Chestnut Street Inn

Hosting an Appetizer Party

So, the holiday season is upon us. We all enjoy celebrating, but sometimes the logistics of getting a whole meal out along with work schedules, shopping, etc. is really daunting. So why not host an appetizer party. Appetizers are fun, informal, can be easy and can be more cost effective.

First consideration is time of day. If you are looking at an afternoon event, you may consider doing brunch items or just desserts. If you are looking at an evening event, then you can go hog wild with creativity. Either you can pick an ethnicity and go from there, i.e. Spanish Tapas or Mediterranean Mezze, or have fun with it and pick a variety of items. I personally like to diversify and offer a bunch of different items, hot and cold, sweet and savory so that everyone has something they will like and I always make sure there is more than enough to eat to make a meal out of. You don’t want people to have to eat before or after the event.

Another consideration is beverages. Certainly having some non-alcoholic options is always recommended, but you can have a field day with various specialty beverages, i.e. sangria, egg nog and other “punches” that may or may not be alcoholic in nature. This can be as much a part of the fun as the food.

So, how much to prepare? Well, I always try to shoot for approx. 1 1/2 servings per person of each. This ensures that everyone can have at least one and some can have seconds. Inevitably some people won’t try everything and some will want several of one thing so this seems to work out really well. As far as beverages, 2-3 per person is wise. You don’t want people to be tempted to drink and drive, but some won’t drink so those who have DD’s should be free to party.

One thing I like to note is that even though an appetizer party is more informal, spend some time on presentation and on the serving utensils you use. Whether you set up the appetizers as a buffet or pass them around on trays, use real appetizer plates and forks. This extra little touch may result in a little more clean up, but it’s so much easier to eat off of real plates, especially if you are eating anything saucy. Your guests will greatly appreciate the hassle it’ll save them when they don’t dump their appetizers all over their nice party outfits.

So, then the magic question is how do you pick your menu. Realistically, I think keeping it to 6 or 7 items is probably as much work as you want to do for a party. I try to do 3 hot items, 3 cold items and one dessert or so. Within that, I try to do at least one dip, one cheese tray, two meat or seafood items and a couple of pastry based items, i.e. things using puff pastry or phyllo dough. Next, you want to consider how many of the items you pick can be assembled in advance and how many require last minute assembly or cooking/heating. The more you have to do last minute, the less time you’ll be able to spend enjoying your guests. Now some last minute work is unavoidable and will be greatly appreciated by your guests, but you don’t want it to become too much of a burden or you wont have fun.

A final consideration is cost. Obviously putting on a full meal for 20 people can get quite costly. You could theoretically spend just as much doing appetizers for 20 if you aren’t careful. Or, you could save money by strategically planning your “choice” ingredients to really get the most bang for your buck. That comes in with menu planning. As you look at the overall picture of the menu you are planning, identify the costliest ingredients in each appetizer. Are there better choices you could make that would still fit the bill but save you a little money?? How much can you make yourself versus purchasing pre-made?? Keep in mind, the more you do “from scratch” the less you are going to spend on your party. May take a little more time, but again, your guests will appreciate the effort and so will your pocket book.

Over the next few posts, I’ll be suggesting a number of different appetizer parties. I’ll provide recipes and suggestions for what can be made in advance and where you might save a little money along the way. So stay tuned!!

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