You know the scene well: You walk into a party thrown by that one host and quietly wonder to yourself if they secretly moonlight as a food stylist. Where you’d be pleased that you put out a table cloth and have enough napkins, this host has managed to pull a party presentation straight off the pages of the latest food magazine.
Don’t worry, next time it’s your turn to host the party, your presentation can look just as put together and trendy as “that” friend – without spending weeks or hundreds of dollars. Take your setup to the next level by embracing these fun and easy food presentation and serving ideas.
Dress Up the Table
If you want to elevate your next cocktail party, focus on your food table (after you get the drinks set up of course). Small details combined with bold statements go a long way to transform your dining table from humdrum to 5-star.
If you’re planning your food around a charcuterie meats and cheese display, go extra big. Pick up an impressive array of meats, cheese, nuts, chutneys, and fruits to really wow your guests. Then make the spread take over the whole table. Instead of a table cloth and multiple cutting boards, cover your entire table with inexpensive butcher or Kraft paper. This matte brown paper will give your display a trendy look and you can even write the names of each item directly on the paper with permanent marker. Plus, it makes clean up extra easy.
If you’re going to serve an array of dishes, be sure you add height to the table. Use a cake tower or tiered trays to display cheese and crackers or other single-serving snacks (like most things on a toothpick). You can even use small, sturdy boxes draped with a table cloth to add different heights for a dynamic display.
Choose the Right Serving Dishes
Let’s face it, your mix and match serving bowls usually end up looking more “flea market bargain hunter” than “trendy chic.” After the food itself, your bowls, plates, and platters are the most noticeable thing on the table, so paying a little attention to your serving dishes can make a big impact.
Instead of running out and buying all new dishware, change your thinking and keep your serving simple. Buy a bunch of cheap spoons and serve one-bite appetizers on a spoon. Not only is it easy, all the individual spoons line up on your table will make an eye-catching statement.
Replace those ugly communal dip bowls with individual dip cups. You can use any type of wide-mouthed disposable cups, but to elevate the look opt for clear plastic wine glasses or another unique shape. This eliminates the worry about double dipping and gives your table a uniform, catered-party look.
Another option is to make the serving dishes themselves edible. While you’ll still need a platter or pretty wooden cutting board to display your food, there are some clever ways you can plan your dishes to limit the number of actually dishes you need.
If you’re planning to serve a classic Caesar salad, use a full leaf of roman lettuce as your vessel. Lay a long crostini on top of the lettuce leaf in place of croutons, drizzle with Caesar dressing, top it off with some flakes of parmesan and your modern, hand-held salad is ready.
Instead of putting out veggies and dip for your guests, do the work for them. Cut cucumber, zucchini, or yellow squash into long, wide ribbons, spread some dip on one side of each ribbon, and place some match stick veggies (like carrots and bell pepper) on top of the dip. Roll-up your mini veggie pinwheel and your guests have everything they need in one easy bite.
Make it Mini
Finger foods are synonymous with cocktail parties and holiday parties. They’re easy and mess-free to eat and you can offer a lot of options, meaning all your guests are happy and full.
Stand out as an outstanding host by leaving the tired coconut shrimp, meatballs, and egg rolls in the past. To make things modern, simply think about some of your favorite foods and figure out how to replicate the flavors in a single bite.
Serve a classic American cheese burger on a single decorative toothpick by stacking a small meat patty, thin cheese cube, a piece of bacon, a pickle, some lettuce, and half a grape tomato. Complete you all-American one-bite meal with an “apple pie” that’s simply an apple wedge and some brown sugar wrapped in a crescent roll dusted with apple pie spice or cinnamon-sugar.
From Salad to Skewer
Salads are a party favorite because they’re easy to make, colorful and feed a lot of people. A big bowl of salad isn’t fitting in with your elegant table though. Ditch the bowl and put your “salad” on a skewer. This works with many non-lettuce salads, such as antipasto, caprese, fruit salad, and pasta salad.
Simply chop, season, and otherwise prepare your ingredients like you would normally, then stack the individual components on skewers. Get creative with displaying your skewers and your usual salad just reached the next level.
With these simple steps, you’ll be the host to beat next time.