So! Even though serving tapas is great for bad estimators like me because you just bring things out whenever they're ready instead of dividing things into courses, I still like to divide things into a few "waves" for the sake of planning. The first wave of Friday's meal was the stuff I could set out in advance for people to snack on when they arrived. All room temperature, the kind of things you can put out an hour ahead of time along with the glasses and plates instead of trying to time your cooking to the first arrival -- always a tricky proposition. It's not unusual for people to start showing up a half hour after the official party start time, but it also sometimes happens that people arrive early. 15, 20 minutes early, in some cases. And you don't want to be trying to entertain the first arrivals while you're thinking OMG NOTHING IS READY on the inside.
Snackables can be complex or simple. They can be things that require no cooking at all, or things you can make ahead. They should not be things that are only tasty warm.
In this case, I put out a platter of serrano ham, some figs, cheese shortbread, and almonds. The setup looked a little something like this:
(picture courtesy of my awesomely co-hosting husband, who had the presence of mind to take out the camera right around the time where I start to get down in the weeds and forget the camera exists)
The cheese shortbread were the only things that required cooking, and they are definitely do-ahead. Now, when Rose Levy Beranbaum tells you to roll dough into a log, chill it, and slice it if you want circles, you should do as she says. Because rolling out dough with this much butter in it and punching circles with a cookie cutter is very, very frustrating, because the dough goes from too-cold-to-roll to too-warm-to-handle in a snap. But still. I am hard-headed. And when you are sufficiently hardheaded (and willing to put dough into the fridge, take it out, cut it, put it back in the fridge, pull out a couple circles, put it back in the fridge, or try the freezer, take it out, ad nauseum) you can make pretty pretty little uniform circles like these.
You know what also would have been perfectly fine? Store-bought crackers. Never feel pressured to put out only homemade things.
(But if you ever want to make these -- and again, I suggest you roll into logs and slice instead of rolling 1/2 inch thick and using a cookie cutter -- I use Beranbaum's recipe for cheese dollars from the truly excellent book Rose's Christmas Cookies, making a double batch and using 1/4 tsp of cayenne and 2 tsp of smoked paprika for the spices.)