If you've ever mobbed out to dinner with your buds, not knowing what you're in the mood for, grabbing a sampler platter is the best way to get your hands on a little bit of everything.
A typical sampler platter includes a medley of fried, or cheesy, menu items in limited amounts to titillate your tastebuds before enjoying your meal. The dish is designed to give patrons a taste of what each menu item (usually appetizers) has to offer, as well as a way for multiple diners to share a quick snack together before their meal.
The history of the sampler platter goes back to the concept of appetizers in general. Appetizers, also known as the French hors d'oeuvres, are a small dish that is served before a meal. Hors d'oeuvres translates directly as "outside the work" or "meal."
According to chef Walter Potenza of Chef Walter's Cooking School and The Culinary Council, cultures have indulged in pre-meal snacks for centuries. The practice dates back as far as the ancient Greeks and Romans who would serve small portions of fish, vegetables, cheese, and olives.
By the 1890s, the term appetizers had become a full-on English and American menu concept, known as the first course served before soup. These included raw oysters, clams, caviar on toast, and other decadent bites. The fare has since evolved as more and more affordable restaurants began offering the concept.
With the advent of appetizers, the pre-meal dishes were combined to even further create the sampler platter — a mega dish showcasing multiple sampler plates similar to a tasting menu.
Popular modern-day American sampler platter items include: onion rings, mozzarella sticks, egg rolls, chicken tenders or wings, quesadillas, and other hearty choices served with a cavalcade of dipping sauces.
Today, you can find a sampler platter at pretty much any sit-down restaurant that boasts an appetizer menu. We recommend sharing with friends, however, as you don't want to be THAT guy hoarding all the delicious fried foods.