August 1, 2022

What are Hors D’oeuvres?

How often have you been at an event where a staff member with a tray asks you if you would like an hors d’oeuvre? Do you know what kind of food you’ll be getting if you say yes? It’s not uncommon for someone’s answer to that question to be “no.” Hors d’oeuvres are something that many people have heard of a dozen times, yet couldn’t define if asked to.

This leads to people eating food they don’t want or shouldn’t be eating because they don’t know what they’re actually saying “yes” to eating. We can clear up any confusion you may have, and help you understand what hors d’oeuvres are, their purpose at gatherings, what kinds of foods qualify as hors d’oeuvres, and what you can have catered from Grico’s Classic Cuisine and Catering.

What is an Hors D’oeuvre?

Hors d’oeuvres are small food items that are served before dinner. They’re designed to be served during cocktail hour when people are walking around. Since people aren’t sitting down to eat, they need something that can be held in their hands or on a small plate.  

Altogether, this means that they can best be defined as finger foods served before dinner, mainly at receptions. This puts them in a different position from appetizers, which serve a different setting and a similar but different purpose.

What’s the Difference Between Hors D’oeuvres and Appetizers?

Hors d’oeuvre and appetizers are both small foods that are meant to tide someone over till the main course. The limit on what is one and not the other isn’t limited by things like temperature, sweet flavor, sour taste, a crunchy feel, or soft texture. Any hors d’oeuvre or appetizer can be any of those things. The big difference is the portions, the time it’s eaten, the quantity served, the purpose, and the method. 

Appetizers come in bigger portions, meant to tide you over till a meal, but they’re not easy to eat while walking and talking like hors d’oeuvres. You’re supposed to eat hors d’oeuvres before a meal begins, versus appetizers, which are considered part of the meal.

Then there is the quantity served, with appetizers being served once to a table, versus hors d’oeuvres being served several at a time. Speaking of tables, you would not eat an hors d’oeuvre while sitting at a table, but rather while you’re mingling – unlike an appetizer. Also unlike an appetizer, you’re typically eating hors d’oeuvres by hand rather than with utensils.

The History of Hors D’oeuvres

There are many sources that claim different things about the origin of hors d’oeuvres. Some historians think the practice comes from a whole number of different countries, mainly China and Russia. What they believe specifically is that the practice spread into European countries like Italy, Greece, and the Balkan nations through Russia. It’s not confirmed whether or not ancient Russia got the idea from ancient Chinese customs. 

From that point on, having hors d’oeuvres for guests to eat while they mingle at parties has been a staple part of the European experience. It simply never stopped, even when colonists from Europe crossed the ocean blue.

The Name Hors D’oeuvre

While the practice of having finger foods available during celebrations is old, the name for the practice is new. The name “hors d’oeuvre” didn’t become a part of the English lexicon until 1860 in both England and the United States. The word came from the French, who were consistently serving food outside of the dining room before dinner. In England and the United States, it wasn’t customary across the board to have guests wait outside of the dining room before dinner, nor with food.

Hors D’oeuvres at Grico’s Classic Catering

Grico’s Classic Cuisine and Catering has a whole catering menu dedicated to all of the different hors d’oeuvres we make. We have two types, hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, along with hors d’oeuvre food stations. Some of the foods that you can have served at your gathering include:

  • Mini Beef Kabobs 
  • Mushrooms Stuffed with Sausage
  • Spanakopita
  • Arancini
  • Mini Cheeseburger Sliders
  • Pepper Crusted Steak on Crostini with Horseradish
  • Antipasto Kabobs 
  • Sweet Potato Rounds with Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese 
  • Poached Salmon with Orzo Salad
  • Vegetable Crudite 
  • Cheese Display with Fruit
  • Petite Antipasto Table
  • Smoked Salmon Platter
  • Assorted Humus with Pita

If you have any questions on how we can complete your catering needs or about the hors d’oeuvres we have available, please contact our Catering Coordinator to discuss details. Email Allison at or she can be reached at 570-690-3339. For an indoor dining experience, please make a reservation.