As you finally get a pair of quality Italian-leather shoes and start ordering Manhattans instead of Jäger bombs, the natural evolution of your manly makeover is to swap microwave and delivery appetizers (i.e. buffalo wings and pizza bagels) with quality, refined hors d’oeuvres.
(Duh, you can still eat pizza bagels, but challenge your pallet a little, bub.)
Transform your appetizers, snacks, and small dishes — either for yourself on Netflix night (watching these awesome food docs) or hosting a weekend dinner party — with these 11 foods that introduce new flavor profiles to your plate and test your daring with textures like pâté and caviar. What you’ll quickly find is that a slice of French baguette with roasted pepper, whole grain mustard, and Spanish cured pork tastes better than any microwave mozzarella sticks in the world.
Take an international approach to hors d’oeuvre-ing with this grocery list (10 of which you can order easily online). Then, once you’ve got them ordered, learn to plate them like a pro with this guide.
Pommery French Mustard Des Chanoines – $22
This whole grain mustard made in the Parisian town of Meaux was recreated from a secret 19th century recipe nearly lost in time. Packaged in a vintage stoneware pot and made simply of water, vinegar, mustard seeds, salt, and spices, the taste is a strong as the label, which depicts an old monk holding a jar of mustard, referencing the time when Charlemagne charged monks with growing the seeds.
Urbani Black Truffle Honey – $25
Three words: infused truffle honey. Use this s a drizzle and blend the musky and garlic-esque flavors of the holy grail of foods, black truffle, with the sweet brightness of honey on any of the following hors d’oeuvre staples. (Don’t be surprised if you see guests eating it by the spoonful.)
Fermin Jamón Ibérico (Pata Negra) – $15
Known in Spain as pata negra, or “black hoof,” this cured Ibérico pig is a descendant of the wild boar, roaming freely in the native oak forest of western Spain. The Ibérico breed is notorious for its superior taste and aroma — a big step up from ordinary prosciutto. The name pata negra comes from the appearance of the Ibérico’s black nails compared to a regular pig’s white nails. (Note: Shipping adds about $35 to the price tag since it ships overnight, but that’s a great timeline if your party is this weekend.)
Ortiz Sardines In Extra Virgin Olive Oil – $6
Embrace snacks you’d never think to put on the table, like Ortiz’s sardines, which bring a rich, oily presence to your hors d’oeuvres. You can ease the pungent punch with your truffle honey and serve on top of a slice of fresh French baguette, which will soak up the olive oil. Oh look, you’re going back for seconds.
Les Trois Petits Cochons French Cornichons in White Wine Vinegar – $5
A perfect tart crunch, these baby cucumbers are imported from France and drenched in a brine of white vinegar, salt, pearl onions, and spices. Founded by French chefs Alain Sinturel and Jean-Pierre Pradie, Les Trois Petits Cochons (which translates from French to “Three Little Pigs”) has made what many reviews call the best cornichons ever tasted. Delicately slice down the middle and serve over crackers and pâté.
Wasa Flatbread Thins Rosemary and Sea Salt – $19 for 10
Round out your bread bases with a flatbread cracker like these flavored Wasa Flatbread Thins. The rosemary is a woody and aromatic herb that brings a sharp pine to the plate. Thanks satisfying crispy texture and 9 grams of whole grains, you’ll get the crunch you can’t with a baguette.
Les Trois Petits Cochons Organic Pâté de Campagne – $7
Les Trois’ real claim to fame is pâté. While the company is constantly coming out with inventive flavors, we suggest the classic Pâté de Campagne made of ground pork, onion, garlic, parsley, and spices. This recipe is a staple in every French household (you’ll quickly taste why). While it can be hard getting used to the newness of the texture and flavor if you’ve never had this delicacy, de Campagne uses a smaller amount of liver compared to other pâtés. On the health side, it’s a stellar source of vitamin A and iron. Pair with fresh, fruity strawberries or robust apple and cheese. Bonus: No artificial coloring is used.
Mediterranean Organic Gourmet Red Peppers Fire Roasted – $6
No need to go frou-frou for an expensive red pepper. These Mediterranean Organics do the trick for under six bucks. Adding a sweetness to your hors d’oeuvres can balance out acidic notes (i.e. pickled vegetables), and these sweet red peppers have an intense and beautiful flavor as they’re grown in mineral-rich volcanic soil (using natural compost instead of chemicals).
Cellars at Jasper Hill Cheese Collection – $80
Cheese! Although we’re happy with nearly any cheese, the Williams Sonoma variety collection of four distinct and delectable handcrafted Vermont cheeses will elevate your snacks. Cellars at Jasper Hill, an artisanal cheese partnership that creates sustainable business opportunities for local dairy farmers, offers a mild, semi-firm cheese from Landaff Creamery in New Hampshire’s White Mountains (it has a nice buttermilk tang), the Moses Sleeper bloomy-rind cheese with a buttery and bright flavor (which becomes creamier with age), the Cabot Clothbound Cheddar English-style aged cheddar with notes of caramel, and the Bayley Hazen Blue, Jasper Hill Farm’s flagship sweet and salty blue cheese.
D’artagnan Farm-Raised Ossetra Caviar Malossol – $125
Oh, you’re getting fancy now. Many caviars can set you back $2,000- $17,000, but you can get a luxurious yet reasonable tin for $125 (do splurge a little). Talk about upgrading your hors d’oeuvres. A caviar like D’artagnan can bring out buttery, rich, nutty, earthy, and salty tones, giving the final “pow!” to your appetizers.
French Baguette – Buy Local
Elevate a simple charcuterie board to the level of a curated hors d’oeuvre appetizer by simply adding baguette slices (providing a bigger bite-or-two). Since we’re from the school of thought that there’s no use eating bread that isn’t magnificent, forgo store-bought and pick up a fresh (as in, fresh) or a half-bake-at-home baguette from the local bakery. Warm in the oven, slice, and create your own fun recipes with pâté, cornichons, and a drizzle of mustard, or jamón, cheese, and truffle honey. Petite Toasts often get too crumbly and don’t make for a good, big bite.
Now, for the perfect sparkling wine …