How to Choose Passed Hors D’oeuvres

Big parties mean serving a surplus of guests — feed their cravings with a roster of passed dishes

What Katie Ate
Be creative, yet classic when choosing a menu of small bites.

Are you throwing a big party? Have you already chosen a caterer?

If so, staring at a long list of hot and cold passed hors d’oeuvres can be difficult, especially when you don’t know what to choose. Luckily, we know the guidelines.

Here are few tips to choose the ideal menu of passed d’oeuvres for your bash:

1. Remember, we eat with our eyes
Size, shape, and texture matter. Each item that comes out should be different and look exciting. Choose one skewer, one toast, one in a shot glass. Arancini are wonderful rice balls, always choose a flatbread, vary color, and don’t be afraid to tell the kitchen that everything shouldn’t come out at once. It’s always more interesting when new foods appear as the cocktail hour progresses.

2. Think of the season
In the winter we want comfort food and in the summer we want to be refreshed, so serve heavier items in the fall and winter (think: risotto) and lighter, cooler items in the spring and summer (think: gazpacho).  And it follows to pick more hot items when it’s cold out and cold items when it’s hot outside. Also, ask what is seasonal and available.

3. Variety is the spice of life
Vegetarian, gluten-free, carnivores — everyone has guests that fall into these categories, so choose an assortment of items. If you have to pick eight options, choose two meat, two vegetarian, two fish, and two others. That way everyone has something to choose from.

4. You are one guest among many
Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t serve it. Menus should take all the guests tastes into account, not just yours.

5. Neatness counts
No one likes to be dripped on — especially in the first hour. Hors d’oeuvres with elaborate sauces sound great, but are impractical. Who wants to be leaning over a cocktail napkin or wiping sauce from his or her chin? Don’t serve items with anything you think is "drippable." And if it takes more than two bites to eat, don’t choose it.

6. Ask the experts
Never be afraid to ask your caterer what their most popular items are. It doesn’t mean you have to choose them, but it will give you a good perspective of what has been popular in the past and what will be a hit with your guests.

7. Food trends matter
Caviar at black-tie events; sliders at more casual ones — people love what they know and expect. Match your food to your formality, and then add some fun items. People are comfortable and happy when they get what they are expecting.

8. Always serve pigs in a blanket with mustard
You cannot loose with pigs in a blanket. Formal or informal, no matter the temperature outside, everyone is happy when they come by. They are the most popular item at every party!


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