A multitiered buffet of easy fork-free foods keeps guests mingling— and means less cleanup for the host (just a few crumbs)!
1. Black Magic
For instant ambience, N.Y.C. party-planning pro Jung Lee sets out black candles in brass candle holders. "At an evening affair, one really just sees the flame—it's so inviting," she says. A display of dark fruits (think concord grapes and figs) in brass bowls at staggered heights completes the dramatic look.
2. Say Cheese
What looks like a wedding-worthy dessert is actually a trio of cheeses. Just stack wheels in descending sizes and embellish them with edible flowers (dried fruits also work beautifully), or place an order for goat-cheese purveyor Cypress Grove Chevre's 9-pound splurge-worthy Ultimate Cheese Cake.
3. Single and Fabulous
Lee is a big proponent of individual servings whether it's a few warm sips of squash soup in a sparkling Moroccan teacup or a single jumbo shrimp with a dollop of cocktail sauce in a shot glass. "It's easier to socialize when you're not holding a plate and utensils," she says.
4. Crunch Time
Banish ho-hum crackers and go for something more alluring like oversize round rye crispbreads from Peter's Yard. Guests in the gluten-free camp will enjoy Maya Kaimal's chickpea chips. Flecked with cumin and red chili, they're light and delicious.