Want to know a secret to a really easy way to entertain? Having family and – or friends over for appetizers and drinks is a lot easier than a full-fledged dinner party. Bonus: It’s a lot more F U N too!

After our flash buying trip to Italy at the end of last month, I am completely smitten with the “small bites” party idea. {Oh! The Parmesan, the olives, the bread and the parma ham…it was all SO GOOD.}

The  secret to making this party easy, beautiful and a huge success is to keep the food fairly simple, but the display exceptional!

I am so honored to collaborate with Lisa of DelicousTable for this Autumn Entertaining Series. We had so much fun together creating this series for you!

We’ll be sharing a few amazing appetizer recipes, a gorgeous autumn cocktail that is on the “healthy” side, and later this month, in preparation for Thanksgiving entertaining, another beautiful table setting and a recipe for the most delicious individual Apple Pies.


Autumn in Southern California is often mild enough in the afternoon and early evenings {with a wrap or sweater} to serve drinks and horde’euvres outdoors.  A blazing fire in our fire pit as it grows colder is cozy, and adds instant ambience. The beauty of taking some of this party outside is that there is less “decorating” to do.

To wow your guests and save yourself stress and time, here are a few tricks of the trade to help you.


The key to a beautiful appetizer display is to lay the “ground-work” for the type of setting you are trying to create. Sometimes leaving your wood table bare works. Other times you might want to add a tablecloth. In this case, I wanted a more neutral base than our old aqua painted table would give me.

One antique French tablecloth didn’t cover it all the way, so I simply layered two over each other.  I love luxurious table settings, but I don’t panic over small details.

By the time the food is on the table, the party has started, trust me, no one will notice that you had to “stretch” the tablecloth a little.

 Shop French Country Linens



The way to making simple, beautiful food like cheese, vegetables, fresh fruit and bread and crackers shine is to display it in a grand setting.



Nothing helps you achieve this quickly like a long, wood board.


This board? A piece of pine left over after a remodeling project that I asked Mr. FrenchGardenHouse to clean, and sand down for me.  I use it a lot {Any kind of board will do.}



I like to mix up the selections on each part of the board, like I did here, so that guests have to slow down and really enjoy the lavish display before they decide what {if not all!} of the appetizers they want to try.


To make the selections even more enticing, put some items in vintage French bowls, like we did here using the olive bowls from France. The bowls hold Lisa’s Meyer Lemon Tapenade and cut olives. Don’t they look amazing?

I crumpled up some parchment paper to nestle each cheese in, not only does that add another layer of texture, but it makes clean up a breeze.  {and my favorite cheesemonger says we should all be storing our cheeses in parchment paper not plastic!}

ADD HEIGHT.  Since our display was all on one level, the large antique French canning jar with a “bouquet” of olive branches and other clipping from our Provencial front garden adds height.



This statuesque French beauty filled with branches from the garden brings lots of height to our display, and some visual drama.



Another way to add some height is to stand some of the elements of your appetizer spread upright.  Here, I added crispy thin Breadsticks in an antique French Country confiture jar, and fresh green beans stand at attention in an antique French cheese strainer.


French Olive Bowls|French Country Kitchen Collection


It’s amazing how much real linen napkins add to the overall look of any hors d’oeuvres display. An easy and very pretty way to make sure everyone has a napkin handy is to layer them on each plate, and stack!

I know you are thinking “yes, but paper is so easy.” It IS…but these napkins wash in the machine and add so much luxurious charm!


Real napkins just take any table setting or party to the next level.


Linen Napkins

While you are putting together your amazing Autumn Appetizer Display, wear one of our French aprons to protect your clothes.  Made of fabric with traditional French motifs, absolutely beautiful, in autumn’s rich colors.


French Traditional Apron


Recipes for the delicious appetizers developed by Lisa:

Meyer Lemon Tapenade to serve with toasts or inside little peppers.

Brie and Bacon {!!} Palmiers.

Pumpkin Pie Pecans.

A refreshing cocktail drink with the ruby red color of Hibiscus Tea and all the health benefits, too!

Happy Autumn Entertaining!

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  1. Will be waiting for the recipes. The pictures look so enticing. I am always amazed how the Europeans can make even the most humble of appetizers look interesting. It could be a bowl of pattatine (potato chips) or warm seasoned nuts, but it always looks fabulous…..

  2. Your table looks great.Love the glasses.Gives me an idea to use my inherinherited ones.

    1. Anja, I love that idea! You should use your inherited ones…as much as possible! I bet they will make your table beautiful.

  3. In France they call this an “apéritif dinatoire.” It’s a great way to invite more people than can fit around a table. I look forward to the recipes!

  4. Sooooo inviting!! I love the idea of a long board down the center of the table. It just looks like a magical place to spend the early evening hours. Thanks for sharing . . . looking forward to the yummy recipes.

  5. A stunning display!!! … Like the cover of Gourmet Magazine!….I love the way you stacked the plates with the napkins and how the appetizers are curated so beautifully together on one long board. So, so gorgeous! And those glasses….Amour…truly a love affair!!!

    1. Thank you Shirley! It was such a fun time putting this together…wait until you see the table. Those little apple pies look amazing at each place setting. xo

  6. Gloria

    You know how I feel about real napkins. It takes a very nice table setting to a beautiful table and everyone feels very special when you use them. The little bites gathering is perfect. I have a neighbor that is saddly falling into dementia . Having a sit down dinner is heart breaking. This type of gathering would be perfect. Thank you again for inspiring me to have a few neighbor over similar to the rotating dinners we had for years. I look forward to the recipes. Palimers are perfect because you can make them ahead and slice and bake just before your guest arrive. Thank you again for all your inspiration .

  7. It all looks so incredibly lovely! Great ideas to add the napklins to the plate stack (pretty and practical) as well as stand the green beans up! Never saw that before but will surely remember it! Looking forward to the rest of the series:)
    xo Kathleen|Our Hopeful Home

  8. Ginger Valdes

    Looks beautiful AND delicious! Love the plates stacked with napkins. Such a great idea, Lidy! Thanks for the inspiration and beautiful photos, as always.

    1. Thank you Ginger! You can stack plates with your pretty FGH napkins at home too. It is always a joy to see you here. xo

  9. Nancy Davies

    It looks so delightful. Wonderful ideas. Looking forward to the recipes.

    1. Thank you so much, Nancy! It’s a fun and easy way to entertain…throw in some great bottles of wine, or sparkling cider, and the festive time is ready to start!

  10. As always, an absolutely gorgeous post. I especially loved the stacked plates with napkins. Many, many wonderful ideas. Thank you, Lidy for sharing your marvelous talents.

    1. I love stacking the plates with the napkins, makes the simplest plates and napkins look special. Happy entertaining, Sandra!

  11. So beautiful, Lidy…and you can’t beat that California sunlight filtering down!

    I love the idea of the wood plank, it anchors things. The parchment paper under the cheese is cool also. The biggest tip I came away with was mixing everything up-guests really have to ‘look’! It’s more interesting and colorful that way.

    Looking forward to more in your series. I usually make (and buy) a lot of goodies for Thanksgiving. We nosh before our meal, and later in the evening with more family, dessert, and cocktail.

  12. Beautiful inspiration, I love the pine board! I am looking forward to trying the recipes as well.
    Thank you for sharing!

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