‘Barefoot Contessa’ Ina Garten Uses an Easy Trick to Make Simple Store-Bought Snacks More Special

Barefoot Contessa star Ina Garten might favor some easy store-bought snacks instead of elaborate appetizers, but she doesn’t skimp on the presentation. Garten recommends setting out some light finger food when entertaining but adds a bit of flair to jazz up the ordinary snacks.

Ina Garten sits at a table holding her 'Cooking for Jeffrey' cookbook at the Food Network and Cooking Channel New York City Wine and Food Festival
‘Barefoot Contessa’ Ina Garten | Noam Galai/Getty Images for NYCWFF

Ina Garten serves store-bought snacks

Garten has shared some of her tips over the years for great dinner parties and one of her time-saving moves is to skip serving a first course entirely. This removes one step and allows her to focus on making the main meal and dessert the stars of the party.

When she spoke with BookSense while promoting her book Barefoot Contessa Parties, Garten discussed how planning and preparation can make a party more relaxed for the host.

“I do everything possible to make things easy,” she explained. “First, when people arrive there’s a table set up with fixings for drinks so people can help themselves. I serve very simple nibbles like roasted cashews and good olives — nothing wrapped in phyllo.”

“I never serve a first course, just a delicious dinner and dessert,” Garten added. “And finally, I try to assemble as much of the meal as possible — maybe a peach, a sweet dessert wine, and a macaroon from a bakery for dessert.”

The ‘Barefoot Contessa’ star serves snacks in pretty bowls

On her Barefoot Contessa website, Garten shared that putting out a little something for a snack at parties is nice but it doesn’t have to be that involved.

“I think it’s nice to serve a little something so people don’t get ‘toasted’ during the cocktail hour,” she explained. “But it doesn’t have to be anything complicated — I usually serve something simple like salted cashews, olives, or good potato chips.”

The snacks may be ordinary and simple, but her presentation makes the finger foods look a bit more special.

In a 2018 Instagram video, Garten shared her tip for serving snacks and, as with everything else she does, her focus is always on simplicity.

“When I have friends for dinner, the last thing I want to do is spend a lot of time making fussy hors d’oeuvres,” Garten explained. “So I choose simple, no cook things that I can serve with drinks.”


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She emphasized that “store-bought” is just fine and shared how the presentation can elevate the simple nibbles.

“I present them in a really pretty silver bowl so it looks special,” Garten noted as she poured some crunchy potato chips into one bowl and salted cashews with “a little sea salt” sprinkled over them in another bowl.

She poured some bright and delicious heirloom cherry tomatoes into the third bowl.

“So choose delicious things you can serve as is, present them in really pretty silver bowls and everybody’s going to have a really good time,” the Barefoot Contessa star added. “Including you.”