When starting off an evening with guests I love to offer three little tastes of things. It’s something that’s easy to pull together and always appreciated by guests. A mix of flavor combinations also encourages cocktail drinking (and couldn’t we all use some encouragement?). I have a silver three-bowl relish dish that is awesome for a small group. Most of these items are standard stock in my pantry and it’s simple to elevate your staples a bit—marinate your olives, season and heat up your nuts and if you really want to go all out, you can make your own chips.
Some of my favorite combos:
Marinated olives, almonds and potato chips—the organic sea salt chips from Lay’s are terrific, or make your own homemade potato chips.
Marcona almonds, salami slices and small chunks of Parmesan (fancy it up by drizzling some honey on the Parmesan chunks — totally delectable).
Pretzel sticks, goat cheese-stuffed Peppadews and spiced pecans. For easy Peppadew stuffing, stick your goat cheese in a Ziplock bag, cut a little off of one corner and pipe the cheese into the peppers.
Mary’s Gone Crackers gluten-free crackers*, dried cherries, Manchego matchsticks.
[*Have you tried these? They’re delicious and I’m a girl who will never take a ticket for the gluten-free train.]
Cheese sticks, cornichons and French ham cut into squares.
A note about nuts:
Nuts are crazy! (Sorry, it’s Friday). I don’t ever mix nuts; I prefer to choose one type and stick with it. Sometimes I get frustrated when buying nuts. Sometimes they’re amazing—fresh and delicious—and other times they’re a bit stale tasting. If you wind up with stale nuts (oh, the things I could say), here are a couple of my tricks.
Toss your nuts with a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt. Place them in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.
Or you can take a trip to Martha Land for some of their spiced nuts.
Or visit The Bowl Company for beautiful (but pricey!) serving sets.