Tony, If your guests keep coming back, then you probably hit the right balance most of the time. There are rules in each country about how service at the table is to be conducted. You help yourself, someone comes around and serves diners from their left, you prepare plates for your guests, and a multitude of other possibilities according to the cultures. Then there are your own house rules, your own expression. I think this could be likened to some of the conversations I have seen in the "men's clothing" section (see "Is black suit an acceptable business attire". I have a few friends who prepare plates. They are the kind of people who plan their holidays according to restaurants they wish to try abroad. They are wonderful people who know how to entertain, never skimp on the rare ingredients or the time necessary to complete a dish, but the drawback is that the conversation tends to revolve around food. I have found myself suggesting doing something other than a dinner at their place, such as a walk in the woods or "Just coffee", because sometimes the prospects of yet another dinner where it is all about guessing the ingredients or discussing Canadian cheeses is a bit too much for me to bear. My personal philosophy is for my meals to be appreciated, talked about for a minute or two, and then for my guests to resume their conversation while enjoying their meal and the atmosphere. I serve a number of ways, depending on what is on the menu. Obviously, for coquilles st Jacques en coquilles and gratinÃes, I serve guests as I do not want anyone to burn themselves. If it is a boeuf bourguignon, I will pass it around or stand by each guest holding the dish as they help themselves. I don't appreciate it much when someone serves me, I must say, but I always give the option to my guests.