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All about appies

Nosh and nibble while you mix and mingle
Fabulous fnger food. Don Denton / Boulevard photo

Birthdays, baby showers, engagement parties and weddings are once again finding space in our social calendars. You may, in fact, as the benefactor of one of these festivities, be feeling a wee bit rusty following such a lengthy hosting hiatus. What to wear? How to decorate? How to have natural-feeling and normal-sounding conversations with fellow humans again?

While I can’t help you with any of those quandaries, I do have some suggestions on my personal favourite part of a party – the food!

Depending on the venue, vibe, guest list and goals, you might be considering a sit-down dinner or a more casual cocktail-style soiree. Today I’m here to make a case for the latter. If planned optimally and prepped appropriately, a finger-food affair can offer greater ease for the host, and a more manageable mix-and-mingle environment for the guests.

You can take many of your most loved dishes and craftily convert them to bite-sized offerings, which will rest beautifully on a platter, waiting dutifully for guests to help themselves. A stack of napkins and perhaps a few aesthetically pleasing buckets in which to discard used vessels are all you really need by their side, and after all your hard work in the days prior, you – dare I say it – can actually enjoy the party yourself (gasp!).

Make as much as you can ahead of time and save any necessary last-minute assembly for day-of duties. If it doesn’t feel too fussy (or confusing for guests), I may even suggest labelling your discard buckets if you’re wanting faster cleanup and easier sorting of food scraps, recyclables and dishware.

Speaking of dishware: I find when serving appies, it can be frustrating for guests if the dishes are too messy. No one wants to scoop up some slop with the palm of their hand, frantically slurp it up, dumping dribble all down their silk dress or nice white shirt. No one! And yes, I speak from embarrassing experience. Instead, a neat, tidy and inventive vessel can not only provide a safe serving option, but an aesthetically pleasing!

Many of your most-loved dishes can be easily converted to bite-sized offerings, like these sliders. Don Denton / Boulevard photo

Put it in a bun

Everything tastes better wrapped in carbs. Fact. And a fluffy little bun is no exception! Slider buns are easy enough to find, but if you’re feeling particularly unstoppable you can make your own. Personally, when hosting an event I want to minimize the busy work (you have enough to do already) and recommend sourcing slider buns from your grocery store, or even contacting your favourite local baker to see what they have on offer. Either way, you’ll want something light and soft (think brioche texture) for maximum eating ease.

Some of my favourite things to serve in a bun include pulled pork sliders with creamy crunchy coleslaw, crispy fried chicken sliders with homemade spicy pickles, or even just classic beef burgers with aged cheddar and bacon jam.

Put it on a stick

One of my favourite party tricks is taking my most beloved salad-du-jour and putting it on a skewer. Pear, brie and baby kale on a skewer is always a crowd pleaser; fig, prosciutto and arugula is an elegant and eye-catching choice; or simply go with the ultimate classic of cherry tomatoes, bocconcini and basil for a deconstructed caprese. All of which, I might add, go wonderfully with a balsamic reduction drizzle.

Making Salad on a Skewer. Don Denton / Boulevard photo

Put it in a cup

Take some soup. Put it in a very small mug. Place something bready across the rim. I promise your guests will thank you. It’s cute, Pinterest-able and Insta-worthy, but also just really delicious and satisfying. I mean, who doesn’t love a warming shot of soup and a hearty something to dip in it?

And of course, if you’re hosting a party in the summer months, you can easily do this with a chilled soup like zucchini gazpacho with some focaccia. For something a bit more fall and winter appropriate, I suggest a classic butternut squash soup with some rustic sourdough or a soul-soothing tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich slice.

Put it in a spoon

Something meaty or hearty on something saucy or creamy. It’s a good starting point for constructing your stuff-on-spoon creation. Think Greek-style lamb meatballs on tzatziki, pan-seared scallops on minty smashed peas or crispy roast cauliflower on baba ganoush. Then give it some a colourful zip with a garnish of fresh herbs or microgreens.

Put it in a tart shell

Everything and anything can go in a tart shell and taste delicious. Sweet, savoury, rustic or elegant, there’s nowhere you can’t go (and no one you can’t please) with stuff in a flaky crust. Most of all, it can be completely and entirely make-ahead friendly, whereby all you really need to do is warm it (if need be), plate it, add garnish and serve. No mess. No fuss. No extra dishes to wash. Just bite-sized brilliance!

And don’t overthink it. A micro quiche with caramelized onion and goat cheese is always a winner, as is a classic herb and mushroom tartlet. Even beloved pies like pumpkin or apple lend well to the mini-tart-shell option.

Of course these are simply a few of many suggestions. Jars, cones (both paper and edible), wraps and even shot glasses all lend well to a mix, mingle, nibble and nosh sort of do. When in doubt, think of some favourite foods and imagine how you could make them mini, bite-sized, finger-friendly or hand-held and hopefully not too messy. And if guests leave with sauced dribbled down their chins and onto their outfits? Well, like wine spills on a tablecloth, I say it’s a sign of a good time.

This story appered in the spring 2023 issue of Boulevard Vancouver