Canapés vs Manapés

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The canapé has been a traditional feature at many social events, weddings and parties where a seating plan may not be appropriate but food is still necessary. Incredibly elegant, the canapé is suitable for even the most delicate eater. However , at a recent event I attended, the canapés on offer were a little larger and a bit rough around the edges. Intrigued by their newest incarnation, I spoke to the manager of the catering company who assured me that they are in fact being dubbed manapés, I was so intrigued by this I decided to conduct my own research.

What is a manapé?

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While tiny food is incredibly precious, it is a touch pretentious and in reality, not all that filling. Manapés move away from caviar and quails’ eggs and are instead scaled down versions of a main meal. The name reflects the ‘man-sized’ portions and no nonsense attitude to finger food. They also resist the healthy eating campaign as they are guilty eats and hearty food. Whether you have seen burger sliders or scaled down croque- monsieur, this bigger version of finger food is not holding back on the calories.

Though lacking the canapé’s finesse, manapés make up for this in flavour and filling. Often crafted from local ingredients, they take the idea of small plates but make it more mobile – something I like to think of as transportable tapas. These not only help keep guests fuller (and sober) for longer, but often people will find smaller versions of their favourite dishes.

Manapés also allow more choice than a sit-down meal, without the constraints of miniscule portions or balancing on a single biscuit. This opportunity has allowed top catering companies to let their imaginations run wild with some creative combinations. Incorporating big flavours and elements of tradition and innovation allows this manapés to be a taste sensation.

When are they appropriate?

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Canapés may be handed round before a meal but manapés serve a different purpose. Instead of whetting an appetite, they should fulfil it, and thus are not to be served pre-dinner. But when it comes to events such as gallery openings or work occasions, these substantial alternatives are better at sustaining people through a longer evening.

Casing British beef in a Yorkshire pudding with the rest of a small roast may make a mobile manapé but it can also create some mess - gravy and eating on the go do not mix! So, there is more to manapé creation than purely downsizing. If you own or work in an establishment that hosts events that do not often include dinner, manapés may be worth considering. If you are accommodating a dinner party more centred on drinks than food, but still has space for seating, a bigger than bite-size offering will keep people standing for longer.

Are they here to stay?

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This trend hit the catering scene a couple of years ago, but you can still find manapés on catering menus or the more main stream ‘small plates’. Many people are enjoying them as a relief to healthy eats that have been customised to dietary requirements. Though lots of people have gone wheat-free or shunned dairy, others very much enjoy a gluten, cheese and meat-rich snack. The customisable element of small plates and manapés means they are becoming ever more popular.

Though small plates have made it into lots of restaurants, manapés are still shunned from many events, with people opting for the daintier counterpart. This may be etiquette triumphing over a full stomach as these are still relatively difficult to eat with one hand, while holding a glass in the other and maintaining social poise. Canapés may be a touch outdated and pretentious, but they still fulfil a role at events.

I think the type of canapé will be a reflection of the formality of the event. Canapés will remain de rigueur at the important and black tie occasions while anyone opting for a laid back vibe will choose the larger portions, encouraging people to sit and eat in comfort.