November 23, 2023
SALIFE Absolute Best Awards

A bite sized guide: How to elegantly eat canapés without looking silly

As we approach the SALIFE Absolute Best Awards, presented in partnership with Brand SA, Solstice Media's Pier Stamatogiannis reflects on her two fears over the festive season. The first is not remembering the night, the second is the finger food…

Some decadent canapes at last year’s SALIFE Absolute Best Awards. Photograph Frankie the Creative

Somewhere in early adulthood, I developed a fear of finger food. Mishaps with tuna vol au vents, prosciutto-wrapped breadsticks and unpeeled, yolk-oozing, celadon-coloured quail eggs – the latter consumed as a gate crasher at a very fancy 21st – saw me go hungry and somewhat inebriated for at least a decade.

Then a friend nonchalantly served up an enormous platter of fresh snow peas with chilli sauce and sour cream and, having mastered the etiquette for that, I elected to revisit the genre of finger food with an open mind.

Here are my tips for getting through the cocktail party season without a) one’s cleavage full of crumbs, b) the dribble-streaked chin of a mad woman or c) stomach rumbling that’s audible over the background music.

Tip 1 – Arm yourself

Take the paper napkin if offered. This is your backbone of courage, enabling polite face dabs, finger wiping and storage of olive pips, toothpicks and coriander. Do not let it go unless exchanging for a fresh one.

Discretely hold the napkin in the one hand, keeping the other free for your drink. Should someone new join your circle, transfer both to your left hand, freeing up the right for handshaking. This transfer is also recommended before diving in for a European left-right or left-right-left cheek kiss.

Tip 2 – Follow basic etiquette

No double dipping. No finger licking (see tip 1). Finish chewing before sipping your drink.

Photograph: Annemarie Horne/Unsplash

Tip 3 – Do a size, base and filling assessment

Will that morsel require one bite or two? Smaller in diameter and height than a 20-cent coin can be managed in a single bite. However, beware hot fried or steamed food that is best cautiously nibbled before devouring.

Any larger than said coin that will likely require two bites and further consideration… Can the base maintain its integrity once bitten or will it shatter? Will the contents likely spill out after the first bite? Is there a chance, as with prosciutto, that a clean bite is near impossible and the alternative, slowly tearing it apart, will be an ugly mess?

Perhaps, it’s best to forgo any tray of such finger food and have another dirty martini.

Tip 4 – Skewered food

Approach from the skewer’s end, not from the side. For pesky pieces remaining at the base, assess the distance to each end of the skewer. Switching ends may be less awkward than soldiering on.

Don’t be embarrassed to leave out of reach food. This is not a contest of abilities.

Photograph: Bruce Chapman/Unsplash

Tip 5 – Seafood

Spoon caviar onto the back of your hand between the thumb and forefinger and lick it up. Preferably in one go.

Hold prawns by the tail and nibble from the head. Slurp oysters from the pointy end of the shell (a good caterer will have loosened them first). Find a nearby tray to discard the tail or shell.

While two serves can be festive, good manners say never go back for thirds.

Tip 6 – Timing is everything

Wait until you’ve been properly introduced to someone before popping that canapé in your mouth. Being caught mid-mouthful is awkward to say the least.

If you’ve arrived starving, align yourself with someone super chatty who’s happy to talk while you nibble away. And position yourself not too far from where the food comes out.

In the scheme of things, putting down a light bed of food is more important than that second glass of bubbles.

Photograph: Thomas William/Unsplash

Tip 7 – Take a date

Lately, some of the most delicious finger food is being dished up in a single serve bowl with a fork. Rather than forgo the experience, hand your glass to your date/significant other and partake. If they insist on also nabbing a serve, find somewhere to rest both of your glasses.

Tip 8 – Hands-free dressing

Nota bene: a wine glass necklace is never an acceptable accessory. A shoulder bag, however, is.

Photograph: Billy Huynh/Unsplash

Tip 9 – Mingle with the best of them

Now you have the canapés mastered – join us to celebrate SALIFE’s 20th year and the 2023 SALIFE Absolute Best Awards, presented by Brand SA.

The winners of this year’s Absolute Best Awards will be announced on December 7 at a glittering ceremony at the Adelaide Festival Theatre.

Afterwards, the winners, hundreds of VIPs, guests and the SALIFE team will kick off the celebrations at a fantastic open air after-party on Festival Plaza. Everyone is invited – purchase your ticket here.

There’ll be wines flowing from Bird in Hand, craft beers from Vale Brewing and a gin bar courtesy of 23rd Street Distillery.

Enjoy fabulous finger food and design from Out In The Paddock, plus entertainment that will keep the party vibes going late into the night.

Tickets include entrance to the award ceremony and after party, including all food and drinks.

Purchase your tickets now.