Cheap Los Angeles (or California-y) food to welcome guests
February 22, 2017 7:47 PM   Subscribe

We have an cheap- uh, affordable, airbnb in LA. We'd like to have a cheap Los Angeles/California preserved food to welcome guests with. Given that fish tacos don't keep well, we're struggling for good options that aren't $$$. Any advice?

Right now we welcome people with fresh local fruit (with a card mentioning the farmer's market 1/3 mile away) but we've had a few comments that the fruit is "boring" and "just like a hotel". We'd like to amp things up a little - but still keep it cheap. Our budget can be as much as $5 per guest, but we'd prefer for it to be less since $5 is 1/12 of the cost of the room by itself. For bonus points, it would be great to be able to get something that was shelf stable for at least a month so I don't have to go to the store a bunch. I'd love to get something like this Compartes California Love chocolate bar with palm trees on it...but $9.95...
posted by stewiethegreat to Grab Bag (34 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If your guests often come from smaller cities or countries other than the US, let me tell you, Trader Joe's snacks and candy are a big hit in Canada, where they're unavailable. My friend brings it back by the suitcase and sells it to friends in a small munchy black market economy here, I wish I was joking
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:59 PM on February 22, 2017 [8 favorites]

Nuts (pistachios, almonds)? Olives?

If you really wanted to go for it, you could make jam in small jars. Marmalade (very so-cal) or whatever fruit - good of you can get ugly or end of season fruit. Plum is good.

Anecdotally, I brought stonefruit preserves from a local Northern CA farm to colleagues in Europe and they seemed pleased. Seemed like a good California Summer in a jar that appealed to the EU palate.
posted by vunder at 8:00 PM on February 22, 2017

You could probably also do some Asian snacks or Mexican candy. Local but not on-the-nose. Those boxes of rice paper candy are fun.
posted by vunder at 8:02 PM on February 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

I just recently found out you can get Huy Fong sriracha in packets. Also, what a damn boon to have hot sauce (that's not in a creepy how-long-has-that-been-there bottle) on hand in your airbnb. (I recently got some in an order of takeout and I put them in my purse because that's far more hygenic than an actual bottle of hot sauce in my bag.)

Maybe cheating a little, but California raisins, almonds, and/or rice? It's not local-local, but Sunmaid grows most of their raisins in the Central Valley, and there's multiple almond growers.

Peking Noodle Co makes fortune cookies, including ones with custom fortunes.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:05 PM on February 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Hit up a Gigante for some Mexican candy.
Hit up a 99 Ranch Market for Asian snacks like Pocky and Pretz.
Pick an inexpensive Cali wine from Trader Joe's.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:05 PM on February 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

And yeah, Mexican candy is pretty much all made in Mexico but still, it's good and fun and cheap - and there's big candy warehouses here, and you can also get Taijin packets (which also make a bomb margarita OR bloody mary).

If you wanted to provide alcohol, remember that Trader Joe's is still super-exotic to a lot of people, and Two And A Half Buck Chuck is an option.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:10 PM on February 22, 2017

Dates! Technically fruit, but sugary, delicious, dessert-like fruit.
posted by asphericalcow at 8:17 PM on February 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

"since $5 is 1/12 of the cost of the room by itself."

Um, your airbnb is $60 in Los Angeles? I'm surprised people would complain about boring fruit, when they're getting such a good price on lodging.

I like the Mexican candy idea. Inexpensive and fun.

When I go to CA, I look forward to local avocados and pomegranates. Maybe a little bottle of pomegranate juice?
posted by valannc at 8:36 PM on February 22, 2017 [9 favorites]

See's Candy? They have different flavors of Awesome Bars and other candy bars, and/or a selection of Lollypops.
posted by mogget at 8:41 PM on February 22, 2017

Nthing Dates!

I think there is, or we just missed, a date festival somewhere nearby;))

Nthing TJ's candy and treats.
posted by jbenben at 9:39 PM on February 22, 2017

A bag of TJ's cracked wheat sourdough rolls with jam and/or butter (leave the bread and butter in the freezer).
posted by brujita at 9:41 PM on February 22, 2017

Maybe it's just me, but I'd be delighted with fresh local fruit. The idea that a $60/night stay anywhere should offer better is very puzzling to me; most hotels I've stayed at recently cost twice as much and don't even give you a mint on your pillow. :P

But, I do like the suggestion of local preserves or TJ snacks as an alternative, if you feel you must.
posted by Aleyn at 9:50 PM on February 22, 2017 [11 favorites]

You could make orangettes (candied citrus peels dipped in chocolate). Cheap, homemade, storable, delicious, and special.
posted by notyou at 10:11 PM on February 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Add a couple of fresh oranges to complete the presentation.
posted by notyou at 10:12 PM on February 22, 2017

I think that the guests who complained, or even bothered to mention it, are shockingly out-of-touch. Wow.

But, if you want to get something beyond some lovely local fruit, a selection of Mexican candies is a great idea.
posted by quince at 11:08 PM on February 22, 2017 [6 favorites]

One more: you could make mini muffins with local fruit or whatever and freeze them, thaw for use.
posted by vunder at 11:14 PM on February 22, 2017

Definitely See's Candy. Check if your employer participates in the discount program
posted by amapolaroja at 12:14 AM on February 23, 2017

I'd still recommend (unusual) fruit for international guests. California fruit is still amazing to me as a Londoner and I would be psyched to find a basket of pomelos and avocados in an LA airbnb!
posted by corvine at 1:38 AM on February 23, 2017

Just leave out a small bowl of Mexican candy. If you want to be fancy, you can get a custom stamp of your apartmetn brand on Etsy for about $12 and you can stamp a bag to leave it in instead of a bowl. You can also leave two postcards for the property on the table with the candy. That would be a nice guest experience and the cost would be be well under $1.50 per stay.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:04 AM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

See's candy, individually wrapped and just a few pieces, sounds great to me. Sometimes I leave the lollipops out at work and they're gone in a split second.
posted by BibiRose at 4:51 AM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Fruit-filled empanadas from a Mexican bakery.
posted by mama casserole at 6:26 AM on February 23, 2017

I think you should have a theme. For example my airbnb is in the woods so I leave ingredients for people to make their own huckleberry pancakes.

My partner asks his California clients to send him care packages from Trader Joe's because we don't have one here and he loves Trader Joe's. Do they have single serving breakfast ideas like oatmeal or breakfast cereal? How about set up a breakfast cereal bar with a couple healthy choices but also single servings of Lucky Charms or other junk breakfast for the lolz. I don't know if you have a fridge for milk & almond milk?

What about a gourmet coffee center? with dark chocolate and also Mexican candy for decoration? You could do one serving size coffee beans with dark chocolate from Traders for under $5 per guest.

Personally I would love fresh fruit with info about the farmer's market. What about fresh fruit at the breakfast station?
posted by cda at 6:30 AM on February 23, 2017

Is it guests saying fruit is boring, or is it your friends?

As an east-coaster, one of the main reasons I want to visit Southern California sometime is the famously amazing produce. I would be fucking delighted to find fresh local (or local-ish) fruit in an airbnb in LA.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:34 AM on February 23, 2017 [7 favorites]

I would also love the fruit, so your guests are weird. But, I would find it amusing if you left an avocado and some nice bakery bread (sliced and frozen would be fine) given that 1. you have good, cheap avocados in CA, and 2. avocado toast is such a cliche (but is totally delicious).
posted by snaw at 7:36 AM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Former Westsider here who had many visitors from multiple countries - they all want to visit In n Out and see surfing. In n Out has coffee mugs around 5$. Something they can use while there and take home. And some people will leave behind. Their company store has sales. Vans on Washington Blvd usually has cute less than 5$ keychains and such. eBay probably has some unused ones as well.

I'd hesitate to give wine - guests may invite kids under 21. I'd also hesitate to give chocolate and nuts. Too many people with allergies.
posted by Lil Bit of Pepper at 8:32 AM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Jars of mole or other sauces left in the kitchen would be great--is there a kitchen?--including things like salsas and those small tins of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (they're like 59 cents at some shops and are delicious to cook with). Maybe leave out a recipe card or two for simple dishes that use these sauces, or just invite people to take them home.

Seconding avocados, especially since you have access to many more varieties than the standard Hass that most people are used to seeing. How many visitors from wintery lands have ever seen a Bacon, or a Zutano?

I also think of the fruits that can be easy to get in LA but not in colder places. Cherimoyas, fresh farmers' market dates (again, of several varieties other than the usual medjool), feijoa/pineapple guava, .... the list goes on and on. Maybe even leave a card telling what everything is and how to eat it so people who've never seen something like a feijoa know what to do with it!
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:09 AM on February 23, 2017

Are you SURE the comment about the fruit being "just like a hotel" meant that negatively? If I were reviewing an Airbnb and said something was just like a hotel, I'd mean it a positive way (unless it was like, the ice machine in the hallway kept me up all night). I think you're doing more than enough already given the price of a night at your place, but I think the Mexican candy suggestion is a good one. It's cheaper and more shelf-stable than fresh fruit.
posted by kate blank at 9:12 AM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

See's Candy, King Kelly Orange Jelly, and Ranch Style Beans are all pretty much unavailable and mostly unknown on the East Coast, as far as I can tell.

I'd go with fresh fruit or a nice avocado, still.
posted by blnkfrnk at 9:55 AM on February 23, 2017

nthing avocados. My out of state guests are always amazed that avocados grow on trees here. Also, is Kings Hawaiian bread widely available out of state? If not, go with that, too.
posted by bluejayway at 12:12 PM on February 23, 2017

Kings Hawaiian bread is a staple of grocery stores in Ohio.
posted by mmascolino at 12:29 PM on February 23, 2017

Small jars of jam or marmalade from E. Waldo Ward, the oldest in the Southland and still family run. Bonus: you can visit their retro factory/store to sample flavors.
posted by Scram at 3:30 PM on February 23, 2017

Stealing from above: In-N-Out mug filled with an assortment of TJ's, Mexican, and See's candy. I vote lollipops. And probably an unusual avocado. People love avocados.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:10 PM on February 23, 2017

See's Candy? Ew. And I think that's boring, but I guess my localness is showing.

Even if it's no froo-froo, grown-here-local, a mixed bowl of individually wrapped, fun-size ethnic snacks would be my take on it. (Yay diversity in LA!) You can go both Latin and Asian pretty easily, and get a mix of sweet, savory, and sweet-savory treats.

Trader Joes can also be plundered for similar bizarre-ish snacks. I gravitate toward the "new items" endcap when I want to try something out of the ordinary.
posted by itesser at 1:37 AM on February 24, 2017

Goodies from Trader Joes for sure.
posted by SassHat at 3:59 PM on February 24, 2017

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