ISO Cheap, but elegant fare
I am hosting a farily informal afternoon tea for 10 ladies. I'm a poor university student, so I'm in search of ideas that will get me the most bang for my buck.
My ideas so far are sandwiches, scones, clotted cream and jam, maybe shrimp and fruit?
Ditch the shrimp, too expensive, buy some pretty flowers for the table, a very pretty fruit tart or tartlettes would be nice to have
Don't know if you're near any ethnic markets but Asian markets often have decent quality white bread sliced thin for sandwiches, sort of a poor man's pan a mie. Another way to go, is using Bridgeford frozen bread dough. A good cooking supply store has(or borrow from baker friend) shaped metal tubes you can cap to bake shaped loaves of bread which cut into gorgeous shapes for sandwiches. A way to economize on the shrimp is to get a good bit of smoked fish (also something usually found less expensive in an ethnic (Middle Eastern) market and add it to some cream cheese with some fresh herbs, lemon zest and capers for a nice sandwich spread. The Martha Stewart Appetizer book has some amazing sandwich photography and great recipes for pretty sandwiches. Furthermore, you can get big bang for your buck by having a selection of really delicious teas, another ethnic market item. You might also ask each of the ladies to make a $5.00 investment in a pretty tea cup (thrift store?) to bring to the party for a nice miss matched table, and then the cups can go home as party favors.
Cucumber salad is nice--sprinkle sliced, cored greenhouse cukes with salt, and rinse and drain after 1/2 hour. Sprinkle with sugar/vinegar dressing and top with just a bit of finely chopped green onions and toasted sesame seeds. The cukes have a lovely transluscent quality. Very light flavor.
Couscous makes a nice inexpensive salad when mixed with some chopped fresh veggies and alfalfa sprouts and dressed with a simple sweet vinegrette.
A small cookie like shortbread would be nice too.
I was going to suggest shrimp salad on croissants--they have inexpensive frozen salad sized shrimp at most grocery stores--mayo, lettuce, celery, s&p...
What about quiche, that is pretty girly