Small Plates Menu

Appetizers are the new black. Have you noticed that the coolest places in town are serving them as entrées? Some places offer these small plates exclusively. Different places have different approaches (and names). But whether you call them cichetti, meze, or tapas, these delectable little bites are popping up on menus all over the place. Even my living room! So for my holiday menu with wine pairings this year, I am doing a small plates menu, only small plates, and nothing but small plates.

Today I will introduce the menu and wines. Come back every day for the next week for the recipes and more information on the wines my brother Grant chose.

Small Plates Menu

But why are small plates so popular these days? Well, I have a theory. Remember when the barometer of prosperity was a skirt? Supposedly the health of the economy could be traced by mapping out the length of a woman’s hemline. In good times, when the economy was tracking upwards, so were skirt lengths. Below the knee and ankle lengths indicated an economic downturn.


small plate diningThese days fashion is shamefully non-commital. You are as likely to see a midi, as you are a mini adorning the legs of the chicest trendsetters. So I propose there is a new economic indicator in town and it’s the plate!

Remember the good times of the 1990s? Ridiculously high stacks of intricately plated food were what all the best restaurants were turning out. This is when the “tasting menu” was invented and chefs felt free to take an attitude of “this is what I am making and this is the order you will eat it in… now sit down at that table you waited weeks to get, and try not to muss the white tablecloth!” Times were good, we were flush. So we took it, in fact, we all said, “bring it on!”

But times have changed and so has the size of our plates. Restaurants that want to survive have noticed our changing attitudes and are responding appropriately. Enter the Gastro Pub or Wine Bar– essentially these are drinking establishments with excellent food served in moderately priced portions. They boast that their plates are small and easy to share, perfect for a generation downsizing, pinching pennies, and simply trying to find great food without spending a fortune.

a small plate menu from Sippity SupSo Ken and I find ourselves saying “let’s just have a glass of red wine and share two or three antipasti and call it dinner”. Still, we don’t want to feel like we are economizing, (or worse yet dieting) we are far too chic for that! Restaurants have noticed this attitude shift and they bring us what we want when we want it and where we want it.

The best of these places not only notice this trend, they go one step further by bringing out small plates so creative, so interesting that we find ourselves tempted to order one or two more small plates than we may have intended. I mean who can resist an intriguing little North African, Filipino, Korean tidbit? And at six bucks, why should we resist? Sometimes a luxurious pairing of ingredients is simply rolled up and called tapas, Turkish meze or even the exotic sounding Venetian cichetti. In other words, the appetizer has gone global, and we foodies are tagging along for the ride– one small bite at a time.


Greg Henry