We love dinner parties because they let us catch up with old friends (and let them catch up with each other, and maybe even set them up with each other) in a more intimate setting than a bar or restaurant. There's something about passing around trays of food at a family-style dinner that gives us a warm, tingly feeling. Plus, cooking a meal yourself will make you feel like a bona fide Julia Child.
Read below for out plan on how to throw a ten-person dinner party, including wine, for $75. Of course, you can always make this a potluck, which will divide your cost even further. The plan:
Determine The Supplies You'll Need.
For that, we like this handy food and beverage calculator from Real Simple. It will tell you exactly how many pounds of ice, bottles of wine, and even drink garnishes you'll need. Save on ice runs later on by freezing about ten trays of ice a few days before the party.
Decorations: Place Settings.
No need to buy flowers: Adorn your table with a bowl of fruit or summer vegetables (which you can eat on your own, later). If you have access to a garden, pluck a few leaves and attach them to simple note cards with your guests' names, for a summery flair. If you have a colorful set of dish towels, spread each towel lengthwise over the narrower part of your table to serve as a shared place mat between two people sitting across from each other. Otherwise, don't be shy about repurposing a pretty quilt as a tablecloth.
If you’re lucky enough to live near a Trader Joe’s, try Charles Shaw label (nicknamed “Two Buck Chuck,” though in some states it may run you a whole three bucks), which is made from surplus wine bought in bulk. For more ideas, check out our top rosé wines under $10, and how to drink wine on the cheap...without drinking cheap wine. Cost for nine bottles, after tax: about $20
Signature Cocktail: Breezy White Sangria.
If you'd prefer a signature cocktail or don't live near Trader Joe's, make a breezy white sangria. Take two bottles of inexpensive Pinot Grigio, and add a liter of ginger ale (or seltzer/diet sprite) and half a container of orange juice to the wine. Slice up two or three apples, strawberries (one package) and a grapefruit. Cost: about $25
Starter: Baby Greens With Grapefruit Vinaigrette.
Juice one grapefruit into a medium mixing bowl. Add four tablespoons of Dijon mustard. Using a whisk, slowly add one cup of olive oil to achieve an emulsion. Salt and pepper to taste. Add salad greens to mixing bowl and toss. Cost: $11*
Main Event: Fettuccine Carbonara.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. (It should taste like sea water.) Add fettuccine and peas. Boil until pasta is al dente. Using a ladle, reserve two cups of the pasta water when straining. Dice pancetta. Using two large sauté pans, add pancetta and cook over medium heat until fat renders. Divide pasta between each sauté pan and add one cup of cooked pasta to each. Toss to evenly distribute the pancetta. Turn off heat and add four whole eggs to each pan. Quickly stir to break egg yolks throughout the pasta. Stirring keeps the eggs from scrambling. Add grated parmesan, a knob of butter, salt and pepper to taste. Cost: $30*
Dessert: Strawberry Parfait.
In a martini glass, add three ounces of vanilla yogurt, sliced strawberries, and honey. Garnish with a pinch of kosher salt. For the nibblers, buy a couple bars of dark chocolate and break them up into segments, or set out a platter of Hershey's chocolate kisses. Cost: about $13*
Total: about $75*
As Julia would say, bon appetit!
*Assuming you already have kosher salt, pepper, butter and olive oil.
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