Glassware goes creative

It may be hard to outdo Chicago’s Boarding House restaurant for a nontraditional use of glassware—9,063 wine glasses are suspended from the ceiling as part of a shimmering light fixture. While that may be a bit “over the top,” many restaurants are using glassware for other things besides beverages.

Salads and sides

Salads, especially those with layers or bright ingredients, show off beautifully in glassware. For example, Zoe’s Steak and Seafood Restaurant in Virginia Beach, Virginia, uses a rocks glass to hold a steak salad topped with “micro” croutons and blue cheese. The 25-unit Seasons 52 chain menus a special summer salad of quinoa, watermelon and fresh mint, served in a martini glass.

For a larger salad or side, the standard 10-ounce martini glass you have on hand will work; for a smaller one, consider a classic 5.5-ounce Champagne coupe, like the new Elegance Cocktail coupe from Arcoroc. With its gently curving bowl, it not only shows off the salad to best advantage but is easy to eat out of as well.

The old-fashioned Mason jar, a drinking vessel in the days of mountain moonshiners, is making a comeback. Marc Forgione’s restaurant in New York City serves up about the last thing you’d expect to find in a Mason jar—foie gras—along with red pepper gelée. On a more down-to-earth level, Texas Spice in the Omni Dallas Hotel rustles up its huevos rancheros in a mini-Mason jar, accompanied by a shooter of muesli.

Traditional Mason jars, such as those made by Ball, come in sizes ranging from 4 to 16 ounces and are readily available at hardware and larger grocery stores. If you’re planning on using jars for beverage service as well, check out a jar-style glass such as the Libbey 16-ounce Drinking Jar, available with or without a handle.

The finishing touch

Since diners are accustomed to seeing desserts in footed parfait glasses, it’s not a stretch to use other types of glasses—and that provides lots of room for creativity. Max’s Wine Dive, an upscale casual concept in Houston, takes traditional birthday cake and ice cream and piles it into a large tumbler…topped, of course, with whipped cream, sprinkles and candles. The BD’s Mongolian Grill chain menus a “Big Brownie” with ice cream, caramel and fudge; it’s served in a footed beer goblet. To handle such extravagant desserts, Clarisse Stackable tumblers from Anchor Hocking may be a good choice. In sizes ranging from 10 to 20 ounces, the stacking ridge in the glass can provide a helpful visual tool for portioning.

The flip side of the “mega-dessert” trend is popular with customers, too. Seasons 52 has a menu of “Mini Indulgences,” ranging from Key lime pie to chocolate peanut butter mousse, all served in shooter glasses and delivered in a custom-designed holder. If you’re going for mini instead of maxi desserts, consider serving a selection of four small desserts in beer samplers or shooter glasses. For a casual feel, put them on a wooden “paddle” used for beer tastings, such as Libbey’s Wood Serving Flight. For a more upscale look, try the Oneida Perfect Portions Flight Carrier, a holder made from sculptured metal. 

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