Sebastians Presents the Newest Form of Entertaining-Micro Meals by Emil Grosso, President of Sebastians
When it comes to planning your next party menu, small is the new big. More and more restaurants and caterers are including "small plates" in their offerings, providing both guests and hosts with more choices. From appetizers all the way through to dessert, the trend is toward smaller, bite size portions that allow your guests to sample everything without ever feeling guilty.
The move toward smaller menu offerings is taking on many forms. At cocktail parties, guests are enjoying miniaturized portions of items traditionally offered as entrees. When scaled down, familiar items such as hamburgers, french fries, chili dogs, and macaroni and cheese become chic and interesting. Tiny hors d'oeuvres served in porcelain spoons can serve as passed amuse bouche, adding a touch of elegance to the cocktail hour. Other popular offerings include mouthwatering soups such as a spicy gazpacho served in shot glasses or demitasse cups, petite pressed panini, or individual crudites served in martini glasses.
At seated dinners, the standard three-course meal is being replaced by a succession of smaller offerings. Because your guests will be able to try everything without filling up, they will be able to enjoy a larger variety of tastes. Somehow, it's just more fun to sample many different flavors rather than limiting yourself to one entrée choice. It keeps the meal lively and interesting. For the host, small plates also provide the opportunity to be more adventurous with menu selections. Menu items with more intense or complex flavors that might be overwhelming in a larger portion are perfectly suited to small plates. This allows you to be much more daring when planning your menu.
Dessert lends itself particularly well to the small plates phenomena. By offering tiny tastes of biscotti, miniature crème brule and bite-sized chocolate cakes you allow your guests to indulge their sweet-tooth without feeling like they've cheated on their diets. Smaller, more portable portions also offer more flexibility in planning your event. Now dessert can be passed with after dinner drinks instead of serving it at the table. Mini Ice Cream or Sorbet Cones, cheese cake lollipops, or shooter glasses of layered white, dark and milk chocolate mousse lend themselves well to this format.
While smaller plates seem like a new trend, they are actually rooted in many long-standing ethnic traditions such as Spanish tapas, Chinese dim sum and Greek mezze, that foster a sense of community through the sharing of food. The experience is both social and intimate. Small plates are meant to be shared and can often stimulate conversation. Each time something new arrives at the table, there is something new to talk about.
Downsized portions are the perfect example of "less is more." They allow your guest to mix and match flavors, to experience more variety, and to take bigger culinary risks. All of these are great benefits as food lovers become more and more sophisticated and adventurous, but the greatest benefit is the enjoyment that comes from sharing a good meal with good friends.
Emil Grosso is President and Executive Chef of Sebastians Café and Caterering of New York and Boston. Sebastians provides a comprehensive catering business for private business and personal functions throughout New York and its suburbs and in Boston. For more information visit www.sebastians.com.