Small Plates Are Big

Put a new spin on holiday entertaining by serving your guests a variety of favorite dishes, such as Spanish tapas, Greek meze or Venetian cichetti.

Trends come and go, but small-plate dining experiences are here to stay. When restaurants started offering their customers a progression of a variety of tidbit foods and tastes, it caught on in a big way. This is not to say that you can’t order a “traditional” big-plate meal, but younger diners are especially keen on the small-plate trend. Sure it’s great to get together with a bunch of your BFFs and figure out a communal meal that bonds your friendships even more, but sometimes this can get complicated if your dining friends are not fond of certain foods or have issues with food allergies. In these complications, friendship truly shines. Compromise—and give and take—is always good in small-plate situations.

The small-plate concept isn’t without its pros and cons. Some diners can’t get used to the idea of having all the dishes they ordered brought to the table at once instead of being coursed out. Others are uncomfortable with feeling like they need to share their thimble-size tasting of scallops (make that one scallop) with everyone else at the table. Still others feel like they have not eaten at all and are still hungry at the end of the meal. Some diners do not like the chaotic, stacked look that small plates create on the table when everything comes at once and there is no place to put the breadbasket!

But the nice thing about small plates is that diners get to enjoy a lot of different things, and this isn’t a new concept. Small plates have been around for years. Consider the Spanish tapas, the Greek meze or the Venetian cichetti—all serving small-plate foods, such as olives, bits of ham, dice-size squares of polenta and pickled onions. All this is washed down with a leisurely sipped glass of wine or cocktail. And that may be the best part of small plate dining. We get to slow down and have a conversation with friends.

The idea of small plates carries over nicely into the holiday season as a fun way to entertain. Think about serving five or six easy-to-make but interesting dishes, then miniaturize the portions and let the party begin!

Try these small-plate recipes:

Mini Sweet Bell Pepper Boats

Jumbo Shrimp with Remoulade Sauce

Lazy Lasagne

Seckel Pears with Brie, Honey and Walnuts

Oven-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic and Orange Marmalade Sauce