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snacks for semi-formal cocktail party

Help, I need inspiration for a party of 20!

Snack ideas?
We are having a smoked fish plate, salmon and mussels. Some good cheeses and quality cracker bread. I'm thinking rumaki and/or bacon wrapped shrimp as a warm dish.

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  1. Somebody posted a thread earlier about a really easy appetizer/snack for parties. Get some little pastry shells (phyllo, mini quiche crusts, whatever), drop in a little brie and a little fig jam and then bake. Sounds delicious, and there are all sorts of variations to try with different cheeses and jams/spreads. Definitely doing this for my next party.

    My mother also usually does tiny beef tenderloin sandwiches, which are always a huge hit at her parties.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Heatherb

      We made the pastry shells (Siljan brand) baked with brie & fig jam for Thanksgiving... while they were extremely tasty, the shells became very soggy while baking and therfore didn't hold their shape. I used a medium quality brie... thought maybe I should try a higher quality brie next time?? Any suggestions?

      1. re: wineaux

        Good to have the heads up on that before I tried it out! Do you think maybe phyllo cups would have held together better? I've used them before and they seemed to hold up pretty well. Size also could have been an issue--i.e., if the diameter of the cups was too big. Would it really have been the cheese? Is there that big a difference between medium- and high-quality brie? I know next to nothing about cheese except that I generally like it...

        1. re: Heatherb

          Really? I'm the one who posted that originally - it's a recipe I swiped from a good friend, and mine are pretty crisp. We use a pretty good quality brie, but do you think maybe it might have been a little too much fig preserve?

          1. re: Andiereid

            What kind of pastry cups did you use? I can't remember from the original post... I just remember thinking it was such an easy and cool idea.

            1. re: Heatherb

              We used the Siljan brand, which was really difficult to find in the Chicago area! I just checked the box and I think I figured out what I did wrong. It says to warm the cups in the oven before filling. I filled them with brie and topped with fig jam and then heated. I'm going to give them another shot on NYE! They couldn't have been too bad, because there weren't any leftovers!

              1. re: wineaux

                The original recipe is for the Siljan cups, but I didn't crisp them first - just put a little dollop of brie in, probably 1/4 tsp of fig preserves, and stuck them in the oven at 350 for about 4 minutes.

                1. re: Andiereid

                  Thanks for the info.... that's exactly what I did, except I left them in for 5 minutes @ 350. I think I'll try a higher quality brie... maybe less oily? Like I said, they were still good - everyone liked them!! I have 2 unopened boxes of Siljan's, so that'll give me plenty of practice!

    2. You can never go wrong with Rumaki. Shrimp is alway's good too.

      This is a fun and unique item that we first had in North Beach many years ago:

      Slice a bagget on the bias

      Lightly toast with olive oil

      Rub with Garlic clove

      Lightly spread jalepeno jelly

      spread la cheve

      top with crisp pear slice.

      1. Crostini with brie and caramelized onions. Broil for about a minute to soften and partially melt the brie. This is my go-to simple party app.

        1 Reply
        1. re: xtal

          also excellent in mini pastry shells

        2. My old standby is blue cheese and fig crostini - slice french bread, spread fig jam, put blue cheese on top and bake for about 5 minutes. There are never any left.

          1. I forgot about my favorite party food. Bruschetta. Chop tomatoes, mince some garlic, tear up some basil, salt, pepper, olive oil to taste. Then drizzle in some balsamic vinegar for extra kick. Serve over bread rounds with a sprinkling of parmesan or romano. Total yum.

            1. I love seafood, but if you're not sure of everyone's dietary specs I would do something other than the shrimp given what you've already decide on.

              1. Another warm app idea would be stuffed dates. Stuff pitted dates with a whole roasted almond. Wrap it in bacon and bake in a 350 degree oven until the bacon is cooked. For an extra touch, you can spear them with a little sprig of rosemary for flavor.

                Plain and simple parmesan crostini work well. Sliced bread/baguette, brushed with extra-virgin olive oil, and topped with a bit of grated parmesen baked in a 350 degree oven. good room temp or warm. Grind some black pepper on top.

                Belgian endive leaves make a natural base for cocktail parties. You can top them with a mixture of apples, goat or blue cheese, nuts if you wish, and a fresh herb like tarragon. It's also a good base for something seafood-y like a crab salad, or smoked fish pate. On its own they make great dippers for something like bagna cauda (hot olive oil, garlic, and anchovy dip with butter, because it's a party).

                Gravlax is easy, can be done ahead, and is pretty sophisticated. Good with thinly sliced bread, pita chips, etc.

                Middle Eastern mezze also make for good cocktail food. The dips/spreads don't usually drip or run. Instead of hummus, a nice change of pace would be ful mudammas—a puree of dried fava beans with plenty of olive oil and garlic. With sliced cucumbers and pita triangles, a pretty good bite.

                3 Replies
                1. re: wasabi

                  I agree about the stuffed dates, they're great and easy. You can make these ahead and freeze them, no toothpick necessary, then microwave to serve.

                  1. re: wasabi

                    Another option for stuffing the dates is using a small chunk of parmesan reggiano - so delicious!

                    1. re: heathermb

                      that is very good. made some last night with pine nuts and goat cheese, too. i really have too much time on my hands :)

                    1. Martha Stewart's Sweet and Spicy Mixed Nuts are always a great hit. You can make them in advance.

                      1. a real nice looking spread dip is a nice soft goat type cheese that you press into a small bowl that you lined with seran wrap, then a layer of pesto sauce, then another layer of cheese, then a layer of sun dried tomatoes, then another layer of cheese, put in the fridge and then when ready - tip over onto a nice plate, remove the seran wrap and you have a nice looking layered cheese dip, spread.

                        I haven't tried this one, but looked delicious - heat a little olive oil, crush garlic, add breadcrumbs and parm cheese just so all is moisten - roll filet mignon (bite size cubes) in bread crumb mixture - broil until crisp and tender. serve on toothpicks.

                        I love bacon wrapped scallops, bacon wrapped water chestnuts, prochutto wrapped shrimp, smoked salmon platter with cr. cheese.

                        1. Here's a link to a recipe for caviar pie--easy to make in advance and always goes over well.

                          1. Spanikopita or cheese boreks never fail to excite people.
                            Spanish style meatballs with saffron almonds sauce?
                            Here's a link to a recipe I've made; sehr lekker

                            1. Gougeres are great, and are easy to make ahead, freeze, and then toss in the oven to warm up. Mini quiches are great, and easy if you have mini muffin tins. I've done great things with spinach and feta turnovers, you can use either puff pastry, phyllo dough, or potsticker dough for them. I also loved the cheddar crisps recipe in the November Gourmet.

                              1. Stuffed mushrooms with bread crumbs
                                Parmesan cups/crisps filled with basil and sundried tomatoes, chopped and mixed
                                Melon crescents with prosciutto
                                Stuffed endives-- your call on the filling
                                Toasted pita triangles stacked with hummus, diced tomatoes, and parsley
                                Dumplings/Shu Mai
                                Mini-quiches was a great suggestion
                                Mini Muffin sized cheesecakes for dessert :)
                                Stuffed potato skins
                                Mini quesadilla wedges

                                1. I agree with the gougeres recommendation- pate a choux is easy to make. I make a lot and freeze, then reheat (in oven) and either serve plain (when a meal is to follow), or create different fillings such as crab or lobster salad, chevre and dates, a little spicy sausage mix, whatever suits fancy, time and budget.

                                  They are an elegant and easy finger food, and on the unique side because so many think it is so difficult to make these, so not as many people make the effort. Really easy!

                                  1. Arancini. I've recommended them once tonight for a good appitizer. I second the parmesan crisps and the endive cups. Also a triangle of wonton wrapper fried, topped with a dallop of wasabi creme fraiche and slices of seared ahi on with a tiny slice of avo and chives.

                                    1. An Alsatian bacon and carmelized onion tart is good either warm or room temperature. There is a recipe on epicurious.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: h2o

                                        I'm glad to hear you say that. I'd planned on trying one for the holiday party Saturday night.

                                      2. I recommend making a dip or terrine. It's about the simplest thing because it has to be made ahead and you don't have to fuss over individual pieces of anything. Two favorites are smoked trout dip/spread/mousse and chicken liver pate (there are several good recipes for each on epicurious). Another fun appetizer is deviled eggs topped with caviar.

                                        1. If you have access to fresh figs, you can quarter the figs (or halve if they're small), press in a little chunk of fresh chevre (if it's smoked all the better), then wrap it with a small slice of prosciutto or serrano ham. Place on a well-oiled rimmed baking sheet, cover, and refrigerate until serving time. Then uncover, drizzle with a little olive oil, pop them into a hot oven for a few minutes until the ham crisps up, and serve. If you have some really good aged balsamico and you love your guests, you can drizzle some over the top -- it'll curl your toes it's so good.

                                          2 Replies
                                            1. re: heathermb

                                              Oh, it really is! I forgot to mention, the other gilding-the-lily thing you can do is to put a little bit of mostarda, or any compatibly flavored spicy-sweet condiment, on the fig with the goat cheese before you wrap it with the ham. It's not necessary, but it adds another dimension to the flavor. I use a sliver of candied spicy clementines (which are good with ANYTHING) and the heat and the hint of orange just send it over the top.

                                              Okay, NOW I'm hungry.