We’re not going to say “cocktail party” or “dinner party,” or even “wine party.” Why? Because we don’t think we should prematurely restrict the circumstances wherein a bunch of buddies and a bunch of wine bottles can spontaneously gather (maybe some friends were helping you paint and that Cabernet color got you all a bit thirsty.)
Whatever the specific cultural contours of your wine event, there’s usually one underlying factor: lots of wine. Whites, reds, sparkling. Typically, since palates vary, folks don’t host parties with an arsenal of hardcore tannic reds—or a variety of frothy Moscatos. Which is why, when recommending small bites, our choices run the gamut, meaning you should be able to find more than a few pairing options depending on your guests’ food and drink preferences (fear not, vegans and anti-glutenites; we got you).
Of course, you won’t always be ready to host a party, unless you’re one of those special people who has a secondary fridge for “Emergency Hors d’oeuvres” or “Company Catastrophe Canapes.” But more than a few are fairly simple and not entirely expensive things to have on hand. Because, and God willing, random wine situations will continue to erupt in your life. And you’ll be ready with the toothpicks.
We say vegan* because the recipe does include nutritional yeast, and the Interwebs seems aflurry with discussion on the topic. That said, an easy (and prepare-ahead) small bite that could pair really well with a sparkling.
OK, straying further from veganism here, but something bacon-wrapped is kind of “de riguer” for mildly intoxicated carnivores. Most bacon-wrapped recipes feature cheese, but we chose these because, well, a) one of the best, easiest, wine-friendliest small bites you can have on hand is cheese straight up, and b) this has a slightly softer flavor profile, a bit less rich and more bacon-focused. Plus, beyond seasonings, it’s basically two ingredients.
Cheese Plate from, well, The World
A classic, and quite possibly the simplest small bite available for any wine gathering. This plate just shows a generic (aka beautiful) variety of basic cheeses, but the glory of cheese is that you can pretty much stock up on whatever you like (always good to have at least one softer cheese, like Brie, and one harder cheese, like Manchego). Just keep it in the fridge, try not to eat it, and when the wine starts flowing, you’ve got an almost literally instant—and historically classic—pairing.
This seems like the kind of small bite that could handle a white or a lighter red pairing; there’s chipotle and some char from the grilling, but also brighter flavors of ponzu, fresh orange, and tamarind. That last ingredient is pretty easy to find in a Latino or Indian/Asian market, though hopefully you’ll see it more and more because it’s got an unmistakably exotic tang.
Charcuterie/Affettati, Basically a Meat Platter
“Affettati” is basically the Italian equivalent of characuterie—which is itself a glorious French smorgasbord of various cured meats, forcemeat, pates, mustard and the obligatory cornichons. But you certainly don’t have to create a carnivores cornucopia; pictured above is a simple, rustic Italian soppressata (you can get it sweet or hot, sliced thin!) with enough complexity of flavor to keep guests coming back. (Sub in your favorite cured meat: garlicky Chorizo, nutty Jamon Iberico, the list goes generously on.) And all you gotta do is slice.
If you don’t like fish, we get it. But if you do, and you also like garlic, parsley, oil and light vinegar, there’s a 99.998% chance you’ll love these. And not just because they’ll pair really well with a racy Sauvignon Blanc or Albariño. They’re incredibly fresh and light (white anchovies are not heavily fishy). One hiccup: if you can’t find a fishmonger to do it for you, you’ll have to learn to clean the boquerones yourself. But guess what? That’s just fine because soon enough you’ll want to be eating these all the time. Beyond the cleaning, another handful-of-ingredients gem.
Raw oysters might not be at their best until later in the season, but roasted oysters are still fair game. This recipe from Food and Wine seems extra fancy, but really all you’re doing is adding some fresh herbs (they go with soft, slightly sweet tarragon) and lots of wonderful butter to give richness to the oysters.
Even though a cheese plate is an easy way to feature the glories of cultured dairy, it’s nice to have one extra, maybe slightly sweeter cheese recipe (think bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese). This one’s incredibly easy because a lot of the ingredients are pre-fab: toast points, canned apricots (obviously, go fresh if you can), and apricot jelly. And suddenly it’s “Hello, fancy!” (And, “Somebody get me some wine!”)