x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Quest for the best canape

Where to get the best canapes has become almost an obsession.

Such is the often ridiculous nature of life in the UAE that conversations regularly progress quite naturally towards subject matters over which I'd have happily shot myself just a few years ago. There are the usual suspects, of course - proficiency of cleaners, proximity to the beach and temperature of the swimming pool. These are fairly mundane themes for those living here, but dare breathe a word of them to those in less sun-kissed parts of the world and you can expect rolled eyebrows and possibly the use of a bazooka.

Lately, the main preposterous topic dominating my tête-à-têtes has been the canapé: the faux-sophisticated fiddly mouthful of finger food provided at functions by those who can't be bothered to serve a decent meal.

The catalyst for this chat, aside from my mind having turned almost entirely to mush, is that I've seen the standard of such bite-sized snacks improve remarkably since the days when a lacklustre chunk of mild cheddar impaled on a toothpick with a piece of pineapple was considered exotic. These days, to stop guests running to the nearest Burger King, event organisers have been laying on increasingly outlandish culinary creations, crafted from the finest ingredients and arranged like miniature pieces of modern art.

So, as I say, my main conversational concern, as befits a part of the world so smitten with superlatives, has been identifying the best canapé. Many similarly shallow souls can recall, in disturbing detail, a particularly special morsel they once plucked from a shiny tray. Recently I sampled a snackette consisting of a ball of foie gras, wrapped in something I can only describe as edible tin foil, on the end of a long stick. It was, quite simply, incredible. Unfortunately for the party planners, I have absolutely no recollection of whatever launch was going on in the background.

I and my fellow nibble-connoisseurs have marked out two vital functions a canapé must satisfy to be deemed a success. First: it must be easily consumable while held in just one hand. Second: it must be easily consumable without falling apart, spilling its contents or requiring a hand underneath to catch falling debris.

After much deliberation and an X-Factor-esque series of voting procedures (though sadly without Simon Cowell berating a vol-au-vent its for unoriginality), the mini-burger was eventually crowned king of the canapés, scoring high on both points one and two. Many might argue that, amid wagyu this and wasabi that, the miniature burger perhaps doesn't represent the most refined of the amuse-bouche world, but we considered its unpretentious nature and universal appeal. It also received special praise for making the eater appear to have gigantic hands, much like the toothpaste tube from an airline washbag.

No doubt many readers will disagree with this decision and I heartily fling open the doors to debate. Tell me on what basis you think the barbecue chicken skewer a superior snack or why you prefer those nibbles served on little spoons. But remember, if anyone asks, we're discussing politics, OK?