Whether you're serving up a Thanksgiving Butterball or tofurkey, or attempting to spiral-slice a Christmas ham, there's nothing more Norman Rockwell than the holiday meal. On these occasions we do not cut our food, we carve it, with special tools that make it a small piece of dinner theater.
In the world of cutlery, there is a special place for the carving set. Usually not housed in a knife block, the condominium complex of kitchen knives, it tends to reside in its original "presentation box." This is perfectly appropriate for the long-tined forks and sharp knives that are as much a work of art as a perfectly sliced, properly basted bird.
These days, cutlery sets weld the finest technology with a range of styles, from rustic to Provencal, classical to 21st century sleek. To get a handle on the best set for your table, consider your own tastes. Though some of the finest designs can be found in silver, there are also knives and forks that incorporate beautifully polished woods, faux ivory, and naturally shed staghorn with brass and silver accents.
For one-stop comparison shopping, Sur la Table, at stores around Southern California, carries a wide range of sets. Christofle in Beverly Hills specializes in beautifully crafted silver-plate models with clean lines or ornate embellishments. You might also consider a classic carving set, such as the Mexican sterling pieces found at Novotny's Antique Gallery in Pasadena. Or, if you'd rather shop from home, you can purchase a horn-handled set by Vagabond House from www.vivre.com (click on Brand Boutiques, then Vagabond) or the Laguiole brand online at www.laguiole1.com. Your guests will think you're the sharpest knife in the drawer.