In essence, all of these are the same: a way to whet the appetite before lunch or dinner. The differences are in the ingredients and how each one is served. Small bites are a wonderful way to explore combinations of flavors and cooking techniques without having to go all out and serve them as a main course. Creativity, presentation, and bold flavors are key for setting the tone at any event….
Depending on who, where, and what, for a cocktail party plan for at least 6 different ones. Make sure there is something for everyone including gluten-free, vegan, and yes, even carnivores. A basic rule is to calculate 3 bites of each per person.
When it is for before lunch or a dinner, make 2 or 3 different ones and calculate 2 bites per person.
Appetizers The word “appetizer” is also used as a first course and anything from soup to salad. Apps, - as they are now abbreviated are not to be confused with the other apps we are all addicted to- can be anything from meatballs to nachos and can include mac & cheese, stuffed jalapeños, and even a make-your-own taco bar.
It is not so much the actual food, but the time in which it is eaten and how they are served, mainly in front of the TV while watching a sports event. Or in small plates on a buffet spread, or at a tailgate party…
Yes, one can create a whole meal based on apps…. but I think the meal now is called something else…. like perhaps dinner?
To drink: Cold beer
Hors d’oeuvres are what is served before dinner during the cocktail hour. These could be anything from cheese puffs to baby tomatoes dipped in salt. The point is that they are eaten with your fingers and are one bite. And meant to be delicate, elegant, and savory. They can be over the top like caviar and oysters or just…bowls of nuts and olives.
I use them to set the tone for the dinner so that the hors d’oeuvres are part of the menu. For example, if dinner is a very cheesy main course like lasagna or a terrine, then I don’t serve cheesy hors d’oeuvres. And if I am not serving a big meat course, I can then serve jamón serrano or mini meatballs to make the whole meal complete.
To drink: Chilled white wine
Canapés are small bite-sized pieces of bread, pastry, or crackers with a savory topping served with cocktails at receptions. With toppings like caviar, smoked salmon, patê, and cheese, canapés are meant to be delicate, decadent and elegant, served on trays or platers and passed around by waiters. No one has ever been invited to a canapé party (that I know of) but you can expect to have them served at embassies and business receptions in elegant hotels.
To drink: Icy Champagne
Mezze What is served in Turkey, Greece, and some Middle Eastern countries before lunch and dinner with drinks. Including olives, dips, vegetable dishes, cured fish, salads, and different types of bread. Here is where babaganoush, hummus, and dolmas are served along with tabouleh, tzatziki, and kebabs.
Sometimes mezze can also be a whole meal to pick and choose as you like. Served very much like a buffet, where all the dishes are arranged on the table and you eat as much or as little as you like. The mixture of flavors and aromas is just fabulous.
To drink: Mint Iced Tea
Tapas are served throughout Spain only before lunch. It is said that they were first used as the “lid” for a mid-day glass of wine… and yes, the base of it was bread topped with cheese or ham or chorizo. Now, of course, all sorts of bite-size delicacies are served as tapas. My favorites are fried eggplant sticks with honey, ham croquetas, and gambas al ajillo.
At home, they are served all at the same time to nibble with your drink. Seasonal products are brought out and showcased, and classics like fried morcilla, ensaladilla rusa, and shrimp fritters can all be part of tapas. Also some slices of Jamon Serrano, manchego cheese, and picos those hard mini breadsticks so popular in Spain.
To drink: Tinto de Verano
Aperitivo is served before dinner. Also a small bite-size dish of something savory to have with a glass of wine or cocktail. From nuts to chunks of parmesan, charcuterie, bread, and seasonal fruit, not to be confused with antipasto which, even if it is also bits of this and that and served as a first course, is served at the table for all to nibble.
Favorite Drink: Prosecco
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