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Need help in selecting high quality frozen appetizers

In a few weeks I will host a cocktail party for about 50 people. I intend to offer about eight different passed appetizers. Some will be made at home, and some will be frozen, for convenience sake. I plan to do some prep work ahead of time for accompaniments to the frozen appetizers, if necessary. I figure that some will be improved by adding fresh herbs, nuts, chutneys, dips, etc.

I would like to purchase the frozen appetizers at either Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. Cost is always important, but it's more important that I select foods that taste great and look great. I know that there is a HUGE difference in cost between the two stores I mentioned... More often than not, I am very impressed with Trader Joe's. However, I am unfamiliar with their frozen appetizers.

I would really appreciate it if you would post your absolute favorite frozen appetizers from either store. It would also be helpful if you mention things that are disappointing. Lastly, if you have jazzed up favorite frozen appetizers, I'd love to hear those recommendations, too.

Thanks much and happy day!

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  1. Not what you asked for, but on the chance it's available, I was just finishing off a couple of Ling Ling potstickers I get at Costco. I know they are available at other large markets, so if you see them, they are very, very good. But only when prepared properly.

    1. Not trying to tell you what to do, but think about this: eight passed appetizers are a whole, whole lot of work. Appetizer stations promote mingling. They are your friends when throwing a party. If you have two stationary appetizers on different tables in diferent parts of the room and pass four, you should be in good shape.

      I don't have Trader Joe's and haven't tried the frozen appetizers at Whole Foods, so I can't help you there.

      1. At Trader Joe's, I really like the puff pastry bites. There is one that is ham and cheese and one that is onion and feta. I like both, but the ham and cheese is very decadent.

        If you want to try potstickers, I like TJ's frozen pork potstickers. I don't really follow the package directions when making them, though. I start off sauteeing them in a bit of olive oil. Instead of adding water, like the directions tell you, I add a soy sauce mixture instead. I serve these with their hot and sweet mustard.

        I have served TJ's mushroom turnover appetizers before and they were a hit, but I'm not a fan.

        1 Reply
        1. re: alliebear

          Agree with TJ's pot stickers, aka gyoza. They are in frozen bags separate from the other appetizer types. We also sautee them and then cover. That way the skin gets a little crispy. And we like their Gyoza Sauce, which is a soy/ginger/sesame blend in a bottle.

        2. TJ's has vegetable tempura which I like, in addition to the puff pastry bites that alliebear mentions.

          Their spinach pie is OK. You could also get a tarte d'alsace and cut it into app-size bits.

          1. I like the TJ's cranberry and brie in phyllo cups

            1. We love the mushroom turnovers from TJ's. I also love the escargot in brioche, and find that the spanakopita are also good.

              1. I thought of something else. How about the meatballs from TJs? I just bought a package last week because a coworker had them for lunch and they smelled very good. I have yet to try them, but maybe someone who has can give an opinion of them.

                3 Replies
                1. re: alliebear

                  I frequently purchase the frozen turkey meatballs from Trader Joe's. They are delicious and do not taste frozen at all.

                  1. re: alliebear

                    Put TJ's meatballs in a small crockpot and mix grape jelly with Cocktail sauce.
                    Ssshh.....they are addictive. Serve with toothpics. So simple too.

                  2. The appetizer sized chicken empanadas at TJ's are good. I'd serve them accompanied with a good salsa.

                    1. The boxes of tempura shrimp at Costco (I think they're 20 to a box) are very good. And they're good finger food.

                      1. TJ makes something called Tarte D'Alsace -- it's a ham, gruyere, and caramelized onion pizza-sort-of-thing, which you could cut up in squares. I've heard a couple of people say that it's the single best thing TJ sells.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Steve Green

                          I love that Tarte. Also good are themushroom turnovers. TJ's also has a black truffle flatbread type of thing now too, which is very good and can be cut up as well.

                        2. i like trader joe's mushroom and traditional spanakopita, but there are not that many to a box. trader joe's pizzettes are really awful (they come 10-12 to a box). they have this one shrimp appetizer that is quite good as well - it is either filled with a breaded stuffing or crab stuffing and grilled. you can just pop under the broiler.

                          also, i think buying appetizers at tjs or whole foods might be on the expensive side (like about what a reasonable caterer would charge). i agree with the costco suggestion. or, if you have a large asian market in your area - they sell big bags of various asian appetizers in the freezer section that are quite good and easy on the wallet.

                          1. I like Ling LIng Potstickers But I Brown then in a skillet frozen with oil, then steam them with water for 9 minutes

                            1. In addition to the feedback here, you may find this website with reviews of Trader Joe's products useful:


                              1. Hello!
                                I second the many nominations for the TJ's Spanikopita. I not only serve them at my parties I usually dive on the plate of them at others parties. They are really good. I also dig the mini-crab cakes in a pinch.
                                I've tried various gyozas and the chicken shumai from TJs but didn't love any of them (much to my chagrin because I could live on good dumplings if I could find some).

                                1. We like TJ's mini party frozen meatballs, which we nuke in the microwave. I usually serve them with a sweet 'n sour sauce but you can also do a hot mustard sauce, teriyaki, tomato-based, yoghurt-based, or whatever pleases your palate, of course. This is not an exotic or trendy dish, but still immensely popular at parties.

                                  1. I adore TJ's spinach and artichoke dip, which I make for many many parties (and also use as a pasta sauce base, but that's another story for another thread). I like to spoon it into Tostitos Scoops and top with a piece of shaved parm, or you can have it as a placed app with chips or in a bread bowl. The stuff is ridiculously good.

                                    I also agree that the Tarte D'Alsace and the mushroom spanikopita are fantastic. I have also done the mini meatball in chili sauce with the cherry preserves and agree that while they sound tacky, they are super easy and people LOVE them.