Wine-Lovers Italian Dinner Party
by Stephen Versen
Throwing a dinner party on a budget doesn't mean you have to skip all the things that are important to you: fresh, organic veggies; supporting cool, locally owned businesses; or copious amounts of good wine. While box wines are alluringly cheap, they can ruin your dinner party and your reputation, so I spent more than half my budget on a $27 three-liter box of Powers Syrah from River City Cellars. Certainly not the cheapest wine out there, but arguably among the best values. The equivalent of four bottles of wine, or 20 glasses, this will help put the party into your dinner party.
- Powers Syrah From River City Cellars
- Organic Salad Greens With Shaved Parmesan and Vinaigrette
- Penne à la Vodka; Baguette From Can Can Brasserie
- Grab the $2 baguette from Can Can Brasserie, the best bread bargain in town.
- High-quality salad greens from the farmers' market make a classy (and cheap) salad on their own, with little needed to accompany them.
- Base a meal for eight around two $1.50 boxes of pasta.
- Use the same block of cheese for the salad and the pasta.
- Use Svedka vodka, very good for the price. Quality vodka is a must.
- Check out the South of the James Farmers' Market in Forest Hill Park. Lots of good vendors, but I recommend Victory Farms.
by Debi Shawcross
My menu offers a casual, do-it-yourself taco bar, with recipes that are economical and easy to make ahead, with some store-bought items as well. Black beans on the menu make it vegetarian-friendly, too. I was able to include a dessert by using pantry staples like flour, sugar and eggs. This menu provides a pre-dinner cocktail, with the option of asking friends to bring their favorite Mexican beer. For those not interested in serving alcohol, this menu will come in at $36.23! For those who do, the bill came in at $42.61.
- Cinnamon Cookie Crisps
- Frozen Lime-Cup Tequila Shooters
- Shredded Mojito Chicken Soft Tacos and Black Beans With Peppers and Tomatoes
- The esteemed Costco $5 rotisserie chicken: by far the best in value in town.
- Limit the number of ingredients needed for recipes.
- I used part of the OJ I bought in the marinade, and the rest in the cocktail mixer.
- Make your own tortilla chips. Cut corn tortillas into triangles, fry in oil and salt. They are way better than store-bought chips at a fraction of the cost.
- Use pantry staples as much as possible (i.e., the flour, sugar and milk in my cookie recipe).
- Offer one premium cocktail and ask your guests to bring a favorite Mexican beer.
Indigenous Southern Comfort Food
by Jason Tesauro
A U.S. Grant for eight people means a whopping $6.25 per person, which probably equates to rice, beans or pasta for most home cooks, but I wanted to squeeze some meat into the menu. A 5.4-pound Smithfield pork loin was on sale for $10.75 at Food Lion. Throw in bags of potatoes, celery and carrots, and that's an oven full of yummies. Turned out to be a $50 feast complete with three days of leftovers. I spent more time on the iPhone checking out reviews of $15 box/jug wine than I did picking the pig, but hey. I used a generous bit of the wine to marinate the pork overnight, too.
- Shrimp Spring Rolls With Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce
- Banana Pudding Parfait
- Burgundy-Marinated Pork Loin Seared and Roasted With Mirepoix
- Sangria is a crowd-pleaser … and it turns a box into a belle.
- Make your own focaccia out of pizzeria dough. A large dough from Mary Angela's will set you back about $3.
- If you must skimp on ingredients, don't skimp on presentation. We used the fine linens, china and glassware so that it didn't feel depressing even if it was a Depression-era, belt-tightening theme.
- Friends always bring booze. This infallible home entertain-ing tenet saves 20 percent.
- Tan-A is a killer spot for inexpensive produce and fresh shrimp for $5 per pound (really, it wasn't frozen).