What to offer guests at your next card party
Tips that don’t include a chocolate fountain.
Once upon a time a friend invited a group of us over for an evening of poker. We were all to bring snacks and money and drinks of choice. One woman thought it would be a great idea to bring a chocolate fountain. This kind of device heats chocolate up in a basin, pulls it up through a center tube, then lets it cascade over a variety of tiers creating a chocolate waterfall in which chunks of fruit or marshmallow are dipped. Needless to say, by mid-evening the playing cards were covered in chocolate and our host was not happy.
Card parties, and in particular, party bridge nights, are a fun way to socialize, especially if there are small children who can be put to bed. My parents survived the childhoods of their own four children by hosting many card parties.
But when there is alcohol involved or if it’s a long party, it’s important for the host to provide snacks. What kinds of snacks are the best for a card party, and in particular, to serve at the card table itself?
Stay away from finger foods that will make your guests’ hands greasy or oily or make them lick their fingers. These include flavoured chips and greasy peanuts. The following suggestions and tips will help you host the best card party ever.
The chocolate lady had a good idea when she cut fruit into cubes. A platter of cubes is a nice looking and easy snack for your guests. Provide toothpicks or, if you’re an uber-host, you can set it up using plastic cocktail picks that have suit symbols at their tips. Foods that work well in cubes can be –
Fruits. Melon and pineapple work great. Strawberries or grapes are good too and don’t need to be cut. Stay away from apples because they will brown and look unappetizing.
Cheeses. Choose an assortment of different types of cheeses. These can include hard, sharp cheeses (accompanied by sparkling wine or chardonnay) or soft types such as brie or Camembert. Avoid crumbly cheeses because of the mess.
Meats. Small cubes of sausage and other savory meats are always a favourite.
I really like papadum, an Indian flatbread that is very thin and often full of lovely spices. It can be a bit crumbly though. The recipe below for Indian Spiced Chips sounds delicious, be sure not to use too much oil – just enough for the spices to stick.
Many suggest pretzels. People love these little salty treats and they’re not greasy.
Nuts are popular but often oily. Why not make your own spicy nut mix! Combine your nuts of choice and create intense flavors with your own spice mix, such as a hot mix with salt, cayenne pepper and smoked paprika or a sweet mix with salt, sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Toss the nuts in egg white at first so your spice mix will stick and then bake in an oven 350 F for 7-9 minutes.
No snack list is complete without suggesting crisp healthy vegetable snacks. Baby carrots is one of my favourites but celery sticks, fresh peas in the shell, slices of English cucumbers (sweet not bitter like the fatter versions) would all work well. Even cherry tomatoes will be easy to pop into someone’s mouth with no mess. And maybe try making your own vegetable chips by roasting kale, zucchini or sweet potato chips or purchase from a specialty market.
My friend Marguerite recommends dainty sandwiches. If you have the time or inclination, you can pre-make these with many types of fillings and the triangles of bread will keep the mess to a minimum. Bread will keep the fingers free of grease. The recipe here for mini-pumpernickel grilled cheese and pickle sandwiches looks delicious!
Indian-Spiced Chips Recipe
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Yield: Serves 4
4 medium flour tortillas
1 tsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne powder
1/4 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with foil (this is really for easy clean up).
Using a marinade or pastry brush, coat the tortillas lightly with vegetable oil. Stack the tortillas and cut into 8 wedges (total of 32 wedges) and place in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.
Combine the turmeric, cayenne, curry and salt in a bowl and sprinkle the spices evenly over the tortillas.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, until crisp and golden brown. Serve warm or store in an airtight container after completely cooled to be enjoyed later.