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How to make any appetizer look gourmet

Serve easy appetizers at your next party that look like you spent a month at culinary school. With a few easy tips and techniques, your appetizers will look catered rather than cratered.

Canapes served on rustic board

Presentation is everything

How your snacks and appetizers look on the table make all of the difference.

  • Look for unique platters and serving dishes that not only display your food beautifully, but also give everyone a good look at your sense of style. Vintage and antique plates can be found at thrift stores for very little money.
  • Consider repurposing items you already have in your house — cedar planks to hold grilled meat skewers, large tiles for cold items or a glass casserole dish filled with river rock for clams and oysters in the half shell. Be as whimsical, sophisticated or kitschy as you like.
  • You can also make ice bowls by freezing water in plastic bowls. As soon as there is about two inches of ice (but the center is still liquid), pour the water out and remove the ice from the plastic bowl. You may need to dip the plastic in hot water to get the ice bowl out easily. Fill the center of your icy serving dish with shrimp, dip or other cold appetizer. You can freeze fruit or flowers in the ice for color if you like.
  • Keep appetizers bite-sized. They will be more appealing as well as easier for your guests to eat.
  • Serve small bites of food mounded on mismatched silver spoons that you have picked up at the thrift shop. Chopped strawberries with a little balsamic vinegar drizzled on them are beautiful when served this way.

Garnish creatively

Just because you bought appetizers from the frozen section of the grocery store doesn’t mean that they can’t look great. Be as imaginative in your garnishes as you are with your serving dishes for a winning combination.

  • Use fresh herbs, curly purple kale or leaf lettuce to create a bed for cold appetizers. You may also be able to find edible flowers like roses, pansies or nasturtium.
  • Don’t put the same colored foods together on a platter. Try to have a wide range of colors and textures.
  • Spread a thin layer of butter on the edges of small pastry items like empanadas or sandwiches. Roll the buttered sides in finely chopped parsley, chives, basil or other colorful herb to add a burst of color and flavor.
  • If you are baking a small pastry, try brushing it with beaten egg white before baking. Sprinkle it with a pinch of a coarse finishing salt — pink Himalayan, black or red Hawaiian, or any other type that looks good to you. You can even use culinary lavender or rose petals blended to a powder and mixed with plain, coarse sea salt for color and flavor.
  • Cut wraps, rollups and sandwiches on an angle rather than straight across.
  • Simple deviled eggs become elegant when you add a tiny spoonful of caviar to the top of the yolk.

There are no set rules for creating appetizers that have gourmet flair. With a little patience and imagination, your party trays will look professional.

More appetizer ideas

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Elegant holiday appetizers for easy entertaining

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