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The Art of the Appetizer

A guide to stylish appetizer displays that look as good as they taste

It’s finally fall and we’ve officially entered the time of year where we gather more frequently with friends and family. Amidst the laughter, conversations, and the clinking of glasses, one element kicks off every party and brings everyone together: an exquisite spread of appetizers.

But serving appetizers doesn’t just have to be about taste; it can be an art form that involves careful consideration, creativity and attention to detail. The way you plate and serve your starters can elevate the entire dining experience. With a little bit of creativity, your hors d'oeuvres will not only be tantalizing to the taste buds, but also a feast for the eyes.

“It’s very important that food is displayed in a beautiful way because people eat with their eyes first!” says Ronna Becerra, chef and owner of Becerra’s Kitchen (BecerrasKitchen.com and on Instagram @BecerrasKitchen). Becerra and her husband, chef and owner David, run the full-service catering company and food truck that specialize in simple food with a twist.

Calling upon her passion for plating and eye for aesthetics, Becerra guides us through the art of beautifully displaying and serving appetizers at your next gathering that will leave your guests impressed and excited.

“I love to find fun new display items that are decorative and fun, as well as a great way to make the food itself beautiful,” she shares. “When you simply put something at a different height, it elevates the design – literally and figuratively. The food becomes almost a decoration for the party.”

Becerra curated four stunning ways to serve your dishes that will make your appetizers shine. Your table will not only be a celebration of flavor, but guests will be wowed before even taking the first bite.

PASS IT ON A BOARD

Pick your favorite charcuterie board or tray and pile it high with tasty treats because it’s time to mix and mingle with your guests! A perfect way to engage with all your friends and family is to move about your party with a board of appetizers. Choose a tray or board that can be carried in one hand and be sure to have napkins at the ready. Becerra recommends passing around items such as bruschetta – she created an inspired bruschetta featuring prosciutto, mascarpone cheese, fig jam and orange zest – or other small, one- to two-bite foods like stuffed mushrooms or mac and cheese balls.

PERSONALIZE IT

Not everyone has the same taste, so creating an appetizer display that allows guest to personalize their snack is a great way to them a little extra love. Becerra started with a delicious slider on a brioche bun and set up a selection of accouterments to fit everyone’s tastes, from cheeses and condiments to fresh veggies, that guests can pile high. Her favorite foods that allow for personalization include mini sandwiches or even a dip display. “A dip can be so many things. The flavors of the dips can be different, like spinach artichoke dip or a seven-layer dip. You can then give guests options that can be dipped into them, like veggies, chips, crackers and more. Everyone can eat it exactly how they want.”

PLACE IT IN A CUP

Does your cup runneth over? If it’s filled with something delicious, we sure hope so! Putting appetizers in a cup is a fun and functional way to serve. Becerra took clear plastic cups and carefully spooned in spicy buffalo chicken dip before topping each with everything pretzel thins for the ultimate on-the-go appetizer. She shares other foods that can be enjoyed while mingling that are perfect for putting in cups: “Salads are a fun one, and desserts, too, specifically cakes,” she says. “I love to layer cakes into a cup for an irresistible display.”

PUT IT ON A STICK

There is no more perfect party food than one placed on a stick. It’s portable and just plain fun to eat. It gives guest the chance to move about your party, chatting while snacking, and all while being relatively mess-free. Charcuterie boards are popular appetizers for parties, but for a grab-and-go option, think antipasto skewers. Becerra stacked salami, basil, Kalamata olives, mozzarella and tomato onto each. “Appetizers on sticks are a great way to create an atmosphere for guest mingling.” Becerra also suggests meatball, shrimp, or fruit or vegetable kebabs are good choices.

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