A Cocktail Party, On A Stick

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What's one of the easiest ways to dress up the standard cocktail party? Putting traditional party foods on a stick. It sounds simple enough, but this thin, wooden serving utensil will force you to flex you culinary chops, especially if you're willing to get creative. Foods on a stick allow your guests to graze, whether that means trying new dishes or eating only a single bite or two of a guilty pleasure. Using a toothpick also reduces paper plate and napkin waste, and often means no serving dishes to wash later on.

Click here for the A Cocktail Party, on a Stick Slideshow.

Need menu inspiration? Follow the lead of restaurants and lounges across the country who are taking yesterday's skewer or kebab to new heights. For example, instead of a lobster roll, try a Lobsicle, Lobsicle (deep-fried lobster tail on a stick), like at Lobster ME in Las Vegas. Besides kicking off your party with a roomful of wry smiles, it will inevitably create a talking point: You did what with the lobster? And, since you'll need a refreshment to wash it down, there is the option to make a Sauvignon Blancsicle like they do at the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park Hotel. Or, if you're in the mood for something harder, experiment with a margarita popsicle like they do at SnoBar in Arizona.

But what if you're hosting a more casual affair than wine and lobster? You can travel to the other end of the culinary spectrum and roll up your sleeves for state fair food. The midway hot-out-of-the-fryer bites are the original foods on a stick. One modern interpretation of the corn dog is mini andouille sausages dunked in batter and fried. Or perhaps, as Matt Armendariz, blogger at Matt Bites, and author of On a Stick! has dones, dip sausages into pancake batter for a special  brunch party surprise. Whichever you choose, the skewer allows for a greaseless bite and the personal-sized portions stave off heartburn. Try serving all of these items vertically by slicing a citrus fruit in half and placing it cut side down on a tray. Stick the skewer into the peel on the upper side to create a showpiece.

To wind down your party, look to New York Cake Pops for inspiration. The aptly named Manhattan bakery serves an assortment of flavors — red velvet, chocolate peanut butter, and cookies and cream — by the dozen. Use a piece of foam on the tray for instant wow.

Or do as New York caterer Peter Callahan does and serve up one bite ice cream sandwiches on lollipop sticks. (He'll serve pigs in a blanket in a similar way, served atop a bed of grass). They are the perfect way to satisfy one's sweet tooth without overdoing it. Plus the whimsical nature of the pops is the perfect fairytale way to send your guests on their way.

Click here for the A Cocktail Party, on a Stick Slideshow.