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Eat & Drink 04.15.09

Appetizer Chic: Creative Presentation

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creative appetizer presentation

When it comes to serving appetizers & finger foods at parties, it’s amazing how much you can elevate the visual appeal of your spread by putting a little thought into the presentation of each dish. Regardless of how fancy/casual the party is or exactly what types of items you’ll be serving, this is definitely an area where even just a little effort can pay off BIG time. (Even for apps that came straight from the freezer!)

The pretty images pictured here are from an article in Brides magazine about hosting a “thank you cocktail party” for bridesmaids, but these ideas can really be applied to any type of cocktail party or celebration where small bites are served.

creative appetizer presentation

One of the best things about focusing on presentation is that you don’t have to be a gourmet chef to create an impressive spread! Whether you’ve made something from scratch or just pulled it from the freezer, the same general rules apply. Here are 5 presentation guidelines that I’ve come to rely on over the years (please feel free to add your own in the comments!):

1. White out.
You can’t go wrong with contemporary, all-white serving dishes. They allow the colors in the food to really stand out (as opposed to overly busy/colorful designs that might compete with look of the food), and they also give a clean, modern minimalist vibe to the buffet.

{If you want to bring some color into your serving dishes, try to stick with just a couple coordinating colors & patterns, and make sure that they compliment your overall party theme. Create custom serving trays by using picture frames filled with your favorite decorative papers or images as trays, as seen in the mini pizza image above.}

2. Think in uniform.
Instead of piling finger foods onto a plate, line the individual pieces up in neat rows on their trays, spread an equal distance apart. This is great for things like mini pizzas (see top image, above), mini quiches, mini tarts, and small stacked appetizers. Another option is to arrange them “domino style” in a circular pattern. This works great for finger foods that are accompanied by a dip, which can fit neatly in the middle of the circle.

3. Go forth and garnish.
The sky is the limit here… have fun with it! A few ideas: Sprinkle dishes with fresh basil or scallions. Arrange pot stickers on a bed of green beans (see top image, above). Take it a step further and criss-cross the green beans  into a basketweave pattern. Decorate trays with pretty spirals of onions, celery, or citrus peel. Sprinkle sesame seeds on teriyaki chicken skewers. Drizzle raspberry sauce over cheesecake bites, then top with chocolate shavings. The list goes on…

4. Creative dish.
Serve tomato soup, hummus dip or other veggie dips in espresso cups or small glass votives. Use paper cones or mini takeout boxes to dish up individual servings of chips, sweet potato fries, or white cheddar popcorn. (See more examples here.)

5. Color it up.
It goes without saying that a little color can go a long way towards making something more visually appealing. If your buffet looks a little TOO green or too neutral, brighten it up with vibrant splashes of color. A quick trip to the produce aisle will provide more than enough options: red & yellow bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, carrots (extra-useful when shredded), oranges, kumquats, raspberries, etc.


BONUS Material:
These cocktails from the same article look too good not to share! Click for recipes: Mango de la Brazil and Limey Winey

creative appetizer presentation

{photos by James Merrell}

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POSTED BY:jenn s.JENNIFER SBRANTI is the Founder and Creative Director of Hostess with the Mostess®, a hip and modern party planning resource.

7 responses to “Appetizer Chic: Creative Presentation”

  1. moderneve says:

    mini food is so in!…i love those little pizzas. and i have been collecting white serving pieces for awhile now – you can never have enough!

  2. Great drinks… makes me thirsty!

  3. mara wong says:

    this is exactly what I was going to do for a little get together I’m having next month with 4 gal friends! I hate it when there’s left overs & people always make WAY too much food – great ideas on presentation! :)

  4. Lisa Moore says:

    I don’t know if this is the appropriate place to put this but I wanted to tell you that I have been so inspired by your blog!!! It is my absolute favorite blog. I get energized reading it. Thank you. In fact, I would love for you to see the party I just did for my mom on my blog that I posted today:

    I got my inspiration directly from you site!
    Much appreciated,

  5. I LOVE these tips and will be bookmarking this page. Thanks!

  6. jenn s. says:

    Lisa –
    Thank you so much for the sweet message! You did an AMAZING job on the party for your mom! Love those carnation centerpieces! I’m so glad you were able to find some inspiration here – that’s the goal! :)


  7. It’s such an important point to make – it doesn’t have to be exotic to look impeccable. Funny what a little arrangement (and the right serving pieces) can do for simple fare. Very nice photos, by the way. Those battered jumbo shrimp look mighty, mighty tasty! :P