Around the holidays, a lot of magazines start parading out compendia of hot, hip items for embellishing holiday tables. While we love the idea—and the practice—of setting an appealing spread, truly worthy tableware has less to do with the wow! factor than it does with craftsmanship, utility, and good looks. With that in mind, we assigned ourselves the task of compiling this small assortment of pieces representing a range of prices and categories. We browsed catalogues, rummaged through stores, and rooted around our own kitchen shelves to come up with a selection of serving goods that are smart, timeless, and, well, very SAVEUR.
1. Moroccan Tea Glasses: In Morocco, meals often end with sweet mint tea served in small, ornate glasses—a traditional North African gesture of hospitality. These intricately decorated tea glasses, which come in a variety of sizes and patterns, evoke the grace of the ritual and are also ideal for serving just about any other beverage.
2. Simon Pearce Brookfield Bakeware: This sturdy baking dish, which takes its cue from 18th-century American stoneware, is a recent addition to the Vermont company's collection of glass and pottery. We adore it because it's practical (it can go safely from oven to table to freezer) and because it's so darned pretty.
3. Dale Larson Bowl: Oregon-based artist Dale Larson fashions each of his remarkable vessels from local wood, much of it native to the Pacific coast. His pieces, like the Big Leaf Maple bowl, subtly evoke the sylvan beauty of the Pacific Northwest. They remind us of big trees—and big salads.
4. Chez Panisse Dinnerware: Under the auspices of Heath Ceramics, a Sausalito, California company started by Edith Heath in 1948, designer Christina Kim and chef Alice Waters created this line of dinnerware—including a dinner plate, a dessert plate, a side bowl, and a "cafe" bowl—for use in Waters's famous Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley. Almost any food looks stunning when placed on these pleasing, ginger-colored pieces.
5. John Derian Platter: Sometimes practicality simply must surrender to beauty. For the refined decoupage items in his History of Plants line, designer John Derian drew on his extensive collection of meticulous 19th-century nature illustrations. This felt-bottomed platter isn't washable, but we didn't really want to put cooked food on it anyhow (though it makes a fine holder for fruit or bread). Just call it eye candy.
6. Fishs Eddy Green Band Oval Platter: Leave it to the folks at Fishs Eddy, the vintage-minded New York-based tableware purveyor, to resurrect this pattern, which evokes the heyday of the roadside diner. Unabashedly utilitarian, the platter is made of industrial-strength china, and its clean, classic shape makes us think at once of comfort.
7. Crate & Barrel Nora Wineglasses: The cost of a wineglass, as any seasoned dinner host will tell you, is directly proportional to the probability that it will end up in shards. The Nora glass is a winner for its elegant form, to be sure, and its price means never having to say you're sorry.
8. Ravenscroft Trumpet Decanter: When we first came across this shapely, lead-free-crystal decanter at a local housewares store, it was being displayed as a vase, which is fine—really. But the vessel seemed to call out for wine; sure enough, the uniform, gently tapered spout and heavy bottom delivered a clean pour.
9. WMF Nortica Flatware: Finding flatware with just the right heft proved challenging; so many utensils either sit in the hand like free weights or feel insubstantial. The stainless-steel Nortica utensils, however, meet the requirement, and their combination polished and brushed finish is gorgeously unfussy.
10. Vagabond Vintage Furnishings Napkins: While cloth napkins make some people think of daintily dabbing dames at Age of Innocence-era parties, they can be wonderfully practical, besides adding a little more texture to a table setting. The 26-inch-square, machine-washable cotton napkins in this set have the cozy feel of well-worn linen.