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Suggestions Needed: Arty Casual Finger Food Party

Hi everyone! My parents are holding a party for their friends mid-September and they have asked me to 'cater' the thing. There will be about a dozen people, all friends of my father from his cartooning circle. A mix of adventerous and modest eaters.

We are doing strictly finger foods - no formal sitdown - that will be distributed throughout the evening. I'm thinking of plating some things on artist palettes, things like that..

I've come up with a few things, but I was just wondering what suggestions you guys might have. This place always flows with awesome ideas.

I'm leaning in the direction of casual but impressive (does that make sense? :) Like bar/finger foods that 'Hounds would love.

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  1. I was at a party last year and the caterers served what I called "salad shots" in parmesan cups...the presentation was ADORABLE...it was caesar salad in little crispy parmesan cups, sort of in the shape of a shot glass...this recipe looks very close to what we ate...everyone kept commenting on it. Not sure if it's what you are looking for...there is a recipe for carpaccio in parmesan cups also out there on the 'net.


    9 Replies
    1. re: Val

      I like! My mum is the pickiest of all (no spice.. nothing 'ethnic'.. etc), but she loves caesar salad. She'd be pleased with this :) Thank you.

      1. re: NovoCuisine

        No spice? Well, that leaves me at a loss. Ethnic is wonderful to do in small bites; a great way to try something different.

        How about "Bloody Mary Tomatoes"?


        They've got a kick, but not really spice.


        1. re: TexasToast

          Sorry, I used 'spice' the wrong way; I meant nothing hot :)

          She realizes she has a pretty bland palette, and I am the complete opposite - as are some of the guests - so she's okay with me doing a few things she'd never eat. She's more out to impress everyone else and tends to not even eat when hosting ;)

        2. re: NovoCuisine

          The "Salad Cups" look beautiful--please report back if you make them :)

        3. re: Val

          AH!! Found what appears to be the actual recipe for those caesar salad "shots." They're called Caesar Teasers....there seems to be a trick to making the cups and what a waste if they don't come out (but you could still eat them)...just thought I'd post this ... it may be too elaborate and time-consuming for you right now, but I may experiment this weekend with this.

          From "Surreal Gourmet Bites"

          Caesar teaser

          Parmesan cups

          5-ounce block Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated (about 2 cups; inferior Parmesans may not be up to the task at hand)


          1/4 cup safflower, canola or olive oil

          3 cloves garlic, minced

          1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

          2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

          2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

          2 anchovies or 1 teaspoon anchovy paste (omit if serving vegetarians)

          1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

          1/2 teaspoons salt

          1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

          1 egg yolk

          3 cups diced romaine lettuce hearts (the inner part of the romaine)

          12 small croutons

          Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Set out 4 shot glasses and turn them upside down.

          On a nonstick baking sheet, make 4 evenly spaced mounds of cheese, 2 tablespoons each. Tap the side of the pan gently so the cheese spreads out into circles roughly 3 inches in diameter. Bake for exactly 5 minutes. Let cool for 15 seconds, then pick up each individual cheese circle by its edges with a metal spatula and drape it over and upturned shot glass. Move quickly. After all 4 Parmesan cups are in place, use your fingers to gently mold them around the glasses. Let cool for 2 minutes, then lift Parmesan cups off the glasses. Repeat the whole process until you have 12 cups. Reserve.

          To a blender or small food processor, add oil, garlic, lemon juice, Dijon, vinegar, anchovies, Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Puree. Add egg yolk and pulse a couple of times. Reserve.

          Just before assembling, toss lettuce with 2 tablespoons dressing. Add more dressing if desired.

          To assemble, line up Parmesan cups, fill with salad, and top each with a crouton.

          1. re: Val

            The parmesan cup is an awesome idea; I saw a parmesan 'taco shell' done on Restaurant Makeover once.. looked delish :)

            If those will hold for a day, I'd definitely prefer this recipe. Thank you for finding it!

            1. re: NovoCuisine

              I tried making these parmesan cups for my own version of caesar salad, and I have to report that it wasn't a success. At least, not without a major modification.

              First, the parmesan cups are quite fussy to make - there's only a split second between being too hot to pick up and too cool to drape, so I could only do two at a time. Even then, the first one would tear (because it was too hot) and the second one wouldn't drape well (because it was too cool). And I could only manage to create shallow cup shapes, not high-sided shot glasses.

              The worst thing was that when I served them, the caesar dressing leaked out through the holes in the parmesan cups, so it was too messy to eat. Maybe the parmesan cups weren't supposed to have spaces, but given the amount of cheese and size specified, there were spaces in mine.

              But the parmesan chips looked pretty and tasted FANTASTIC, so I ended up breaking them and putting pieces of them on the salad instead of croutons. Now that's a winner!!! A mini cup of salad with a quarter-circle of parmesan crisp was extremely tasty and nice-looking, too.

              I plan to make the parmesan crisps - no draping this time - for my next party. And I recommend using the best parmesan you can buy.


              1. re: AnneInMpls

                Anne, thank you for this report...I do know that when the caterers served these, everyone 'oohed and aahed'...there was no leakage, so maybe they'd experimented enough to fine-tune the recipe, I don't know. I still want to try it, though! (heh, but first I have to go out and buy 4 shotglasses!)

                1. re: AnneInMpls

                  Yes thanks very much for the update. This sounds like something I'll have to attempt a couple times before the party, but would be well worth it.

                  I like the crisp idea too; I know the kid would be impressed with me if I included that in her caesar next time, anyway ;)

          2. Here's the carpaccio in parmesan cups, just in case anyone's curious:


            1. Sounds like fun! Here are two well-tested recipes that always impress at parties ...

              Muhammara, a beautiful & tasty red hummus-like dip:
              (You can tone down the spice a bit for your mom. I'm not sure if it's the color or the smell, but this dip seems to appeal to just about anyone ... even my sister-in-law, who is the pickiest and least adventurous eater I've ever known, willingly tried it and immediately declared it delicious.


              Sesame Wonton Crisps, deep-fried deliciousness and worth the hand cramp you'll get from flipping wonton wrappers with a tong for an hour or two:
              (I cut the wrappers in half on the diagonal, which looks prettier and makes more crisps.


              Both are pretty simple to make and can be prepared a day or two ahead of time without compromising flavor -- in fact, the muhammara really benefits from sitting at least 24 hours. Good luck with the party ... let us know what you decide to make and how everything turns out!

              1 Reply
              1. re: tapas

                These are great, especially for the make-ahead factor. Gonna be pretty busy the day-of. Thanks!

                I'll be sure to post a final menu.. or a draft, anyway, for further 'Hound consideration :)

              2. How about caviar on potato disks? Boil tiny white potatoes, peel, slice so you end up with little round disks, pipe a little sour cream on them, and top with some golden caviar or any caviar of your choice. Simple, elegant and delicious. And easy to pick up with fingers.

                3 Replies
                1. re: slacker

                  Any other ideas for caviar? I'm not so sure it's a caviar-crowd (whatever that is!) but if I could incorporate it into something fun, they might go for it.

                  1. re: NovoCuisine

                    deviled eggs topped with caviar works.
                    Also, tiny square appetizer bread with cream cheese & smoked salmon can be topped with caviar or capers

                    1. re: pamd

                      smoked salmon and cream cheese can also be put on a mini bagle. it's a three bit appetizer, so it's filling.

                2. I love serving skewers of mini mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes - cute and tasty.

                  Also, polenta crackers topped with herbed goat cheese. You basically crisp up rounds of polenta in the oven, cool, top with dollops of cheese.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: piccola

                    Actually, I already planned something like that! When I make mine, I find mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes of approximately the same size, cut them in half, then assemble a half a mozz ball and half a tomato to form a full sphere again - then wrap in a strip of basil and skewer. Olive oil/balsamic dip on the side.

                    Loving the polenta cracker idea. I think I want to make that for myself tomorrow.. :)

                    1. re: NovoCuisine

                      Watermelon is very good with this combination.
                      For passed hor'dorves - you can use the watermelon "cube" as the base (it will stand on)
                      the skewer would consist of
                      watermelon, mozz ball, torn basil, and cherry tomatoe.

                      1. re: leah

                        Very interesting flavour suggestion. I will try this on the weekend!

                  2. How about the French Laundry's salmon cornets? That would totally impress me. One of the hounds here did a photo report of when she made some...oh actually she (Sixy Beast) did a Ahi version, but still impressive to me. I found her post:

                    Then there was a thread some time ago looking for suggestions on what to serve/plate these things on, but I can't find it.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Alice Patis

                      Those are outrageously pretty and I bet they taste just as good. Thanks for digging up that post.

                    2. For some "heavy" finger food....

                      I like mini hamburgers on brioche rolls - I've seen them stuck with a toothpick topped with a cornichon.

                      Also, Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything cookbook has a great curried pork that you serve with a mango chutney and arugula. This would be great in those half-dollar size pita breads. It's great at room temp and all the components can be made ahead.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: maviris

                        I like the mini hamburger idea. It would be at least one substantial dish in a sea of finger pickings. Thanks :)

                        1. re: NovoCuisine

                          A very nice addition to the mini hamburgers is a nice sharp cheddar & pickled onions - marinate a sliced red onion overnight in rice wine vinegar. Its low-acidity makes it a palate-pleaser for most everybody, and it cuts nicely through the richness of the cheese. Another, more fancy addition could include foie and sweet onion marmalade.

                      2. Someone served these http://appetizer.allrecipes.com/az/Fi...
                        Fig with Bacon and Goat Cheese bites at the last party i was at.

                        i second the carpaccio idea, or simply ahi poke on a rice cracker chip.

                        deviled eggs are retro and often popular with artsy types... consider putting something interesting into the deviled bit, the refilling the whites with a special tipped pastry bag.

                        i tend often to think of fondue as artsy as well.

                        something as simple as mini bagel halves broiled with mozzarella and parmesan topped with a dab of marinara or sundried tomatoes is relatively non-palate-specific.

                        bruschetta, yakatori or terriyaki chicken (just make sure there are ample trash cans for the skewers, or guests will end up like larry david on curb your enthusiasm holding their sticks all night), stuffed mushrooms, mini quiches...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Emme

                          I have already mom-tested something like that mini bagel idea; I just do thin slices of french bread, baked lightly with mozarella and sundried tomatoes in olives. I find it unbelievably delicious, yet simple.

                          The teriyaki (satays? hmm..) is a good idea too; I can get my dad or brother on the BBQ for those, which will free time up for me ;)

                        2. Hello,

                          Our last xmas party we did phyllo cigars. You can pretty put whatever yo ulike into it so it would suit your mother's ban on spice.

                          Just get phyllo pastry, spread with butter and stack. You can sprinkle parmesan between the sheets as well.

                          Fill with any number of ingredients-we used roasted red pepper and other mediteranean style ingredients (I can't remember exactly what now)

                          Roll tucking ends in. Brush with butter and bake seam side down. Cut into small pieces crosswise when done.


                          2 Replies
                          1. re: j2brady

                            Cute.. maybe a sweet filling rather than savoury, as I haven't even begun to think about dessert!

                            1. re: NovoCuisine

                              Also, I just thought...if you cut the phyllo sheets into more narrow strips you coiuld make individual cigars rather than cutting a larger thicker cigar into mini sushi like rolls.

                              I love phyllo for entertaining. I have also cut it into squares then layered the small squares, pressed into mini muffin tins to make little phyllo cups then filled with a number of different things...sweet or savory.


                          2. If you don't already have it, I would strongly recommend either buying or checking out from the library Martha Stewart's Hors d'Oeuvres Handbook. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0609...
                            I can't believe how amazing this book is! Even just for inspiration, it's a great book! Everything is extremely artistic, but a lot of it is still really simple. One of the preparations that I've been wanting to try is taking globe grapes, cutting them in half, scooping out a little bit of the inside, filling with goat cheese, and then rolling the goat cheese in chopped, salted pistachios.

                            I've made these Prosciutto Chips Topped with Fried Artichoke Hearts before and they were extremely good and beautiful!

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Katie Nell

                              What's one more cookbook, right? :)

                              Prosciutto.. chip? Okay you've got me, that's a definite!

                              1. re: NovoCuisine

                                Oh good... please report back on what you end up with!

                                I love to just keep this cookbook by my bed and look at it... I think you will really like it, especially if you are artsy yourself!

                                Here's a sweet recipe for you too, this doesn't get much easier! http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

                              2. re: Katie Nell

                                Ditto on the Martha Stewart book. If you have a Borders near you, also check out their self-published Essential Finger Food. It's six dollars, and really great. I cater a lot of finger-food parties, and these two are my most used for those kind of events.

                              3. I was recently at a wine tasting event and had some amazing finger food. One app I fell in love with and was surprised I liked it so much was pulled pork in little puff pastry tartlets. The sauce was too sweet but they were so tasty. I was thinking it was a nifty app because you can make make everything ahead of time, reheat and assemble. I'd use a sweet/hot/sour tasting barbecue sauce and top with cilantro or italian leaf parsley.

                                1. If Asian-style food would work, we have served the minced chicken in this recipe (http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...) in the wonton cups in this recipe (http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...) more than once, and it always goes over well. The water chestnuts and hoisin sauce in the chicken mixture makes it really unique and delicious. Don't use too much hoisin, or the wonton cups will not hold up.

                                  1. I "made" some fresh figs stuffed with goat cheese and drizzled with honey that I'd added some freshly ground black pepper to last night. Everyone LOVED them and it couldn't be easier.
                                    Other ideas would be:
                                    vegetable sushi rolls
                                    sweet/spicy almonds or other nuts
                                    mini spanikopita (super easy to make, very impressive)
                                    lamb kofti on skewers

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. There is nothing easier or tastier than the...'date stuffed w/almond--wrapped with applewood smoked bacon' get up--always well-received.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Funwithfood

                                        Also try date stuffed with parmesan wrapped in bacon. Parmesan Stuffed dates wrapped in bacon

                                        18 sticks of Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1” X 1⁄4”)
                                        18 pitted dates (preferably Medjool)
                                        6 slices bacon, cut crosswise into thirds

                                        18 toothpicks

                                        Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put oven rack in middle position.

                                        1. Stuff 1 piece of cheese into each date*, wrap with 1 piece of bacon. Secure with a toothpick. (Make sure toothpick goes all the way through so that you can lay the date on its side on the cookie sheet).
                                        2. Arrange dates on a cookie sheet
                                        3. Bake 5 minutes.
                                        4. Turn dates over and bake until bacon is crisp about 5- 6 minutes.
                                        5. Drain on paper bag.

                                      2. Thank you everyone for taking the time to give me your ideas! I've really got to sit down and hammer out this menu.

                                        I had an idea yesterday; some sort of homemade frites (okay, it might be tired, but people love 'em) in a newspaper cone. You've seen it before, but instead of regular newspaper, I'll print black/white cartoon strips on them.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: NovoCuisine

                                          Love it. I don't think frites are ever tired, personally. Might be a little difficult to get out hot and fresh though (but I might just be projecting, I have timing issues).

                                          1. re: julesrules

                                            No, frites are never tired! You could do homemade potato chips in cones if you are worried about getting them out hot... with a bleu cheese dip too!

                                        2. Another idea very similar to the date stuffed with almond one is dates stuffed with a bit of goat cheese and wrapped in either prosciutto or serrano ham. I just some at a tapas restaurant and they were fantastic!

                                          1. Several things come to mind: tabouleh stuffed cherry tomatoes, herb or salmon cream cheese stuffed yellow squash/zucchini, goat cheese stuffed zucchini flowers, ham/prosciutto wrapped breadstick, bite size ground lamb in phyllo, baked wonton with samosa (curried potato) fillings, mini frittatas, mini turkey/chicken/beef meatballs.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: anna

                                              Wow, thanks :)

                                              I do that prosciutto/breadstick thing in the morning, dipped in poached eggs.. never dawned on me to attempt for a party dish.

                                            2. Cold liquids in shot glasses. To be consumed in one chug so you can take the glass away immediately.

                                              Cucumber soup.
                                              or Chocolate Milkshake shots (I had these circulated with the hors d'oeuvres once at a nightclub)

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: vicki_vale

                                                Or some great fruit "soups" would work well too in the shot glasses.

                                                1. re: vicki_vale

                                                  This thought crossed my mind - I saw a pic of something recently in a shot glass and it looked fantastic.

                                                2. One fun idea is to get some buffalo wings, chicken tenders, veggie platter, pita bread, basically anything dip-able. I know this sound very "ordinary" but the part you trick out is that you lay out a buffet of sauces for them to try. Recommendations include:

                                                  blue cheese sauce
                                                  yellow cheese sauce
                                                  chimmichuri sauce
                                                  cilantro sauce
                                                  guacamole sauce
                                                  BBQ sauce
                                                  Teriyaki sauce
                                                  garlic butter sauce
                                                  mustard sauce
                                                  super hot blow out your head hot sauce
                                                  (and from here you can use your imagination for other sauces as well)

                                                  I was going to do this once for my party, but reconsidered after realizing I had a lot of light colored furniture in my house. This is similar to what the enormously popular Vespa Dipping Grill in Denver does.

                                                  1. Proscuitto & gruyere pinwheels (epicurious.com)

                                                    1. All this has started me thinking about tapas. Marinated olives. Anchovies. Tortilla. Patatas bravas. Garlic shrimp, and so on.

                                                      1. Well, the party is a week away and I have put together a "mini" menu. Since there is such a broad range of eaters, some very picky about anything out of the ordinary, I figured traditional casual fare made with good ingredients and looking cute in small versions was the way to go. Also, it is more of a casual cocktail party, so a variety of one/two-bite dishes seems to be a good solution since it's not a real sit-down dinner.

                                                        The Final Menu (pretty much ;)

                                                        - Caesar salads in their own parmesan cups
                                                        - Lobster 'tacos' (really tasty lobster mix in 'scoop' tortilla chips)
                                                        - Mini burgers w/ onion relish
                                                        - 2" parmesan/basil pizzas (served on small, clear acrylic artist pallettes)
                                                        - Frites in newspaper cones (I printed off contrasty b/w cartoon strips on paper rather than typical newsprint)
                                                        - Fried veggie/meat wontons (one wonton served with a dollop of dip on an Asian soup spoon)
                                                        - Caprese skewers w/ balsamic reduction dip

                                                        My mother can't fathom having a party without dips, so she insists on making her famous "shrimp" dip.. there will be freshly made salsas with pita crisps and tortillas out and about as well.

                                                        After dinner treats:

                                                        - Berries in prosecco with chocolate mint from the garden
                                                        - Gourmet popcorn served in mini Chinese 'takeout' boxes. My dad will be presenting an animated film; I thought popcorn was most appropriate ;)