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Sep 15, 2008 12:29 AM

Best Cheap Appetizers Available In L.A. Area for Large Fundraiser?

Having a large fundraiser from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Gotta serve something, but don't want to spend a fortune. Definitely some platters of hummus from Sunnin. But what else? What's good and cheap for a big crowd? From Costco, from Trader's Joe's, from some little hole in the wall like Sunnin? All suggestions appreciated. It's not about the food, but still I don't want to serve glop.

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  1. I would check out your local costco. Definitely get cheese and crackers there, everyone loves cheese and crackers. I recently bought a triple-cream brie-like french imported cheese at the manhattan beach location for just $2.50 pound and it was surprisingly good! And cheese stretched really far for a crowd because people eat small amounts of it at a time. So start with the cheese at costco and then see what else they have. See what the they have in the bakery...all the baked goods I've had from costco have been pretty good, and it's nice to provide something sweet. I would also do a fruit platter and/or a veggie platter...that shouldn't be too expensive either, fruit and veggies are pretty cheap this time of year. I believe that costco carries prepared trays, although of course it's cheaper to cut it up yourself if you have the time and inclination. I know this is a pretty boring spread, but in non-foodie circles the cheese plate, fruit, and veggies are always the most popular items. Especially if there are a lot of women...a lot of women will eat mostly the fruit and veggies.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Nicole

      I second Costco's cheese selection. They have upped the selection on their "better" Euro-type cheeses over the past year or so. You should be able to grab at least three or four different types of soft and harder cheeses in bulk that would be appropriate for your event. As Nicole suggests, brie is always popular (don't know if it's in the budget to grab some fig or pear jam - great together). A fresh goat cheese is usually very popular as well - goes well with fruits, breads, crackers, and the herbed or black pepper coated logs are good with veggies... I think they carry large logs (probably about a pound or more) in their stacked cold shelf across from their main selection of cheeses in the open cold box.

      If you're going along the lines of Middle East with Sunnin, a side-trip to Persia might work as well. Persian bakeries usually have great assortments of tiny cookies where some are familiar and some not so familiar. Chickpea flour, rose essence, pistachios - these kinds of ingredients are standard in some of the cookies that places like Pink Orchid bakery on Westwood Blvd. It sounds like you're trying to keep things in small bites so their size, detail and uniqueness might help fill the sweeter side of your menu.

      Pink Orchid Bakery
      1927 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

    2. Get a bunch of vegies (bell peppers, asparagas, zuchinni, etc) and grill them, do a cheese plate and some good bread, olives, and a nice olive oil dip, spreads etc..

      3 Replies
      1. re: JEN10

        have you ever totaled up the bill for making grilled veggies?
        you'd be surprised at how much they end up costing especially if you add decent olives. (that is unless the dip comes from costco)

        to keep costs down, serve high-fat appetizers such as cheese and nuts. people will eat less of them because the fat will cause them to feel full.

        1. re: westsidegal

          Well, In theory. In practice, it never works. People at events stuff themselves. It's amazing how one avoids one's satiety gauge when at a party or event with catting people and drinks.

          The best thing is to have a wide variety of little bites and small plates or napkins.

          1. re: Diana

            I think a lot of it depends on the crowd's general profile as well. My worst experience was at home, where we thought we had way more than enough food. Our friends who brought other friends with our acknowledgment, didn't tell us that their friends were young guys who did things like drive trucks, worked construction, etc. You know, Hungry Man kinda guys. They plowed through what we had and then started slowly congregating in our kitchen, looking through the fridge and cabinets for more. We called Domino's...

      2. I would call some of your local favorite restaurants; tell them your budget and ask them for suggestions. Maybe more from Sunnin? Also, many fundraisers seem to have "donated" food -- with caters handing out business cards and taking a write off. I have worked quite successfully with Fritto Misto and Bristol Farms.

        1. This weekend my family is also doing a fundraiser and we're also trying to figure out appetizers. We're definitely going with the puff pastry with feta cheese and carmelized onion from Trader Joe's (12 or 16 in a box, about $5 or $6... they also have some with ham). Some other ideas we're tossing around: samosas from Samosa House; potato balls, meat pies or empenadas from Portos, mini quiches from Costco. Also thinking about making an easy ahi tuna appetizer and /or a little bite of galbi on watercress (we're testing that one out tonight.) The hummus sounds like a good idea too.

          5 Replies
          1. re: chowmominLA

            Please report back on what you end up with. These are great ideas!

            1. re: omotosando

              The galbi on endive (not watercress, I misspoke) with a touch of goat cheese didn't look or taste quite as good as I had hoped :0/ The taste of the meat was lost by the endive and cheese. Anyway, we're going to either get it already made at Tofu-Ya (but not cheap, at $14 per order) or buy it "pre-marinaded" from a Korean market (suggestions where, please?) or just buy flanken rib and galbi marinade and broil it for a few minutes and cut it up and serve with skewers or toothpicks something. My mom wants to serve pieces with the bone in (easy to grab and eat, she thinks) but I'm thinking this is a little un-classy, given this is a $250 per person fundraiser, and do we really want people gnawing meat off a bone (then again, Costco and TJ's appetizers aren't exactly gourmet...) so we're still mulling that one over....

              Re the puff pastries and mini quiches, yeah those are pretty "mainstream" crowd pleasers. Nothing innovative but I don't think the crowd will mind.

              Yeah the samosas might be a little too strong.... I've actually never been to Samosa House so I don't even know specifically how those are, I have just read on these boards that they're good, and they are not too far from us. But we may skip the samosas all together...

              Re the ahi tuna appetizer, I got the idea from an appetizer at Orris a long time ago... ahi tuna cubes (from Nijiya or Mitsua), fairly firm avocado, japanese cucumber, pine nuts, sesame seeds, rice vinegar and lemon, served on fried won ton skins (quartered) or crackers (I like the "Cracker thins" -- Australian water crackers -- from Bristol Farms.) Pretty easy and inexpensive to make and serve to a large group, was a big hit at a pot luck a while back. Let me know if you want me to post more specifics.

              Unfortunately my involvement ends here -- flying to Cabo tomorrow and will be out of town during the fundraiser... gotta go pack! I'll post what they ended up going with and how it turned out, in case your fundraiser is sometime after this weekend.

            2. re: chowmominLA

              The samosas at Samosa House are very good and a good value, and come in two sizes - I am sure you're looking at the smaller ones. As much as I enjoy them, my experience has been that people either love them or don't care for them. The spices used are strong, particularly the cumin seeds. As much as my kids love deep-fried foods, they won't touch these. My wife who usually enjoys foods with a heavy spiced profile doesn't like them either. My vegan sister really enjoys them. And deep-fried foods in general can be hit or miss. I had these at a party once and not many went for it, even warmed in the oven - I didn't mind - more for me, but I just thought I'd pass this on to you. Hopefully knowing the profile of those attending - I don't know if they're relatively timid in their tastes but you might consider this...

              1. re: bulavinaka

                Yeah, I don't see myself serving samosas, but the Trader Joe's puff pastry and mini quiches from Costco both sound like good ideas. How about salami - where is a good place to get salami?

                1. re: omotosando

                  I've found that good salami, salumi, chorizo, etc., is not cheap - you pretty much get what you pay for. You can get average stuff at Costco, more variety and maybe a notch or two better at TJ's. I've tried and liked their small euro-type chubs wrapped in green paper that are flavored with white or red wine - I can't remember the price but I think they were $5-$6 range. Maybe others can chime in on this one as I tend to get mine via online sources or La Espanola in Harbor City.

                  La Espanola Meats
                  25020 Doble Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90710

            3. Carnival in Sherman Oaks will help you do a spread cost effectively.

              If you're a fan of Tito's, you could order ahead and go with plenty of tacos. Or, if you prefer another taco source, like Tacos por Favor or Tacomiendo or the like.

              Not sure what your budget is, or where you're located exactly, but if you'd post those, maybe I (we) can get a little more specific...

              4 Replies
              1. re: Emme

                Tacomiendo is a good choice with good QPR. My wife used to call on them regularly to cater lunch parties at her prior work (about 25-35 people). She says it was around $200-250 for A LOT OF FOOD. Mostly young single guys, even they couldn't finish off all of the food - we'd be in carnitas, pollo, and carne asada for at least a couple of days from the leftovers...

                4502 Inglewood Blvd, Culver City, CA 90230

                11462 Gateway Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

                1. re: Emme

                  We are right in the smack of L.A. - Century City and Ladera Heights. So a trip to Sunnin is more doable than a strip to Carnival. I don't know about tacos - they don't seem to mix in my mind with wine, brie, quiches and puff pastries. Hummus doesn't really either, but I have never gone wrong with party platters of hummus from Sunnin.

                  1. re: omotosando

                    Trader Joes and Costco are great for these things. Another suggestion: call restaurants or gourmet stores and have them donate appetizers.

                  2. re: Emme

                    I was a an event catered by carnival and the food was superb!