How to Plan an Epic Dinner Party on Any Budget, According to a Chef

Whether you have $25, $100, or $1,000 to spend on your next get-together, here's your plan of attack.

Planning an epic dinner party doesn't have to break the bank. In fact, professional baker Vallery Lomas, author of Life Is What You Bake It, has the perfect recipe for an impressive dinner party for four—even if you only have $25 to spend. "No matter what your price point, a little bit of planning makes sure that it's delicious," she says.

In this episode of Play Money, Lomas gives you a plan of attack for a perfect dinner party on a $25, $100, and $1,000 budget.

Under $25 Dinner Party

For under $25, Lomas keeps it simple—a tasty mushroom risotto, some roasted asparagus, and a glass of wine for each guest, from the bottle she opened for her risotto. "Trader Joe's Two-Buck Chuck is a great value," she says. "When you're cooking, you don't have to worry about if a wine is super tasty, but I had a glass—and who's going to turn down wine?"

If this is your budget, she suggests saying yes if your guests offer to bring something. "Welcome just about anything to add to the meal," she says. "Dessert would be awesome, or another bottle of wine."

$100 Dinner Party

With this budget, you can get a little fancier, and add in some more courses. Lomas starts with olives for guests to munch on when they arrive, and an arugula salad with goat cheese, walnuts, and pomegranate seeds for a first course. Stuffed Cornish hens with parsley potatoes and green beans is the main course, with lemon pound cake for dessert. (And there's a bottle of pinot noir, too!)

To keep this meal under budget, Lomas buys the walnuts from the bulk section, so she doesn't have to buy a whole (pricey) pound. But at this price point, Lomas doesn't feel like she's skimping. "A hundred dollars is all you need to throw a nice dinner party and even have wine."

$1,000 Dinner Party

Lomas kicks off this high-end dinner party in high style with a bottle of good champagne to set the tone for the evening. She pairs Spanish jamon Iberico with melon, for a perfect salty-and-sweet appetizer.

For the main course, she went for Wagyu beef, weighing in at $175 a pound. "It's marbled with so much fat, which makes it a lot easier to cook and harder to screw up," Lomas says. She cooks that in a hot cast iron skillet, seasoned with a little bit of salt and pepper.

On the side, she serves scalloped potatoes, which she made in advance to make her party easier, broccolini, and a good bottle of Syrah.

For dessert, she opted for a saffron and vanilla bean panna cotta, topped with vanilla bean whipped cream, and port wine and espresso to finish off the evening.

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