Food & Wine magazine April 2012

Splurge or Save? Food and Wine Offers Dinner Party Menus for Any Budget

Food & Wine magazine April 2012You might not want to spend a fortune on your next dinner party, but Food & Wine is making sure that even the most affordable spread doesn’t lack in class and flavor.

Food & Wine magazine catches flak sometimes for the overindulgent lifestyle it’s assumed to promote. And while there is some truth to that assumption, the magazine regularly features some surprisingly accessible content as well.

Maybe it’s a sign of the current economic times or an attempt to reach a wider base of readers, but one of the more impressive articles I’ve seen in recent issues is “The Ultimate High-Low Pairing Guide” featured in April’s wine issue.

Even if you don’t have big bucks, you can celebrate your sweetie or toast close friends by hosting a fabulous dinner party—and not just because it’s the thought that really counts. Thanks to Food & Wine’s guide, whether you’ve got $50 or $100, a delicious meal—with wine—is within reach.

Food & Wine’s test kitchen offered up “high” and “low” versions of appetizers and main courses in the seafood, pasta, lamb and beef categories, paired with a pricey or more inexpensive version of complementary wine.

On the high end, the beef tenderloin sautéed in Chinese five-spice powder served over watercress and drizzled with a vinaigrette of soy sauce, red wine vinegar, ginger and lemongrass will run you $64 for six servings. Add that to the $80 bottle of 2008 Robert Craig Howell Mountain Cabernet from Napa, and you’ve got a $144 dinner party.

If that’s not in the budget, Food & Wine says you can still impress for less than half the cost. Braise a less-expensive beef chuck—which will make it tender—in garlic, soy sauce and Chinese five spice powder, and serve over a bed of rice noodles and a stew of onion, red pepper, carrots, lemongrass and anise.

That comes to $40 for six servings, a savings of more than one-third when compared to the high option. Uncork a bottle of 2009 Shannon Ridge Cabernet from one of California’s lesser-known wine regions. At just $19 a bottle, it’s a fraction of the cost of the pricey Napa cabernet. All told, this deliciously affordable spread is $59.

Food & Wine details three more scenarios, pairing chardonnay with a shrimp appetizer, a zinfandel with lamb and a pinot noir with pasta. Each pairing features two options depending on whether you want to splurge or save. It’s up to you!