salmon potato chip

Photo courtesy of Creative Edge Parties

A Black-Tie Makeover for Jeans-and-T-Shirt Food
Here's one of the best hacks we've seen for a cheap, packaged snack. Carla Ruben, from Creative Edge Parties, which has catered events for Beyoncé and Alicia Keyes, takes thick-cut potato chips and tops each with a small piece of smoked salmon, a dollop of crème fraiche and finely diced chives—offering a glamorous spin on what's basically a 15-minute, no-cook appetizer.

Get the recipe: Smoked Salmon on Potato Chips

Photo: Nigel Cox

The Handheld Salad
A great Caesar salad is one of the most crowd-pleasing foods you can serve, but it isn't often on cocktail-party menus (ever tried eating a salad while mingling and holding a drink?). Celebrity caterer Peter Callahan has a unique way to make the dish portable: He forms grated cheese into mini tartlets using a mini muffin pan, then fills each with a spoonful of greens and croutons drizzled with the classic dressing.

Get the recipe: Parmesan Tartlets with Caesar Salad
brie and fig crostini

Photo: cook-and-style/Thinkstock

A Fresh Take on Crostini
Cheese on a crunchy piece of bread is a can't-go-wrong party food, and this version from Jennifer Smith, also known as The Traveling Chef, in Springfield, Missouri, is a keeper. You melt a small piece of Brie on a slice of baguette, then spoon fig jam on top and finish with half of a fresh fig and a sprig of pea shoot or watercress. It's fruity and creamy with a bit of freshness from the greens.

Get the recipe: Brie Crostini with Fig Jam and Fresh Figs
maple popcorn

Photo courtesy of Creative Edge Parties

An Old-Fashioned Snack with a Crazy Good Twist
Freshly made bacon and popcorn are two foods with irresistible aromas. Put them together and watch out. This addictive party snack from Ruben combines bacon, popcorn and maple syrup for a salty and sweet treat that's guaranteed to go in a flash. You can pop the popcorn ahead of time, just be sure not to dress it with the finishing maple glaze until just before serving, so the popcorn doesn't get soggy.

Get the recipe: Maple Bacon Popcorn
katchkie farm slaw

Photo: Great Performances

The Bright and Tangy Side for Any Spicy Menu
This fresh slaw, from the catering company Great Performances, is the perfect accompaniment to any food that has some heat, from Buffalo wings to chili. Make it once, and it'll be in your rotation forever. It's as easy as slicing vegetables into thin strips, mixing them together with a salty-sweet dressing and letting the slaw chill in the fridge until you're ready to serve it, in baby Bibb lettuce, endive or radicchio cups.

Get the recipe: Katchkie Farm Slaw
pepita brittle

Photo: Peter Bonizio

A Grown-Up Brittle
Instead of putting out bowls of spiced nuts, try this take on brittle from Peter Bonizio of Thomas Preti Caterers, which has operated in New York for almost 30 years. He starts with pumpkin seeds (aka pepitas), boiling them with simple syrup and spices, then roasts them for 20 minutes. The sugary coating forms a brittle you can break into pieces and serve alongside drinks as a nibble with some kick, thanks to chili, chipotle and cayenne powder.

Get the recipe: Spicy, Candied Pepita Brittle
avocado rollups

Photo: Maria_Lapina/Thinkstock

Another Reason to Love a Stalwart
Supereasy to make, these portable and good-looking tortilla roll-ups have become a cocktail-party staple. But Eduard Frauneder, of New York City's Elderberry Catering, fills the roll-ups with a few ingredients we hadn't seen before: avocado and tzatziki. The dip made up of Greek yogurt, garlic and cucumber has just enough zip to make these interesting, and avocado adds color and just the right amount of richness.

Get the recipe: Avocado and Tzatziki Tortilla Roll-Ups