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When it comes to tantalizing your palate and the appetites of others, it's all about texture—think rich sauces and light-as-air infusions—that turn ordinary dishes into extraordinary experiences. With a few simple changes to your normal repertoire, and to your pantry, you can discover the art of creating delicious dishes you'll crave again and again.

the savory way

Pairing something sweet with something salty or spicy is a chic way to show off your culinary prowess. Try putting the finishing touches on a meal by topping hot chocolate with freshly-whipped cream and an unexpected sprinkle of chili powder, or start the dining experience with crisp Anjou pear slices and chewy, ripe figs drizzled with aged balsamic vinaigrette. The secret to perfect pairings is to think about your favorite foods—whether you think they go together or not—and experiment with ways their flavors might harmonize.

secret weapons

Having a few best-in-class ingredients in your cupboard can bring out subtle flavors in your dishes, making them taste as if they were prepared by a professional (even if you're a first-timer). For example, swap your ordinary granulated table salt shaker with a coarse salt grinder. Once found only in health food and specialty stores, more and more local markets are now carrying salts infused with spices or imported from around the world. It's a great way to add an unexpected twist to a dish.

You can also use a quality extra-virgin olive oil to lend a richer flavor to dishes like Pepperidge Farm® Grilled Artisan Bread with Middle Eastern Dips. To find a good bottle at your market, look for a rich green color in the oil's undertones. You might also ask the storekeeper for a sample. The best varieties of extra-virgin olive oil will have a bright flavor with a slightly peppery zing—and should flow silky-smooth from the bottle.

reaching new heights

Elevate your presentation—a fresh strawberry dropped into a champagne glass, or cheeses accompanied by a fan of rich Pepperidge Farm® Golden Butter Distinctive Crackers. Remember, it's not necessarily what you serve, but how it's all put together.