Easy Entertaining

Hosting a holiday hors d’oeuvre party is a great way to enjoy time with friends

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson
Photograph by Kate Baldwin
Food styling by Christy Nordstrom

alk to her on the phone and you’ll immediately discover Ballard resident Nicole Aloni’s passion: easy entertaining. “Entertaining is essential
to life,” says the Seattle transplant (from Los Angeles)
and former “caterer to the stars.”

Aloni, who has catered the Academy Awards four times and once prepared a state luncheon for Queen Elizabeth II, shares organizational tips, menu-planning guidelines and a plethora of recipes in her two books, Secrets from a Caterer’s Kitchen: The Indispensable Guide for Planning a Party (HP Books, $18.95) and Cooking for Company: All the Recipes You Need for Simple, Elegant Entertaining at Home (HP Books, $18.95).

An appetizer party (instead of a full-blown dinner party) is an easy alternative for holiday entertaining.

“Where you might find a three-course menu hard to execute, hors d’oeuvres offer the same adventure in bite-size portions,” she reasons.

Here are some of Aloni’s tips for the perfect hors d’oeuvres party:

  • Indulge in the decor.
  • Choose a thematic cocktail or punch.
  • Send a really creative invitation, which builds anticipation.
  • “You can even suggest the flavor of the evening before guests hit the front door by lighting the entryway with glowing luminaria, piping appropriate music outdoors or sprinkling flower petals on the walkways,” she says.
  • Focus your energy and attention on a couple by-the-piece items you make yourself, such as stuffed mushrooms or beef satay.
  • Select specialties you’ve made before and enjoy preparing, perhaps a family recipe or something from your ethnic heritage.
  • If you don’t want to make your own, bulk items are easy to purchase at the growing number of upscale grocery and specialty-food stores in the Seattle area, such as Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s, Central Market at Shoreline and Metropolitan Markets.
  • A good rule to follow when planning your appetizer party is to offer 12 to 15 bites per person, Aloni advises.

The holidays come only once a year—so here’s to a groaning board full of fancy, festive hors d’oeuvres.

Contributing editor Braiden Rex-Johnson is the author of the Pike Place Public Market Seafood Cookbook (Ten Speed Press).

Find more information about chef Nicole Aloni on her Secrets from a Caterer’s Kitchen Web site, secretsfromacaterer.com.