Cocktail parties with class

This is a guest post by Laura Taylor of Honest to Goodness.

Entertaining friends and family can be easy and impressive without all of the stress. You can plan and prepare party appetizers that are simply delicious and sure to wow your guests. When planning a menu for an afternoon or evening reception, here are some factors to consider:


  • Peruse your local farmers’ markets or grocery stores for in-season ingredients that inspire you. If you try new recipes, do so in advance of the party so that you can make any desired adjustments and get the recipe just right.
  • Rich and hearty flavors presented in heated serving dishes are best in fall and winter
  • Light and zesty tastes served cold or at room temperature will appeal most in spring and summer


  • Purchase a couple of pre-made platters of cut fruits, vegetable crudité, meats, and/or cheeses to reduce the overall number of items you make from scratch. The time you would have spent cutting carrot and celery sticks will be better used in topping crostini and blending sangria.
  • One or two classic frozen appetizers will bake quickly in the oven and still deliver a taste almost like homemade. Add a personal touch with a colorful garnish like diced roasted red pepper strips or a dollop of chive crème fraiche to up the flair factor.
  • Consider menu elements that can be prepped 1-4 days in advance. Homemade hummus and cinnamon whipped cream hold well in the refrigerator to save time on the actual day of your party.

Service Style

  • For finger food events, plan your menu to include a variety of food platforms such as crostini toasts, cucumber rounds, toothpicks or skewers, and chip scoops. Shot glasses are classy for serving tastes of chilled soups, ceviche, or chutneys, yet will add slightly to the clean-up factor.
  • Party cleanup is much quicker and less expensive when you avoid the use of forks, whether disposable or not. It is essential to have a minimum of cocktail plates and napkins, and it is also acceptable for these items to be disposable or compostable.
  • Buffet-style parties are efficient ways to serve food prepared in large quantities and will save you time from assembling individual pieces of appetizers. Remember to make fun DIY buffet labels to identify your food selections.

Using these easy tips for planning your party menu, you’ll have a successful, festive, and memorable occasion with less stress and less mess. As the hostess with the mostess, you, too, can relax and enjoy the party!

Laura Taylor, CPCE, is owner of Honest to Goodness. As a Kitchen Concierge she provides customized solutions for in-home meal preparations, grocery shopping, kitchen organization, menu planning, and party planning. Servicing the greater Seattle and Eastside areas, contact Laura with your kitchen-help request.


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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>

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