cheap fancy food for 200?
March 28, 2005 9:00 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to be making the food (a table of hors d'oeuvre type stuff for about 200 people) for my university's student art show opening. I'm pretty much stuck at hummus. Ideas/recipes/tips?
posted by cilantro to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What's your budget?
posted by FreezBoy at 9:04 AM on March 28, 2005

Response by poster: 200-250 dollars, give or take (the cheaper the better, because whatever's left goes back into the art scholarship fund). Sorry I shoulda mentioned that to begin with.
posted by cilantro at 9:08 AM on March 28, 2005

Did you check out the massive post about dip?

lots of recipes and ideas there, also most online recipe sites let you browse by courses, so you could look up appetizers or party food

here's a link to one site's hors d'oeuvre stuff
posted by mrs.pants at 9:18 AM on March 28, 2005

posted by jonmc at 9:24 AM on March 28, 2005

I would have your dips (including cheese, artichoke, etc), but also have something more substantive like cut up deli sandwiches. What's really important is that you have wine, beer, coffee and tea.
posted by xammerboy at 9:33 AM on March 28, 2005

Go with the classics: cheese cubes & grapes, a soft cheese platter, baguette rounds, hummus & pita bread triangles, a crudite platter. Your local giant mega-store (think Costco or Sams Club) will have bags of cubed cheese and possibly a crudite platter already done, or at least the veggies all nicely cleaned & cut up small. Use grapes and strawberries to garnish everything. You want stuff that people do not need plates to eat and that will encourage them to stop by the table, pick something up and move on, rather than standing by the food table all night (that's the problem with dips). Baguettes cut up into rounds are nicer than crackers & easier to spread on; tapenade is nice in a bowl to spread on bread, get goat cheese as well as brie and a big bowl of good olives and you have a festive, cheap, easy gallery opening. However, given all this, when I was a student, we would have vastly preferred a bag of Doritos and the rest of the money spent on a keg!
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:37 AM on March 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

Here are two other posts about finger foods: bridesmaid get together, small birthday party, backyard wedding. None are specifically cheap but these threads are: dinners, anytime.

My personal low-budget favorite is cream cheese wraps. Get flavored [and colored] cream cheese and plain or colored flour tortillas. Cut up some red and orange and yellow peppers into tiny bits, maybe some roasted corn. Put the cream cheese on the tortilla, add veggies, wrap and cut into thin slices which will be little multi-colored spirals. Festive!
posted by jessamyn at 9:56 AM on March 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

If your not effort-adverse;

Stuffed mushroom caps (take out the stems, fill with chopped onions, stem, parmasean, cayene - bake a little)

Shrimp toast (shell raw shrimp, leave the last tail segment on, cut small hole ~1cm from tail end, slip tail through hole, batter in egg/breadcrumbs, stick on piece of bread - deep fat fry)

Scallop wrapped with bacon (marinate scallop in a bit of worstershire/light soy sauce, white pepper, wrap w/ bacon, stick a toothpick in it - bake a little)

Miniature veal/chicken parmesean (bread small strips of meat, fry in saucepan, top w/ chopped tomato, green pepper, top with a little shredded mozarella and parmesean - bake until cheese is melted)

Miniature cheese bread (make some bread dough, roll into small sticks, top with shredded cheddar - bake)

Fried mini wonton (buy some wonton wrap, season some ground [or better, minced] pork, wrap small amount of pork - deep fat fry and serve with sweet&sour sauce)

Fruit cup (make/buy crumble pastry [easy: butter+flour+sugar+salt, mix w/ pastry cutter cold], stick into small tinfoil cups - bake, fill w/ mixed fruit)

Best of luck!
posted by PurplePorpoise at 9:56 AM on March 28, 2005

$200-250 is about $1/person; you need low budget stuff.

Anything made with beans is cheap cheap cheap, so if you can make your own chummus, great. White bean dip can be yummy. Veggies to dip, while nice, will be more expensive than chips. You could get day-old/end of the day bread cheaply from a local bakery to use as rounds.

Focus on carbs, beans, and good flavorings (e.g. cilantro, lemon, garlic) and color. Have some vegies and cheese, but not a lot. If this is to include beverages (it surely cannot include alcoholic beverages), go with something that can be made cheaply from water like lemonade or iced tea (as well as water itself!).
posted by Raspberry at 10:43 AM on March 28, 2005

We do a Christmas party every year at our house. I second the recommendation to go to a wharehouse club (Costco, Sam's). You can buy the cream cheese rollups already prepared, plus, if you have an oven available, they have all kinds of good heat & eat stuff. Also a favorite at our parties: Belgian mini cream puffs and/or mini eclairs.
posted by Doohickie at 10:58 AM on March 28, 2005

I am a huge fan of simply some nice cheeses (one hard like an entire wheel of parmesean, one soft like an artisinal ricotta), some nice bread (grainy, nutty, dark, yum), and fruits and veg. Slice the bread, have someone chipping the wheel, buy in bulk.

Also, Nigella's new book Feast has a section on little party eats.
posted by scazza at 11:11 AM on March 28, 2005

Quesadillas (the Janqui bar-food version, really) are super easy, satisfying and cheap. spread some mashed (can refrieds are easy and adequate) beans on a large flour tortilla, top with cheese and finely chopped, lightly sauteed vegetables. Place another tortilla on top, drop in a skillet. Give it a few minutes per side, take out and slice into 16ths. Can be done in assembly-line fashion. Serve with salsa and sour cream.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:26 AM on March 28, 2005

Here is one of my favorites to bring to parties, everyone frowns at them, tries one, then smiles and eats more.

Fresh Jalepenos With Peanut Butter
Cut the jalepenos in half, lengthwise.
Use a small spoon to scoop all of the seeds and white membrane out.
Spoon in some peanut butter, I like it chunky

Use gloves or sandwich bags over your hands, you don't want the juice from the seeds or membrane to get under your fingernails (from experience, it sucks)

The peppers lose most of their heat from removing the seeds and membranes. Yum.
posted by jonah at 11:47 AM on March 28, 2005

My favorite Costco party buy is the bite-sized marinated fresh mozarella. A tub or two isn't very much of your budget and will feed a lot of people.
posted by kmel at 12:01 PM on March 28, 2005

Most of the student art shows I've been to have had cheese cubes, crackers, hummus, veggies, soda/juice/water, sometimes wine and beer. It's usually hard to have warm items, or things that need cooking beforehand. These are all fine things, and mostly people are there for the art and the food is an after thought. It really depends how much time you want to invest piping cream cheese into celery, dabbling goat cheese onto bread rounds, etc.

It would be fun though, if your food could have as much artistic flair as the work on display. Does your show have a specific theme? If not, I'd love to see a spread of dozens of cans of EZ-Cheez paired with saltines with 4 or 5 hotpots filled with boiling ramen noodles - ala Starving Artist. Hmm, although I guess that could be kind of a downer.
posted by FreezBoy at 12:28 PM on March 28, 2005

Jello Fruit Slices. Such a cute idea, and jello is cheap. You might have to beg fruit rinds off of friends/family though.
posted by heatherann at 1:33 PM on March 28, 2005

The more choices you have, the more people will want to sample, so keep it simple to keep it affordable. Hummus and salsa, bread strips and chips to dip. I have a good salsa recipe - email's in my profile. Wings are a great addition, but comparatively expensive.

Arrange on kale leaves with grapes. People will usually eat more when there's more food out, so replenish as the event progresses.

Ask nicely and you'll probably be able to get free dayold bread from a local bakery - Panera does this locally for the shelters. You might be able to get napkins and paper cups from a local grocery store. You may even find that if you have the energy to solicit food donations, you will have some success.
posted by theora55 at 1:56 PM on March 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

Don't know about cost, but leaves of Belgian Endive with a bit of dip or cream cheese inside, and a sprig of something else, look elegant and are tasty.
posted by Goofyy at 9:27 PM on March 28, 2005

Ever notice how there's seldom any really good-for-you food at these things? I know, it's a party, but is it so hard to include green vegetables?

One of my favorites is asparagus, steamed to a T, then drizzled with a light vinaigrette just over the florets ends. It's finger food. I don't know how cheap it is, but it's so classy.

Please, please at least don't forget the celery tray. It can be a wonderful palate cleanser and will give any vegetarian/vegan artist types _something_ to hold and walk around with, and chew, that isn't made of 95% carbs.

Carrots are good too, and inexpensive; please think twice about using those ones that are rounded on the end (what do they do, tumble them with sand?) - they are a little creepy. I hope I don't need to say more. Nice crisp cut carrot sticks are wonderful.

I had some wonderful spreads recently made from beet purée/paté and carrot purée/paté, but don't have recipes, unfortunately. I'm planning to try out my own version of beet paté with oregano and orange zest soon.
posted by amtho at 6:09 AM on March 29, 2005

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