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updated: 12/12/2012 2:57 PM

Retro appetizers get a fresh look

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  • Apple, Cheddar and Walnut Toasts

      Apple, Cheddar and Walnut Toasts
    Courtesy of Cabot

  • Cream cheese and peanut butter bring new life to stuffed date appetizers.

      Cream cheese and peanut butter bring new life to stuffed date appetizers.
    Courtesy of Natural Delights

  • Brie gets into the holiday spirit with a bourbon-balsamic glaze.

      Brie gets into the holiday spirit with a bourbon-balsamic glaze.
    Associated Press

By Deborah Pankey
Daily Herald Food Editor

For everything being touted as new for the holidays -- mini iPads, Hobbit Legos -- appetizers aren't among them. When it comes to cocktail food and party starters retro is where it's at.

"I think one of the biggest entertaining trends that will not die is old classics," said Dana Cowin, editor in chief at Food & Wine magazine during a recent trip to Chicago. "We're seeing new versions of pigs in a blanket made with artisan sausages and miniaturization of comfort classics -- think macaroni and cheese made in muffin tins."

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And toast points. At the magazine's Chef Showcase last month every other restaurant showcased something -- from bacon and truffle shavings to eggs and microgreens -- on a bready platform of some sort.

"You can go crazy with toast points," Cowin says, adding that this month's issue features a "reinvention" of Caesar salad plated on broiled slices of country bread.

Even deviled eggs get freshly dressed for the holidays. Chicago cookbook author Connie Fairbanks thinks outside the picnic basket and serves quail eggs topped with caviar for an appetizer that's more delicate than devilish. And it pairs nicely with a glass of bubbly.

The nice thing about these updated classics is that they're easy to make.

"The classics were so popular because they were so easy," Cowin says. "How easy is to to make multiples of deviled eggs? You just do an assembly line."

Hors d'oeuvres don't get much easier than a cheese plate.

"Keep some great cheese on hand during the holidays," Cowin suggests. When unexpected guests drop by put out some cheese wedges, some dried sausages, nuts (smoked Marcona almonds are always a hit) and an assortment of crackers or crisps.

And if you never get those unexpected guests you can grill up a mean cheese sandwich.

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