Easy Etiquette - Approaching the Appetizer

Is there anything better than a meal of just appetizers? It’s not really a question, the answer is “no.” Appetizers and rose’, this is all I need. And half of those appetizers should consist of various forms of cheese plates, as long as I’m still planning my perfect meal.

If you’re like me, and you never host a dinner party without a few apps to start – or if you’ve ever eaten (or plan to eat) an appetizer – then these 4 Quick Tips are for you!

Here’s a quick debrief on what to do for those tricky appetizer encounters, whether you are the host, guest, or out to eat at a restaurant. And if it involves burrata, you should definitely get that!

1.    Use the Plates. Know those stack of plates your server brings to your table with that heaping bowl of spinach dip and chips? Well, go ahead and start passing them out to everyone at the table. Because no matter what the appetizer (yes, even chips and salsa/guacamole), you should put it on your appetizer plate and use it. Not the bread plate you may have already been using for, well, bread. And not your hand either that you’re using as a makeshift plate for that chip dip from the bowl in the middle of the table to your mouth.

Spooning a reasonable amount of the dip, sauce, etc., on to your plate and then using a utensil to get the conduit (i.e. chips, bread, veggies) on your plate serves many beneficial upsides: the food is now closer to your mouth so less chances of embarrassing yourself by dropping on the table halfway, less germs are shared by a communal appetizer bowl, and you decrease the chances of the gross broken chip left by another person in the queso bowl by 100%.

Conversely, if you are entertaining at home, set out appetizer plates for your guests. For quick one bite options, feel free to use plastic disposable tooth picks (they make really cute ones now), or even tiny little individual cups for nuts. There are so many clever table hosting options these days. If you find yourself in a situation where plates aren’t available, use a napkin instead. Always remember the First Rule of Etiquette – Be Gracious! Never make a fuss when someone else is cooking for you, make do and appreciate what they are doing for you.

Other appetizers this section also applies to:

·      Pita and hummus

·      Cheese plates

·      Buffalo wings

·      Shrimp cocktail

·      Oysters

·      Endless jalapeño poppers/mozzarella sticks/toasted ravioli

·      And every other appetizer you can think of or have tried (In the U.S. anyway, remember other cultures have other customs. You should always defer to the customs of that culture, including in other people’s homes.)

2.   Seconds, After Everyone else First. You know when you’re really hungry, and you can already tell dinner is going to take awhile, and there’s only a few slices of bruschetta left, and everyone else has had one except your wife/wife’s friend who is busy gabbing to the host about her centerpiece? (Right now my husband is nodding his head “yes”.) You want to get another piece of that delicious tomato and mozzarella heaven, but you know good manners precludes you from doing that. But, what if someone else does it anyway, and then it’s all gone?!

Follow your instincts and good manners. Instead of giving in to the voice of your grumbling stomach, pick up the platter of heaven, and take it over to your wife/wife’s friend and offer her a plate (or napkin) and a slice of the bruschetta. Once she accepts, or declines, then you are free to take it back to the table and help yourself to another serving. As always with your good manners, don’t go crazy, just take one. It’s likely some other starving husband (or wife) has been eyeing those last few pieces too.

Same goes for restaurant etiquette, take a reasonable portion of the appetizer, and then pass it along ensuring there is enough for everyone at the table to have the same portion. And don’t forget, for those odd-portioned or large-sized appetizers, cutting items in half to ensure there is some for everyone is not only gracious, it’s just plain good manners.

3.   Pass to the Right. Once you’ve sliced those mouth-watering beef short-rib sliders in half so there’s enough for everyone at the table to have one, go ahead and start the platter by passing it to your right. Same rule applies at any “Family Style Dinner” setting i.e. Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. You always pass to the right. And while I’m at it, I love a person who forgoes their own first selection to pass it to the right and then claims theirs at the very end. This is not necessary! I just love the thought behind it.

4.   “Finger Foods” for a Reason. A quick word on utensils and appetizers – it’s completely okay to eat “finger foods” with your fingers. Once you’ve gotten those truffle fries and aioli on your plate, go ahead and dip away with your fingers. If you’re a person who prefers to eat their pizza with a knife and fork, you may also be one who prefers to use a fork for all finger foods as well. This is completely okay. The best rule of thumb in any situation, if you’re unsure of what is and is not a finger food, is to look to your utensils setting and/or your host for what they are doing. For instance, if you have a tiny fork among your setting and your host is using it for the smoked oysters, go ahead and do the same. In all instances, make sure you utilize your napkin, whether in your lap or under your plate while standing at a cocktail party, to wipe your hands. If need be, make a quick dash to the restroom to wash up after particularly messy appetizers.

BONUS TIP: The Barefoot Contessa says all you really need for a great appetizer spread at a dinner party is a (preferably silver) bowl of salty nuts, some shavings of really good Parmesan cheese and some nice baked crackers along side. Two things you can buy, and one you can make if you desire. So simple and so elegant. Now go plan a party:)