October 01, 2003
Meetings & Conventions: Short Cuts October 2003 Current Issue
October 2003
Short Cuts:
Fancy, Yet Affordable

Impressive appetizers for tight budgets

"Food doesn’t have to be expensive to taste great,” says Steven Sumner, executive chef at Rancho Valencia Resort, a Relais & Chateaux property in Santa Fe, Calif. ( “The key is freshness and a good combination of flavors.” Consider the following elegant, affordable appetizers.

• Instead of sea scallops in the traditional puff pastry, serve the less-pricey bay scallops and pump up the flavor with shallots, onion and leeks.

• Creative vegetarian bites are ideal cost cutters. Sumner suggests baby artichokes stuffed with garlic and spinach. Or, shape wild mushrooms to resemble bite-size Hershey kisses wrapped in a phyllo dough. “Chanterelle and portabello mushrooms are higher-end, but by using them in small quantities, you get a better flavor for a third of the cost of serving them whole,” Sumner says.

• Organic products can transform a ho-hum vegetable tray into a colorful sensory treat, notes Christopher Blobaum, executive chef at Surf & Sand Resort in Laguna Beach, Calif. ( “Products grown in organic soil have bursts of flavor,” says Blobaum.

image • Another fabulous vegetarian option: heirloom tomatoes stuffed with a Spanish olive tapenade. For pennies more, substitute prosciutto and chives.

• “People go ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ when they see chefs at work at an action station,” says Blobaum. His low-cost suggestion: Grill baby vegetables, like leeks, or little griddle cakes made of wild mushrooms and risotto.

• Seafood can work well on any menu, insists Sumner. He uses imitation crab to create tasty fritters made with roasted corn and chilies. “It is one-third the cost of a crab cake, which is made of 95 percent crab,” he says.


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