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Trendy Hors D'oeuvres

I'm doing research for an article on what's hot and what's not in hors d'oeuvres (for wedding receptions, in particular) and would love some feedback. What are the must-haves and what's passé? Do trends in food run in the same cycles as trends in fashion?

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  1. As a former caterer, I can say that mini crab cakes will always be popular. It doesn't matter what kind of event, everyone wants them.

    I think chicken satay is passe. It's just grilled chicken on a stick, anyway.

    3 Replies
    1. re: mojoeater

      It's not passe, it's timeless. The Singapore/Malysian version is great if properly marinated, grilled and served with a good rice cake/kuehtoopat, raw onions, cucumber with the proper peanut sauce.

      1. re: limster

        Right, but we're talking about hors d'oeuvres at wedding receptions, which are usually passed and eaten with fingers while standing. Satay at these events is usually just marinated chicken on a stick which you can dunk in what is usually a peanut sauce. It is not the elegant silverware-needing dish you describe.

        1. re: mojoeater

          I've never had to use silverware with the Singapore/Malaysian satay - typically it's all eaten off skewers. Even without the sides, the grilled chicken (or beef, mutton etc...) can stand on its own. As in restaurants, the quality will of course depend on the caterer.

    2. shrimp cocktail is always nice and makes a pretty presentation.

      1. as a frequent event-attender (not an industry pro), i've noticed that, in the last year or so, there's been a major uptick in spoon-borne hors d'oeuvres -- sauced things passed in spoons, sometimes scallops, sometimes shrimp, usually kind of messy.

        12 Replies
        1. re: david sprague

          I've seen the spoon thing in magazines, but not at parties (yet). Have soup "shots" made the jump from restaurants to parties?

          1. re: dinner belle

            Spoon hors d'oeuvres are definitely in. I attended a wedding last weekend that had these lemongrass chicken meatballs (so reminiscent of Thai/Vietnamese cooking) served on a spoon with a little broth.

            I've also seen clam or shrimp shooters as dinner_belle mentioned.

            Mini comfort foods were big for a while, might be passe now - things like mini cheeseburgers, bits of mac and cheese, etc.

            Tuna tartare was a huge hit at my wedding about a year ago in NYC. I think sushi is out (especially if it's from a non-Japanese caterer), but raw fish or things with a Japanese influence are popular.

            I agree with the previous poster that crabcakes are always appreciated, along with potato pancakes topped with smoked salmon, creme fraiche and caviar - but I'm not sure those would be considered trendy. Carving stations are out in my opinion, I always skip them.

            1. re: katebauer

              what about miniature blini?

              swedish meatballs are probably pretty passe.

              1. re: izzizzi

                salmon tartare in miniature cones, a la Thomas Keller, passed in those little ice cream cone holders

              2. re: katebauer

                Mini comfort foods are just becoming fashionable down here -- I live on a small island on the Georgia coast and what's hot in Atlanta is just making its way down. What I want to know is, if I got married tomorrow, what kind of food could I serve that would "wow" my guests?

                1. re: dinner belle

                  If mini comfort foods are hot - how about with a Southern twist? Shrimp and grits on a spoon.
                  Hmm, typed out it reads kind of ridiculous!

                  1. re: julesrules

                    Shrimp and grits "bars" are actually pretty popular down here right now at parties. They're kinda the new mashed potatoes.

                  2. re: dinner belle

                    Mini ham biscuits are served at most southern weddings.

                    1. re: mojoeater

                      Ham on Sweet Potato Biscuits is big from what various caterers have recently been doing here in Georgia? I'm working with caterers now on two different events and both will have those.

                2. re: dinner belle

                  The catering company I work for has been doing apps in soup spoons and soup shots for a while. People seem to like them.

                3. re: david sprague

                  Yes, we went to a black tie wedding in May and one of the apps was a spoon of sweet potato mash. Seemed kind of weird as an hors d'oeuvre and tasted weird as not sweet nor savory nor any real interesting taste at all. The cutest thing they served were teeny tiny matzo balls in a tiny mug of chicken soup, those were yummy!

                  1. re: Diane in Bexley

                    did you have to lick the spoon to get it out?

                4. I am a chef and before my current restaurant I was chef for a restaurant that did about 100 high end weddings per year. About 80% of these dinners began with hors d'oeuvres. I can tell you that from my experience, the perennial favorites are still very popular, but new twists are always important to keep people excited. Prawns, as one other poster mentioned are a huge hit. But elevating from "prawn cocktail"as it were, was important to me. So, we wrapped each prawn with thin pancetta, roasted them and served with a horseradish and apricot sauce. People loved them. A LOT. Simple chili and lime grilled prawns with some spicy creamy dip is popular. I think prawns are so good because they have a handle - the tail - making for ease of serving and eating. Simply seared scallops topped with bacon and tomato vinaigrette are awesome. Spooned tartares are popular and simple and make for great eye appeal. Tuna, salmon etc. Beef carpaccio cut a little thicker and rolled around fresh pea shoots with shaved parmesan, a little good balsamic.....mmmmmm. Served on a pomme gaufrette. Rillette of chicken, duck or rabbit with some whole grain mustard, sliced cornichon on a grilled baguette crostini. Great! Marinated tuna on a chinese spoon with pickled carrots and daikon and a sweet soy glaze. Some fresh green onion on top. People love fresh fish. Oysters! Shucked fresh with a story attached about their origin and a chef who knows what he is doing. Classical and always popular. And not just the usual "malpeque" oysters. 4-7 varieties from both coasts. Kumamoto, kusshi, these two are the hot little numbers right now. Chilled soups are hot too. Gazpacho in a spoon with some dungeness crab and avocado. Chilled english pea soup with a seared scallop and hon shimeji mushroom.

                  These are just a few examples of items that have been very successful for me and very well received by the guests. Hope this helps!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: formerlyfingers

                    Thanks to everyone, and please keep them coming, but THAT'S what I'm talking about. I'm on the Georgia coast and everyone's all about "Wild Georgia Shrimp." But, down here it can still be Li'l Smokies with grape jelly and chili sauce. Weird. I wanna go to one of your parties!

                    1. re: dinner belle

                      i want to go to formerlyfingers' party, too, dinner belle. great suggestions! so appetizing. (i always laugh at "hors d'oeuvres" when i think of my dad joking and calling them "horse doovers").

                      1. re: dinner belle

                        Diver scallop lollipops are very hot right now in Bham. What's not to love? They come with their own handle.

                    2. Oriental apps like spring rolls, sui mei, dumplings: steamed if possible, but anything wrapped in won ton or egg roll wrappers goes fast.
                      Also have to have an assortment of veggie hor d's, for the younger crowd.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: coll

                        Poached quail eggs in spoons is popular also.

                        1. re: coll

                          Love rolls and dumplings, but don't know what sui mei is. Please enlighten. We don't even have a Thai restaurant on the island.

                          1. re: dinner belle

                            Just dumplings, but the caterers all call them by their Chinese name. Probably so they can charge more!

                            1. re: coll

                              A little OT. Whatever it is please please make it finger food. Went to a formal party and they had a table of things you would eat with a fork. There were the ladies with drink in hand, purse in hand (a lot of Judith Leiber - do you leave THAT on a table lol!!!) and nowhere to hold a plate and fork. We all gravitated to the passed apps area that were finger food.

                        2. "Pigs in a blanket" were apparently quite trendy on the Manhattan social scene recently - you might want to do some searching to see if that is still the case - there may have been an article in the NYT about it.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: MMRuth

                            Retro apps are in, but a lot of caterers use chorizo or andouille (or duck sausage here on Long Island) in their Pigs in a Blanket instead of franks. Served with a variety of mustards for dipping of course.
                            Tiny bite size brushettas are popping up too, which is a nice veggie alternative. Is it only around here that veggie apps are so important? Although they'll make some topped with local goat cheese or heirloom tomatoes too.
                            And for something different, I've heard of Carribbean seafood salads served on top of fried plantain chips. Sounds good to me!

                            1. re: coll

                              Classics-with-a-twist have been brought up many times as I've polled friends for information. I could really go for a foie gras corndog!

                              1. re: coll

                                I know I always appreciate a veggie appetizer!

                            2. updated classics like creole deviled eggs or watermelon gazpacho

                              black bean dip with cuban spicing-- cuban spicing in everything

                              cocktail flavors in food: bourbon glazed chicken wings, mojito fruit salad

                              some things will always be popular & familiar, like the crab cakes, but it can be fresher and trendier to do sockeye salmon cakes with capers. . .

                              vegan apps are gaining ground-- esp asian-style wraps, sui mei/dumplings, wontons, and edamame steamed with unexpected spices like peppercorns & mace

                              agree that southern u.s. cuisine seems trendy now--

                              1. I've been to a few weddings & mardi gras balls where they had "potini" bars...basically make your own mashed potatoes in a martini glass with different toppings. YUM! i'm not sure how au courant this is, though!

                                i agree that chicken satay is kind of lame these days.

                                a spin on the mini comfort foods: mini muffelattas seem to go over quite well here.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: cor

                                  I think must haves are goat cheese stuffed dates wrapped in bacon. I recently went to a wedding where they did a take on korean food as an app -they took a piece of pork bulgogi and put kimchi on it. It was really tasty -though bulgogi seems popular, the kimchi can be questionable for those that don't have as spicy a palate....

                                  1. re: cor

                                    I find the idea of eating mashed potatoes out of a martini glass during cocktails a bit tacky. Not unlike that "chocolate fountain" idea. Ugh. My opinion on someof these food "trends" is that after the first initial time seeing it, and finding it novel...it becomes just cliche and then downright overdone. It isn't novel after the first time for me <shrug>.

                                  2. I love doing gaspacho "shooters" with a drizzle of sour cream and guacamole on top. Very pretty and easy to eat.

                                    Figs wrapped in prosciutto and then grilled are another favorite. (I've seen them stuffed with goat and blue cheeses as well, but I love them with just the fruit and prosciutto.) In the same vein, dates stuffed with chorizo are also wonderful.

                                    At Texas parties, no matter how fancy, they usually have Ro-Tel and Velveeta "queso" dip as well. It's beloved.

                                    1. Tuna tartare on rice chips as bites are generally a hit
                                      Stuffed belgian endive leaves
                                      So simple but good cheese and crackers never go out of style
                                      Stuffed mushrooms or stuffed cherry tomatoes
                                      Mini quiches
                                      Prosciutto wrapped melon altho i think this one is getting a bit tired, the same as I feel is true of bacon wrapped stuffed dates or figs
                                      Recently was at a cocktail party w/ little eggplant pizzettes... i.e. eggplant round topped with a sundried tomato puree and broiled mozzarella on top... and they also served little sesame tofu bites

                                      1. I attend lots of cocktail parties in NYC and have seen lots of variations of tuna tartare... on chips, spoons, etc. Along the same lines the Moma recently had a flat layered philadelphia roll (no seaweed, just cucumber, cream cheese and salmon, stacked in bitesized layers). Meatballs with various sauces I noticed a lot this year.

                                        The mini spring roll is a given at most parties, as are other various asian-inspired hor d'oeuveres. One that I clearly remember as a disaster was the fried vermicelli wrapped prawn, a mess that ended up all over my face and down the front of my suit.

                                        I'm also getting married in Texas in a few months (the culinary theme is nuevo latino), and this inspired me to look up my catering contract to see what we're serving for the cocktail hour: chilled gazpacho and shrimp shooters in a shot glass, argentine spiced sirloin brochette, roasted poblano stuffed with scallops and gouda, and (what no cocktail hour would be complete without) crab cake with smokey bacon aioli.

                                        We said no to: soft-shell crab on tequila jicama slaw, shrimp on black bean pancake, mini gorditas, mini tamales, mini empanadas; all with various non-traditional stuffings (quail, bacon, etc).

                                        1. I think that crab cake is a passe. Although it's still popular if your clientele is over 50. It depends on who you are catering to! If it's a younger generation, you may want to go more eclectic and ethnic and chicken satays I believe are still trendy if well marinated and executed. I like to do mini vietnamese BBQ Pork sandwiches (called banh Mi in Vietnemese). Ahi tuna is defenitively in. If catering to older clientele, then stick with classics such as shrimp cocktail, crab cake, smoked salmon mousse. If money is not an issue, caviar (I'm talking about Persian or Russian caviar) and foie gras are always welcomed.
                                          Mini sliders, pizzas are always popular as well. I hope that helped.

                                          1. the fresh summer rolls (not deepfrie, just rice paper wrapper) with lots of cilantro and steamed shrimp and vermicelli. i think thats great, delicious and refreshing.

                                            i agree with the brochette/mini kabob ideas. nice with veggies and marinated meats or tofu..

                                            i also love the mini muffeletta sandwiches ive seen at parties lately.

                                            instead of a crabcake, maybe a crawfish and andouille sausage ball deep fried?

                                            how about asian lettuce wraps with kimchi and pork or chicken or tofu?

                                            1. Shots and spoons haven't worn out their welcome in most circles, and certainly make for great presentation. I definitely think food trends follow fashion...also agree that apps and menus in general should probably follow age lines...that is, the age of the guests. But, hey, why not show them something different and trendy, too?

                                              I'm working on a fundraiser right now in Mexico for our local animal shelter. Because of budget considerations, our board members will probably be doing the desserts...all to be bite-sized and passed. It's an elegant party, so I need appropriate items. Any suggestions?