Party Food - How to Look Glamorous While Munching

We've all been there - trying to balance our Old Fashioned and a plate of lasagna while doing our best to look chic and soignée so that cute guy we're talking to won't think we're socially challenged. Cocktail parties have their perils and one of them is unwieldy food. With cocktail party season upon us I thought it would be a good idea to discuss the issue of what to serve from the standpoint of it's convenience to interact with. (Disclaimer: This is in no way because I've just released an e-cookbook of recipes in the convenient ball shape... well, maybe just a little bit.)

Party food should, by its very nature be festive. It should call to you from the buffet table, make you want to reach out and taste it. If that were the only consideration, many dishes would fit that bill. But party food should also be easy to manage. There are a number of ways to achieve this. Here are some of my favorites:

- Keep food bite sized. If you pre-portion the food in this way your guests don't have to carry around an entire meal on a plate. Two or three bite sized pieces will fit nicely on a cocktail napkin. These can include the aforementioned balls, things like pigs in a blanket or the ever popular rumaki.

- Eschew the flatware for toothpicks. Though it may seem obvious, many people don't consider the use of toothpicks for serving party meals. They're the perfect delivery method - easy to come by, can be found festively decorated and are expediently discarded.

- Dry coatings. Food that can be picked up with your fingers without leaving them sticky or greasy will be much more popular (and leave your glassware much cleaner) than more messy finger food. Roll tidbits in nuts or crushed cornflakes, bake them in dough or wrap them in rice paper. If you must make gooey food, try presenting it in cupcake wrappers.

Some recipes that fit the bill from my repertoire follow:

Cucumber Sandwiches

Camembert Cheese Balls, from the Myra Breckenridge Cookbook

Butterfly Shrimp from the ABC of Canapés 

Cheese Straws from Ruth Chier Rosen's The Big Spread

Deviled Eggs

Cocktail Biscuits (for cocktail size, use a shot glass to cut them)

Cheddar Cheese Wafers

Swedish Meatballs

And explore my new book, Have a Ball with Brini for more great conveniently shaped party food recipes!