If you or anyone you know is vaguely affiliated with the corporate world, odds are good that you will find yourself at a holiday party this month. And, if you're like me, you'll find yourself eating appetizers to compensate for your spending your dinner hour at said party. Odds are also good that you're not paying for these tasty-but-small treats. So let's all take a moment to be grateful for the free food and, if you're lucky, the open bar. Now that we've taken that moment, let's dissect, shall we?
Miniature hot dogs, a.k.a. Pigs in a Blanket. These usually butlered hors oeuvres have become so beloved, I've found them served everywhere from the Union League to the American Legion. Or at least places like those places. The cliche is truth however; these morsels deliver the right mix of pastry dough and comfort food, without sabotaging your teeth or shirt.
Other pastry items include mini-quiches and spanokopita, the latter of which I place in the "items to avoid" section. Absent the propensity of spinach to get stuck in your teeth, however, I'm generally a fan of pastry-wrapped items because, let's face it, anything wrapped in buttery dough is generally good. And, even better, you can easily tell when it's not; the dough appears too brown or dried out.
Shrimp Cocktail. Another offering that's reliably good and again, you can tell when it's not.
Lamb Chops served by the chop. Although I made the mistake of topping with mint jelly on one round (jelly which shortly ended up on the floor), the idea of eating something by the chop was smart and different, and aided by the medium rare tender meat that allowed for biting off reasonable size pieces.
Boneless Short Ribs. Delicious small bites of pork make for a wonderful appetizer substitute for a meal.
Smoked salmon open sandwich bites. Delicate layers of salmon, butter and whole grain bread topped with capers make for the perfect bite.
Caviar bar. Although this still remains a myth for me, my friends tell me it's an amazing offering. Try to get invited to the right wedding for this one.
Comme ci, comma ça.
Crabcakes. In tiny form, many mistakes can be forgiven with this appetizer. As long as the crab flavor comes through somewhere in this popped bite, all is well. Being from Maryland, however, my expectations for crabcakes outside of Maryland remain low.
Carved Beef. Often less than tender, and therefore mostly inedible unless you have the right fork and knife, carved beef can be more trouble than it's worth. If done right, and with enough tables to sit, the beef can be wonderful however. Proceed with caution.
Items to Avoid.
Bruschetta. This garlic (always a no-no at a corporate party) and tomato mixes atop toasted bread spell trouble. The second I bite into one, the remainder of the topping usually falls off the bread and onto the place it can do the most damage -- usually a white shirt.
The cheese and cracker plate. Simply because there are usually more interesting offerings than these snacks, unless of course you know your cheeses well enough to identify them and recognize when the extraordinary is being served. I don't, sadly.
Skewered chicken with peanut sauce. Usually very hard to eat, especially if you add the peanut sauce (which in my mind, makes the chicken and is usually necessary for the chicken to taste good). Again, the propensity for this going badly for you is high. Avoid.
Best of luck.