How to Speak Southern

Dining on a Dime — How to Throw a Dinner Party for $70 or Less — And a GIVEAWAY!

January 23, 2014

Happy Thursday beeches! Thank goodness for short weeks.

I am SO EXCITED about this blog post. Even more, in fact, than I was about this one when I finally found my booties. So you can imagine sleeping last night was not really on the menu — I woke up this morning haunted by a dream that I cracked my front tooth in half, but that’s neither here nor there…

Two weekends ago I hosted my most successful dinner party to date. I invited 10 of our best friends to fulfill a few objectives:

1. Test out a few scrumptious recipes using my new favorite olive oil, Benissimo Oil

2. Prepare and amaze my friends and husband with the ultimate dining experience for under $70

2. Use the fabulous china and dining accessories that Wilson and I received for our wedding

3. Prove to my friends and readers that I am the next Ina Garten and the quintessential Southern hostess

My obsession with the Barefoot Contessa is REAL y’all.

Anywho, to prepare for my bomb-ass dinner party I set the budget at $70, which included an appetizer, main dish, one side and a dessert, in addition to two bottles of wine for my guests to imbibe. This is a tall order for $70 these days, so I got crafty. Careful meal planning and recipe choosing is always crucial when on a tiny budget.

A good way to save money when throwing a dinner party is to look for a recipe that uses ingredients that you already have in your pantry. Buying different spices can add up quickly — McCormick’s needs to get over themselves — so reviewing the recipe to see if it calls for things you already have in stock is a good way to cut corners. I chose this recipe for Shrimp Scampi from Gourmet magazine featured on Epicurious. It only calls for 10 ingredients — I never make anything with a ton of ingredients, takes away from my drinking — and I already had fresh garlic, white wine, salt, red pepper flakes and flat leaf parsley so it was an obvious choice. Also pasta dishes are great for feeding a large group of people — just one big pot, love that — so my party of 10 was guaranteed a full and happy stomach.

Another good tip is planning your meal around your local grocery store’s weekly specials. Gratuitously for me, fresh shrimp was on special at Harris Teeter that week and I purchased two pounds for $25. I bought the appetizer, remaining pasta ingredients, flowers and salad and dessert contents from Trader Joe’s for a total of $26. Cheap and always tasty, Trader Joe’s constantly rocks my world. I bought two decent bottles of malbec at Total Wine for $16. Boom.

Tablescape 3

 The beautiful table set for a feast. That candle is a little crooked. 


I used one bunch of hydrangeas and a half dozen roses to create my centerpieces. Arranging low, smaller centerpieces cuts costs and encourages better dinner conversation. There’s nothing worse than trying to talk to someone with a big vase of flowers smack in your face. The middle silver vase is an antique rose holder I received as a wedding gift — I love it! The silver pieces on the side are mint julep cups Wilson collected growing up. He started early.

Table up close


Wine glass

Brooke and Brooks

Friendly people enjoying their appetizers and libations.

Girls laughing

Delicious bread and oils along with other assorted appetizers whet the guests’ palates.


I bought a round piece of focaccia bread from Trader Joe’s, cut it in half and spread pesto on each half. In a preheated oven of 375 degrees, I put the wheel of bread in the oven for 8-10 minutes to lightly toast the bread and then cut it into pieces for dipping into the Benissimo Balsamic Vinegar and Mediterranean Olive Oil. Super easy, smelled wonderful and everyone thought I put in a LOT more effort than I actually did. Perfect.


Salad 2

I made a rustic salad of arugula, heirloom tomatoes, cannelloni beans and crumbled goat cheese to serve as a side. If you call something “rustic” then it is completely chic and epicurean and not just big chunks of shit thrown together haphazardly. I tossed it with a combination of the Benissimo Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil and finished with freshly cracked black pepper and sea salt. Ina would be so proud.

Salad up close

Shrimp 2

Cooking the shrimp scampi took a total of five minutes — right up my alley. Boiling the water was the longest part of the process. Here I am sauteing the shrimp in the olive oil.


After removing the lightly sauteed shrimp — they are hiding in that yellow bowl — I made the delicious pasta sauce and then added the shrimp back in.

Shrimp and pasta

Once the sauce was finished, I dumped it in the pasta and voila! The sexiest shrimp scampi materialized right before my very eyes.

Anna and Men

Handsome men helping me in the kitchen. Wilson, you should be worried.


Handsome men ready to feast.


Lovely ladies ready to feast. The one far right needs a spray tan STAT.

Cute Wilson

My view at the dinner table. Doesn’t get any better than that.

Recently engaged

These are my newly engaged friends B and Betsy. They are full and happy.

Balsamic glaze

For dessert, I made a delicious balsamic glaze and drizzled it over the ice cream with strawberries.

Ice cream and balsamic glaze

Ice cream



No dinner party is complete without Veuve. My friend and party guest Allie commented recently that my blood is made of champagne. I wonder what blood type that makes me.

As a bonus for being an SST reader and because Benissimo is awesome, I am partnering with them to do my very first giveaway! Enter below using Rafflecopter for a chance to win a bottle of Benissimo Mediterranean Garlic Olive Oil and Barrel Aged Balsamic Vinegar. To enter, please follow me on Instagram @silverspoontaste and also Like Benissimo Olive Oils on Facebook. If you already do one or both of these things, don’t worry you are still eligible to win. You must be 18 or older to win and they only ship within the U.S. If you are younger than 18 you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog anyway because I curse too much and encourage alcoholic beverages far too often. And apologies to my non-U.S. friends.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*All of the opinions in the post are my own. Regardless of if Benissimo sponsored a giveaway on the blog or not I’d still use the products, so put that in your pipe and smoke it.

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