There are three key elements to hosting a successful dinner party: Good food, good wine, and ambiance. It used to be that when we had friends over even for the most casual of dinner parties, I’d go all out and make a dinner with multiple dishes, multiple wines, an appetizer, and dessert. While I get lots of oohs and aahs, it was a lot of work and quite costly.
What I have discovered recently is that it’s just as easy to dazzle without spending a fortune and hours in the kitchen. The way to do it is an upscale pizza party, such as one I hosted last night.
The food: I slightly altered the Shaved Asparagus Pizza from Smitten Kitchen. I used a Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough to
because I am lazy, ehem to make it a bit healthier and also used a bit of pizza sauce. We skipped appetizers, and I found that each pizza fed approx. 3 people for dinner. For dessert, we had chocolates we had recently been given as a gift. Another tip for keeping dinner party costs down, allow you guests to bring dessert if they ask if they can bring anything!
Total cost per pizza: $1.29 for pizza dough + $3 for asparagus + $3.99 for mozzarella cheese + $4.99 for parmesan cheese =$13.27
The wine: Good wine can often be a budget buster for us Beemer girls who have grown accustomed to drinking Dad’s Silver Oak. However, taking the time to go to a specialty wine store and asking for recommendations or looking at the specials can help discover hidden gems under $20. For instance, with our pizza, I served Maia Lina Chianti that I recently purchased at K & L Wine Merchants, my “go to” for wine recommendations, both in-store and online.
The ambiance: Great ambiance can be created easily with a simple flower arrangement and tea lights if you have already invested in decent sets of wine glasses and dishes. Many twenty-somethings use hand-me-downs from their parents and mismatched wine glasses. But truly, a set of Riedel stemless wineglasses instantly makes a party more Beemer than one where your guests are drinking out of souvenir glasses from your sorority’s formal. Department stores often have them on sale, and they are definitely worth the splurge. As for dishware I am a big fan of plain white dishes that can be dressed up with different color napkins, placemats, and glasses depending on the occasion. Again, they aren’t as expensive as you might think, and Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, and even Crate & Barrell have sets on sale all the time.
Cost for ambiance: $8 for two bouquets at Trader Joe’s