Friday, 03 June 2016

Top tips for making perfect canapes

Jo Moody, Creative Director at Zafferano Catering Ltd, a leading private and corporate events caterer, gives her take on how to host the best canapé reception.

Canapé receptions have certainly come a long way since the 1970s when Fanny Craddock and Robert Carrier experimented with avocado pears and waxed lyrical on the virtues of the vol-au-vent.

Fast-forward to 2016 and our tastes and palates have become much more sophisticated, and today's cocktail parties are a showcase of current restaurant trends and global food.

Yet now, like then, the mark of a good host is simply generosity and abundance. It's about the bar overflowing with perfectly chilled fizz, interesting cocktails and wave after wave of delicious canapés to tempt your guests. It doesn't have to be vintage Krug or Wagyu beef, but it must be plentiful!
Of course, it's easier said than done, becoming the host with the most requires careful planning infused with flair and creativity. Here are my golden rules to getting it right on the night.

The Food
There's no hard and fast rules and I think it's quite refreshing to throw a bit of caution to the wind! So much depends on how well you know your guests, of course, and in large groups certain dietary requirements need to be acknowledged, but if you know your guests are all ferocious carnivores indulge them! Venison wellington anyone?

Being time-conscious is crucial, tardiness is unforgivable. Cold canapés tend to be more intricate and time-consuming, whereas hot canapés are usually more low maintenance although need last minute attention, so for balance, try to combine both on your menu. If your canapé reception is a classic 6.30-8.30pm affair then it should be presumed that it's a pre-cursor to guests going on for supper, therefore keep everything savoury and relatively light. For long affairs, include some blotting paper bites to soak up the booze and finish with a single show-stopping dessert canapé, a luxurious morsel offering a decadent end to the evening (and an efficient signal that it's nearly time to go!)

First impressions are everything. Make sure the first thing your guests see is stylish, playful and full of impact. For a sophisticated touch, you could channel your inner Nicky Haslam, with a huge vase of scented flowers, boasting one consistent colour. For the more adventurous, a bowl of gold sprayed pineapples or even an inflatable flamingo – simply something to make them smile, set the tone and look forward to the evening ahead.

The bar as a focal point is a real winner. It can be as simple as a clothed table but also take inspiration from some of the classic hotel bars and dress it with oversize Champagne coolers piled high with bottles on ice, clusters of clear glass vases filled with fresh mint and fruit garnishes, silver beakers of straws or stirrers, sparkling glassware and a selection of the drinks on offer. Keep those 2 litre bottles of Waitrose tonic water hidden beneath!

Overhead lighting is also a total no-no. Keep lighting flattering, low and diffused – your guests will lose 10 years and will thank you for it!

Finishing touches
Invest in a few professionals. Smiling, attentive, polished staff who at least give the appearance of not wanting to be anywhere else are very impressive. An interesting drinks list is also a nice touch, possibly offering a variety of seasonal "Bellinis" rather than just straight Prosecco, and including a delicious grown-up mocktail for drivers & non-drinkers. Finally never, ever ask your teenage children to be waiters – it never ends well!

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