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Amazing Ways to Present Appetizers

We all know that when you throw any event, you pay a lot of attention to the menu—and rightfully so. Not only do guests await savory sensations at the dinner table, but a bite beforehand is much anticipated too. Here are some inspiring ideas to consider for planning and plating appetizers at your next event.

Make It Party-Friendly!

Unless you've hired a staff to serve your guests, consider setting up an appetizer buffet table. Buffets let guests mingle, serve themselves and indulge freely while waiting for dinner.
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  • Plates should be casual, fun, small and easy to hold. You can even serve finger foods that can be enjoyed on a napkin.
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  • Consider your food choices carefully. Most partygoers mill about, so serve snacks that aren't too messy or saucy and are easy to eat without staining a shirt or rug.
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  • Too many dishes that need to be spooned, sliced or spread can cause guests to bunch up at the buffet. Pre-slice pâtés, breads, cheeses and other foods to avoid an appetizer traffic jam.
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  • Provide a combination of hot and cold appetizers. Cold appetizers can be laid out on the table, while the hot eats rest in the oven. Plus, appetizers that are made ahead of time and only require reheating can relieve pre-party planning anxiety.

It's All About the Food

Since appetizers set the tone for the rest of the party, entice your guests the moment they walk up to the buffet table. And sometimes the easiest way to decorate is with food itself!
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  • Lay green onions side by side on a platter. Serve bruschetta, salmon rolls or wontons on top. The fresh green backdrop will make them pop!
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  • Thinly sliced lemons or limes can highlight shrimp, scallops or lobster bites.
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  • A basket full of fresh crudités is always a welcomed touch, giving your company something to nibble on as they mingle. Line a basket with foil or parchment paper and then fill it with fresh vegetables. Set a small bowl or ramekin of dressing on the side for guests to dip into. Or get creative and serve carrot, celery and zucchini sticks in parchment-lined terra-cotta pots.

Give Your Buffet Visual Appeal

Add drama when staging your appetizers by varying the heights of the platters. This amplifies the excitement of an otherwise static table and keeps the eye moving—which keeps your guests moving down the buffet line as well.
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  • Try stacking platters on overturned bowls or cups. Create visual cohesion by covering these makeshift bases with a tablecloth.
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  • Also try stacking cake stands on top of each other to make a tiered serving piece that draws attention to your appetizers.
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  • Use chafing dishes (large, portable servers that sit over a heat source) to keep warm appetizers warm. Keep cold appetizers chilled over a bath of ice water. Not only will this break up the monotony of a flat tablescape, but it will also keep your dishes at the correct temperatures.

Reuse, Repurpose & Add the Unconventional

Who says that a deviled egg platter is just for eggs or a martini glass is just for martinis?! Think outside the box and give your guests something unexpected.
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  • Instead of eggs, place small fried egg rolls, wontons or pot stickers into the cavities of a deviled egg platter.
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  • Fill martini glasses with shrimp cocktail, ceviche or crab salad garnished with lemon wedges or rounds. It's an elegant presentation and easy for your guests to carry.
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  • Spoon cocktail sauce into a chilled shot glass, then top each with a cold-boiled jumbo shrimp. Or use these glasses for small servings of dressings and sauces that complement satay skewers or crispy chicken tenders. Guests can then enjoy the sauce without double dipping into the community bowl.
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  • If your guests have a hard time pairing wine or beer with their appetizers, take away the guesswork. Fill wine glasses in advance and place a small plate on top with a few cubes of cheese, fruit or olives that complement the wine. Your guests can wine and dine without worry.
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  • Is an olive boat truly just for olives? Trim the tops of fresh radishes leaving about an inch of the greens. Sprinkle coarse sea salt in the base and stand the radishes in a row. This allows your guests to easily snag the ones they want. Not fond of this produce? Substitute tuna or egg salad-stuffed cherry tomatoes–or even mushrooms, served warm with crab or shrimp and topped with breadcrumbs. Just add party skewers so your guests can help themselves.

Choosing new and unique ways to present your appetizers will have your guests telling each other, “You’ve got to try this!” Then they’ll head to the table satisfied with the pre-dinner course–and bursting with great expectations for the meal to come!