Easy touches that will make any party shine

CHARITY FERREIRA,  – November 18, 2004

The first rule of holiday food is that it should be delicious, but when it comes to a party, a little glamour is in order.

Luckily, beautiful presentation doesn’t mean fuss or frills. Less is more when you’re dressing up holiday party food, so stick to a few elegant touches. Something as simple as serving cocktails in frosty prechilled glasses or placing a few beautiful tangerines on an appetizer platter can add color and impact to dishes you’ve made or purchased. Here are some of our favorite ideas for making your holiday food sparkle.

12 stylish presentations

Creative dishware. Imagine your serving dishes in a whole new light: Layer salad in a glass trifle dish; scoop servings of fruit crisp into wide soup bowls; chill custard desserts in wine goblets; arrange bread sticks in a tall vase.

Fruit centerpiece. Put an assortment of whole fruit in a shallow bowl for a beautiful, simple arrangement: try Lady apples, small tangerines, and miniature Butter pears. Or use a few perfect pieces to accent an appetizer plate, cheese board, or platter of roasted meat or poultry.

Bold garnishes. Choose big, edible garnishes: large, stemmed caper berries on a smoked-salmon appetizer plate (look for them near the olives at well-stocked supermarkets); a bunch of fresh currants on a cheese platter.

Tobiko. Garnish Asian-inspired or seafood appetizers with green tobiko (tiny fish roe flavored with wasabi, available at Asian markets).

Cheese impact. Arrange cheeses on an unusual surface: A wooden cutting board, a marble pastry board, sheets of natural-colored cooking parchment, and fall leaves are good choices. Coat a round of goat cheese with chopped dried cranberries and walnuts for a colorful focal point.

Fresh raspberries. Float them in sparkling wine. Use cassis syrup to create kir royales for those who want a slightly sweet champagne cocktail.

Frosty touch. Serve cocktails in glasses that have been chilled in the freezer. For sweet drinks, dip moistened glass rims in sugar.

Color accent. Add a festive, colorful touch to salads with purchased candied citrus peel or bright pomegranate seeds.

Herbs. Roast meat or poultry on a bed of fresh rosemary sprigs or surrounded by halved or sliced citrus. Or serve whole roasted chicken, turkey, or game hens on a bed of fresh herbs.

Salty texture. Add a sprinkle of coarse sea salt over roasted vegetables or on top of savory breads before baking.

Sugary sparkle. Top sweet baked goods with colored or clear sugar before baking (brush with a little cream or egg white first to help the sugar stick).

Cream pouf. Dollop softly whipped cream on desserts or hot drinks, then sprinkle with cocoa powder, cinnamon, grated nutmeg, or finely chopped chocolate.