Part of the reason for choosing this one to respond to now is that I can pretty much get away with just writing what I wrote to Chas. So, to quote myself:I was reading an Englishman's blog today and encountered the phrase "a champagne reception and fork buffet supper."
Now I have visited the UK, attended part of high school in Jamaica, have various British friends, and even do some freelance editing for a London-based publisher, for whom I beat the prose of British academics into conformity with the Chicago Manual of Style for the North American market.
But I never was invited to a fork buffet supper. The phrase gives me visions of a long table covered with dozens of glistening forks -- and nothing else.
I've never seen fork buffet in the wild, but there are 24,000 Google hits for it. It's the companion to the term I have heard a lot, finger buffet--i.e. a buffet of finger foods (51,800 hits).The OED can be called on to add:
fork supper (also -buffet, -dinner, -lunch(eon, etc.), a meal served at a buffet, etc., consisting of food suitable for eating with fork alone, making the provision of set places at table unnecessary.The question that I haven't answered is 'what would this be called in AmE?' Notice that Chas didn't offer an easy equivalent--I don't know that there is one. I've come across the term standing buffet, but this can as easily (if not more easily) be finger foods, rather than fork-foods. For a finger buffet, I'd imagine that an AmE invitation would say 'hors d'oeuvres will be served' or 'finger foods will be served', or some such thing. I ask people in the US with more recent experience of these things to help out in the comments.
(Though, it must be said, I have very recent experience, since I went to a buffet lunch (with forks) after a funeral today. Unhelpfully for us, it was just called lunch.)