An appetizer platter is an arranged presentation of food that is served before a meal begins. The platter can be a large tray that is presented buffet-style to guests or a smaller plate that is moved around the room. What different cultures might consider an appetizer platter can be very different things, but the general concept is that it is a presentation of foods that can be eaten at the guest’s leisure while waiting for the formal meal to be presented. The contents of the platter can vary greatly, from sliced vegetables and dip to rolled meats or baked finger foods. In some countries, an appetizer could consist of an entire spread of different dips and sauces with bread and rice served alongside it.
Most of the time, an appetizer platter is meant to be eaten socially and, so, generally follows a few guidelines. The appetizer is intended to be light and not a meal in and of itself, so the portions are usually small. Additionally, the food is most often designed to be picked up and eaten with the hands to avoid the use of silverware. The arrangement of the food on the platter is intended to promote interest in the dish while allowing easy access to each of the available pieces of food.
Depending on the event at which the appetizer platter is being served, it can contain any number of different items. For an informal gathering, the platter could contain items such as chicken wings, chicken strips, vegetables, luncheon meats, pickles, cheeses or sliced fruits. An informal gathering is one situation in which the appetizer platter also might double as a main course.
For a more formal event, the appetizer platter could contain lighter foods in smaller quantities. Examples of lighter fare for an appetizer platter include salmon, cream cheese on small squares of toast, mini-quiche, melon wrapped in prosciutto or grapes combined with an aged cheese on small skewers. The appetizers may be lighter at formal events, because the main meal could contain multiple courses.
In some countries, such as India and Iraq, an appetizer platter could be presented while the main meal is cooking. In both cases, guests are able to choose from a variety of cooked sauces, curries and dips that are served with the breads and rice cakes used as utensils. This is a common practice because some dishes can take a long time to prepare and are not traditionally started until after the guests arrive.
In Italian cuisine, an antipasto platter can be served as an appetizer. It can contain a number of pickled or brined foods, such as peppers, along with meats, hard-boiled eggs and bread. An antipasto platter is sometimes displayed like a buffet, and the guests will collect the items they want on individual plates before eating.