Living Entertaining:

A Poppy’s Holiday Spread! Self Service

Jamie Schmones

I approach everything from an aesthetic point of view. This is more obvious in my design work or event décor, but it holds true when I approach food. A visually balanced composition is always the goal. It’s all about creating beauty—uniting vibrant colors and textures that perfectly play off each other always fills me with joy.

I knew I was amongst a kindred spirit when I first saw the stunning tablescapes created by Poppy’s Catering for an event I was hosting. The layout of the food that was spilling out in front of me drew me in right away: fruits and cheeses, jams and chutneys…all in varying shapes, textures and sizes, surrounded on pedestals by an abundance of breads, crackers and deserts. Vibrant colors were set within a scape of multiple of heights – it was lush and decadent and SWOONY on the eyes, not to mention exciting for the bellies. I instantly wondered who had created this beauty!?!

Well, it was none other than my now-friend and Brooklyn neighbor Jamie Schmones Erickson, the founder of Poppy’s Catering. Jamie is a fourth-generation New Yorker whose family weaned her on an appreciation for food and hospitality. After working as City Bakery’s Catering and Events Manager for a few years, she split off with her husband Kevin, who had been working in hospitality at The Standard Hotel, to create the magic that is Poppy’s. “I dreamt of offering a simple, authentic experience to the catering world,” Jamie tells me now, “No fuss, no kitsch—just beautiful, delicious and swoonworthy food!”

After our first introduction, I was totally smitten by Jamie and our shared passion for creating visual beauty in the food space. We vowed to stay in touch, and now, here we are! We chose to create a spread together that can help guide you through the busy holiday event season—a modern approach to the buffet with it’s self serve solution, that will hopefully inspire your own plans. Elevated, stunning and EASY to prepare in advance, what more could you ask for? Gone are the days where you need to formally plate each dish! And can we all agree that not only do sturos and food in tin throwaways look horrific, but they make food taste yucky too? Jamie agrees: “What I love about family-style dining or buffets is that you get to try so many more dishes. It doesn’t limit you to a one-plate meal.” And delicious food can be prepared in advance and served at room temperature, all while looking stunning, too.

Choosing the right make-ahead dishes is essential but the real key to success is making sure you display the food in a beautiful way. “I love to mix and match on a buffet table,” Jamie tells me, “At Poppy’s we think a lot about the colors of the food and try to avoid a monotone palate.” Other crucial tips? Be sure to play with a variety of heights for creating a multi-level composition; build up your platters, place things of pedestals—because a flat table is well uninspiring! To prove our point, Jamie and I de-swoonified the table after we had it set (we took away the risers and any element that gave the table some depth) to show you how ho-hum a flat table can be!

Below, Jamie has shared with Eye-Swoon all the tips and tricks you need to recreate your own swoon-a-licious holiday spread!

Photography by Winnie Au.


founder of poppy's catering


Can you tell the swooners a bit about who you are and why you started Poppy’s catering?
I am a fourth-generation New Yorker, born and bred on the Lower East Side.  Food has always been a part of my culture and my heritage.  My grandfather (Poppy!) worked at the famous B&H Dairy on 2ndAve for 40 years and I chose to name my company after him. Since high school, my part time jobs have always been in restaurants.  I never planned or expected my career to be in the culinary world, but here I am! Moving back to New York City after college, I navigated my way through jobs in event design, and then catering with a focus on the fashion industry, eventually leading me to start Poppy’s at the end of 2012. I always dreamed of being able to bring my vision to life: offering a simple, authentic experience to the catering world. No fuss, no kitsch. Just good, beautiful, delicious, and swoonworthy food.

So you certainly know how to swoon a holiday table….What are your favorite elements to include?
I love to mix and match on a buffet table.   I never like to be too rustic, but if I use a vintage wood piece, I contrast it with gold matte utensils.  Using different textures and heights are important in building an eye-catching buffet.  At Poppy’s we think a lot about the colors of the food and try never to have a monotone palette.

Why do you think serving food family style is so perfect for a holiday event?
What I love about family-style dining or buffets is that you get to try so many more dishes.  It doesn’t limit you to a one-plate meal.  The whole idea of family-style dining is based on the holiday concept of sitting with friends and family and passing dishes around a table.  And it translates so well to other types of events where you want your guests to feel comfortable, eating, sharing and conversing!

What dishes tend to work best for a Holiday spread , that are also easy to prepare in advance?
If you are hosting guests, the last thing you want to think about is slaving over the stove while all of your friends and family are drinking and hanging out in the other room.  Pick a menu that you can prep in advance as much as possible.  Using slow-cooked meats or roasts are a great option because they only get better over time. Avoid sauces or spreads that have a cream base and won’t do well sitting out on a buffet.

Many people are afraid of room temperature food – can you speak to this a bit? Any tricks for keeping food fresh?
All I can say is that we’ve built our company around the idea of room temp foods.  We avoid sternos and chafing dishes as much as possible!  Everyday we serve chicken, steak and fish at room temperature and our clients love it.  We use a ton of fresh herbs, keep sauces on the side, and pre slice most of our meats for a buffet.  Fish we love to keep room temp but serve as a full filet vs in individual pieces.

What are some tips for executing the perfect cheese plate?
Just like all of the tips I’ve been mentioning, it’s all about mixing and matching.  I love the look of huge hunks of cheese on a rustic wood board.  But also keeping in mind that you want a cheese board not to look like a total mess the minute guests attack is by pre-slicing a bit and helping break off some smaller bites of cheese ahead of time.  Keep the board varied but not offer too many selections.  We usually offer around three to four types of cheese.  We always combine a bit of sweetness with a homemade jam, seasonal fruits (this time of year there are amazing concord grapes) and nuts (we typically use marcona almonds).  Always finish off every board with our signature herb bundle.  It adds that necessary pop of color.

Salsa Verde

Jamie Schmones


1 bunch parsley

1 bunch mint

1 bunch basil

1 clove garlic grated

juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons capers

2 anchovy fillets

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp black pepper

salt to taste


Pulse in food processor till well chopped and mixed.  But not completely pureed.  Salt to taste (but the capers and anchovy’s will bring a lot of saltiness to the sauce).  Makes approximately 3 cups and keeps for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

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