Washington, D.C.-based Occasions Caterers (202-546-7400; occasionscaterers.com) uses a single ingredient or a certain mode of preparation as the theme for a reception's hors d'oeuvres and small plates. For example, for a recent holiday soiree the caterer picked "smoke" as the inspiration and created the following menu:
• Mini smoked sausages served on buttery brioche buns;
• Broiled oysters topped with smoked bacon, smoked Gouda and caramelized onions (left);
• Smoky tomato bisque topped with mascarpone cheese and smoked paprika, and
• Rosettes of smoked bacon filled with apple slices and drizzled with dulce de leche.