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Entertaining a la cart(e)

By MONIQUE TODA, The Philippine STAR Published Sep 23, 2021 5:00 am Updated Sep 23, 2021 10:13 am

Did you ever have unexpected guests and get flustered because you were not really prepared, but still wanted to entertain in style?

For intimate (expected or unexpected) gatherings, I think serving carts provide an aesthetic and practical purpose. I find that there’s a charm in service carts, whether it be a bar, dessert, or teacart.

Part furniture, part décor, you could say the serving cart is antiquated in a way. It has been around for over 100 years. The tea trolley is the serving cart’s pedigreed ancestor, which was used in Victorian-era tea parties. You can imagine fine teas, scones with clotted cream, cucumber sandwiches, and exquisite pastries adorning and “prettifying” its appearance.

A serving cart is the perfect entertaining tool. It’s not as extensive as a buffet or a full bar, but is more refined. It can be an expression of one’s individuality as well.

After the prohibition era in the US, the bar cart appeared. It peaked during the ’50s Mad Men era when home cocktail soirees were held. The bar carts had garnishes, cocktail shakers, glasses, ice, and most importantly, an assortment of tipples. I can hear those cocktail glasses clinking. Cheers!

There are many Pinterest albums dedicated to the adornment of service carts. Great books such as Bar Cart Style: Creating Super-Chic Cocktail Stations and The Art of the Bar Cart (both available at are just some of the many books with cool ideas. 

In these COVID times, domestic entertaining is the preferred and safe way to socialize in small groups as per government regulations. A serving cart is the perfect entertaining tool. It’s not as extensive as a buffet or a full bar, but is more refined, I think. A home serving cart can be an expression of one’s individuality as well.

Here are three very different and tasteful serving carts that exhibit the distinct personalities of its owners.

Ana Lorenzana De Ocampo:  A mini Wildflour on wheels

A serving cart is filled with delectable creations from the popular restaurant accompanied by tea and champagne

Ana Lorenzana De Ocampo is one who is grateful for every gathering over good food and great conversation. For entertaining, she uses a beautiful and intricately carved serving cart made from Indonesian teakwood. Delightfully, it is a mini Wildflour on wheels.

 Restaurateur Ana Lorenzana De Ocampo

Wildflour is the favorite restaurant of many, myself included. So Ana’s cart is a joy. It is a smorgasbord of classic cravings such as a pretty celebration cake, delectable cookies, teacakes, pastries, bread, spreads, tea and champagne.

Beautiful and intricately carved Indonesian teakwood cart filled to the brim with goodies is a wonderful, abbreviated Wildflour experience.

Ana says, “You can take the woman from Wildflour, but you can’t take Wildflour from the woman. Since a lot of my guests expect their favorite treats from the restaurant when they visit, they get the full experience but abbreviated, minus the crowd, all in this little cart.” 

Andrew Laurel: A bar cart with heirloom pieces

 Andrew Laurel’s elegant bar cart is a solid piece of narra wood and was made sometime in the Forties.

Interior decorator Andrew Laurel’s bar cart exudes old-world elegance and refinement by using heirloom pieces. The cart itself, which was made sometime in the Forties, is made of solid narra wood with an expandable top. It’s been made into a portable bar that can be used easily and anywhere in the house. Furthermore, it provides accessibility when entertaining friends.

Interior designer Andrew Laurel 

The bar’s contents are all vintage glassware, such as a Baccarat decanter, Lalique vase, and Waterford glasses. Flower or foliage accents from the garden add a homey feel.

 Flowers and foliage from the garden make for the perfect accent.

Of course, not to be missed is the assortment of liquor and spirits. Though it is a beautiful bar cart, Andrew says with a laugh, “The point of the bar is for people to get drunk.” I won’t argue with that.

Jo Claravall: A chinoiserie cart with a fall theme

Jo Claravall gave a fall theme to her chic service cart, bringing the wonderful season into her home. The event and interior stylist decorated her two-tiered Chinoiserie cart with dried foliage to juxtapose with all the metallic items used.

 Jo Claravall decorates her Chinoiserie cart with a fall theme, juxtaposing dried foliage with metallic items.

The contents of this stunning cart are what Jo considers the “bookends of entertaining,” which means you can start with an aperitif and end with a digestif — and a few bottles in between, like bubbly and wine. A decadent Toblerone chocolate cake and delightful fragrant fruits such as pears and nectarines complete the setup.

Event stylist Jo Claravall

For an aperitif, Jo likes Perrier water mixed with her two favorite liqueurs, namely Disaronno and Aperol, then adds berries, kiwis and dried tealeaves and sprigs from potted herbs.

 A decadent Toblerone chocolate cake and fragrant pears and nectarines deck Jo Claravall’s cart. Berries and kiwis are also available to mix with drinks.

To cap the evening, Jo goes for Jagermeister mixed into coffee, juice or tea. Fun conversation flows freely when her bar cart is nearby and at arm’s reach.

Though Jo thoughtfully curates her bar cart for guests to appreciate, her friends have varied tastes when it comes to cocktails and spirits. Sometimes, they just bring their own bottles. Jo says, “I think how you start and end the evening is important, but just as important is the fun in between.”