecloth, but the Placentia, Calif.-Based company's ice creations have a cool edge all their own.

New to Carving Ice's lineup are colored ice sculptures. According to owner Roland Hernandez, who says he's been experimenting with the complex process for five years, colored ice can be used to adorn stations with company logos, ice bars and ice scenery. Recent projects include a 12-foot ice bar with a full-color holiday fireplace mantelpiece “scene” that included four colored-ice luges.

Hernandez notes that caterers can “incorporate these pieces to match with the rest of the event decor,” and adds that “more interactive ice sculptures are being requested” of late.

Also available from Carving Ice is a 3 1/2-foot-diameter ice sphere that can be used as the basis for a variety of sculptures. “To our knowledge, Carving Ice is the only ice company that can create this size ice sphere,” Hernandez says, as it did for a recent PGA event in San Diego, providing the client with a 2,000-pound logo “golf ball.”


With ease of use its sweetest feature, the Aztec fountain from San Diego-based Sephra delivers hands-on fun to stations.

Introduced in 2005, the Aztec utilizes Sephra's patent-pending “QuickSet” tier system. “The fountain can literally be assembled in seconds and requires no tools for setup or cleanup,” says company president Devan Muir.

Muir adds that the Aztec isn't just a cinch to put together and break down — it also brings value in the form of versatility. Originally designed as a chocolate fountain, today's Aztec is “capable of creating a flowing curtain of warm or cold fondues that are limited only by the imagination,” he says. Among popular options are cheese, barbecue sauce and maple syrup.

With its rolled-edge basin, decorative trim and high-polish or brushed-stainless finishes, Sephra's Aztec adds elegance to the buffet setup, Muir says. And with its cascade of dipping fondue — an object of fascination for most event guests, he notes — the fountain “will create a fun experience that guests will not tire of.”


Carving Ice, 714/871-7999; Front of the House, 305/757-7940; Sephra, 858/675-3088; The Ultimate Spread, 866/417-0481

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