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The Cheese

small plate and sharing plate ideas

From hosting an event like a Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas dinner, or even a blissful backyard wedding, you want to make sure that everything down to the last detail is perfect for your guests. A well-thought-out menu that steps outside the traditional main course and side dish comfort zone can help you accomplish this! We’re talking about sharing plates and small bites! In this article, we'll tell you all about the joys of small dishes or sharing plates — often called amuse-bouches — and offer some recipe ideas that you can serve at an upcoming dinner party or occasion. Call them what you will, we'll call them what they are: delicious and fun to enjoy in a small or larger group setting.

What is an amuse-bouche?

Cambridge Dictionary calls the amuse-bouche a "small dish served as an appetizer before a meal or between the courses of a meal." Amuse-bouches are teasers for the meal that's to come: small, but intensely flavourful dishes made to boost your appetite.

You may already be familiar with the term amuse-bouche, a menu item often displayed on restaurant or event menus. Just in case you need to brush up on your French, amuse-bouche translates to "mouth-pleaser," so you know that its presence means you’re in for a treat.

If you're thinking about what to include on your Holiday menu this year, switch it up and go the small plate route instead. Amuse-bouches and sharing plates will surprise (and delight) your guests, we bet! We've got a host of quick and easy appetizers you can easily make at home to serve.

A snack by any other name

Most commonly referred to as amuse-bouche or amuse-gueule, this dish can also be called hors d'oeuvres or canapés and is a style of food. Though it’s currently a trendy restaurant dish, amuse-bouches and sharing plates have been around for centuries, first appearing in France's "nouvelle cuisine" era in the 17th century.

Though these names are often used in restaurants today, sharing plates are not exclusively a part of French cuisine. It’s a concept known to many different food cultures. You're likely familiar with Italy's antipasto, Spain's tapas, or mezze, the Lebanese term to describe small sharing plates. There’s also Dim sum, a traditional Chinese style of a serving plate that is said to date as far back as 2,500 years. While this idea is far from new, it is the type of cuisine that lends itself well to reinvention and reinterpretation.

Tips for small bites and sharing plates

There are no rules for serving the best appetizers, but there are some guidelines we'd recommend in order to the most of these mini-meals. 

  • First: don't make too many different plates! Your best bet is to come up with a few dishes and stick to that game plan. This way, you won't veer into too many different flavour profiles and can instead work around a theme or style of cuisine to serve throughout the night. Many types of small bites can also translate to many leftovers and plates to clean up once all your guests have left.
  • Combine lighter snacks like fruits, vegetables, or seafood with much heartier bites. A timeless example is a sweet and savoury pairing, such as a salty, cured meat like prosciutto wrapped around a sweet melon. Bacon-wrapped dates served with a hunk of Cheddar cheese are another popular idea.
  • If you're serving these sharing platters during cocktail hour, be mindful of the meal you've got planned ahead. You don't want your guests to fill up on the sharing plates first, so it's wise to serve enough food equal to about four to five bites per person. However, if you plan on hosting a cocktail dinner and will be doing small plates only, then aim for approximately 12 to 15 bites per person, a substantial enough amount to keep your company well-fed right up until dessert!
  • Presentation isn't everything, but in many foodie schools of thought, it counts for a lot. A plate's presentation is an opportunity for you to have some serious fun. Browse websites to find some beautiful serving plate ideas, and don't be shy to get creative. Play with colours and contrasting textures or mix and match the dishes you use to create a varied canvas. Oh, and don't forget to garnish: some items you may already have on-hand like sprigs of herbs or delicate flowers. These can pretty up your plate magically.

Easy-to-prep and easy-to-enjoy dishes

When you're planning what to serve, consider the following: everyone loves cheese! From Mozzarella served with tomato and basil to a platter loaded with Cheddar Cheese Bites made with Caramelized Onion and Bacon, putting cheese on the menu is a strategic way to serve small bites: you can rest assured that every last morsel will be devoured.

The beauty of using cheese as an ingredient is its versatility — an item that works well in so many dishes. Sure, you can serve up a timeless favourite like a Mozzarella stick, but with an ingredient like cheese, you can flex your kitchen creativity and have a little fun. For example, if you're planning to host a brunch, scones are essential. This recipe for Scones with Old Cheddar Cheese, Sausage & Rosemary is a guaranteed hit (and pairs well with a piping hot mug of coffee, might we add).

Hosting a small get-together is the perfect chance to try a new recipe! If you're looking to whip up something easy, cheesy, and shareable, our Philly Cheesesteak Ring or Chicken Sliders are grab-and-go plates with plenty to offer. Or, serve a delicious Cheesy Dip, the kind of dish that really gets the party started!

A famous French classic, the Croque-Monsieur, is an excellent idea to serve regardless of the time of day your gathering is being held at! We've got a recipe here for miniature Croque-Monsieurs with Smoked Meat and Spicy Shredded Cheese that will leave your guests asking where you got the recipe.

No tablescape would be complete without plenty of bread! Instead of the traditional baguette, opt for something a little heartier like this Cheddar and Green Onion Babka.

Although the freezer aisle has tons of ready-made hors-d'oeuvres, a dash of elbow grease will go a long way and offers that personal touch your guests will appreciate. Besides, they've unquestionably had frozen cheese sticks before, but with inventive sharing plates, you can give your invitees a taste of something entirely new.

Instead of packaged nuggets, why not prepare something they've never tried before, like these Havarti Veggie Nuggets made with — you guessed it — creamy Havarti cheese? If you're planning on serving something Mexican-themed, this BBQ Chicken Quesadilla recipe is luscious, using plenty of Monterey Jack Cheese with Jalapeño, which gives it a velvety richness. Want to plate a dish that’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser? Try out these Cheesy Pot Pie Pockets, pillowy bite-sized pita pockets with a creamy filling. Shop the cheese aisle and stock up on your favourites before your big night. There are so many ways you can use ingredients like Swiss cheese or marble cheese, and it will never go uneaten by your guests, guaranteed.

If you're planning on hosting a get-together, we recommend you call off conventional courses, forget about ordering a cheese pizza, do something different with sharing plates. With these easy recipes and ideas under your belt, you'll serve memorable dishes to go with your unforgettable evening surrounded by a small, tight-knit group of friends or family.