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What to make for a fancy summer dinner

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I am hosting a dinner for 12 people for a charity. I'm a new board member and want to bring new members to my organization. I'm a pretty good cook and am charging $50/person for the meal. Twelve people are willing to come. I want to make a nice dinner without spending a fortune and need some ideas for a main dish, besides bbq chicken. Any ideas?

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  1. Frankly, IMO, if you're charging $50 a head and you don't know what you're going to offer you're already in over your head. For fifty bucks I'd offer Chateaubriand.

    A seafood appetizer (shrimp, scallops)
    Caesar Salad
    Chateaubriand
    Banana Foster

    1 Reply
    1. re: todao

      It's for charity. The people attending know they are not getting a $50 dinner! In fact, I think they want to know that most of their $50 will go for the cause, not into their stomach. Use some elegant ingredients, but also lots of "fillers" so a little goes a long way. Escondido has a good idea.

    2. Grilled meats...Beef, Lamb or Pork Tenderloin.

      Seafood, Shrimp or Grilled Fish

      Grilled Vegetables

      A Japanese Yakatori or Middle Eastern Kabob themed menu

      1. I would go for a Frenchish menu. I saw a wonderful tart made with strips of vegetables--eggplant, zucchini etc stacked vertically--and it would make a stunning first course. Then for a main, what about poached chicken breast with a tarragon lemon sauce, roasted baby tomatoes and roasted baby potatoes. For dessert, a summer fruit clafouti with whipped cream.

        1 Reply
        1. re: escondido123

          Off the top of my head cold Salmon Wellington for an appetiser.

        2. I often serve vichyssoise for fancy summer dinners--I have some pretty glass bowls in bowls (made for shrimp cocktail, I think) so I can put crushed ice in the bottom. It's inexpensive to make compared to meat/seafood dishes, but very elegant and everyone loves it.

          Another option might be some kind of aspic--maybe a seafood, since you're a good cook.

          Would definitely not do BBQ chicken if you want it fancy! You could maybe do poussin, maybe done with white wine, garlic and rosemary to keep them light, if you wanted to do poultry. I'd probably do something with fruit for dessert as well.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Transplant_DK

            totally agree with vichyssoise, as it is a classic, great for summer and cheap. Or you could do a refined gazpacho.

            To me, nothing says fancy summer dinner more than brochettes. Also a deconstructed ratatouille salad or ratatouille-inspired tart might be nice.

          2. I'm not sure what you mean by "fancy", but what about serving foods they're all very familiar with but the absolute best of those foods they've ever had? They'll remember that meal far more than they will foods they've never heard of nor know how to pronounce.

            I think wowing someone with flavors and textures goes much further than serving them with foods that sound elusive on a menu in an attempt to make the cook look good. I don't mean this in a mean-spirited way at all. I mean this in a very matter of fact manner. One of the best cooks and leaders I've ever met in my entire life had this attitude toward food and I learned it from him. At the time, he was the Executive Chef at a particular Ritz-Carlton. He insisted on this approach towards ever thing that the entire hotel served. After learning this from him I then saw why the food and beverage department at this particular Ritz-Carlton was so successful.

            Familiar foods can be served in very classy ways. Something to consider . . .

            1. just make sure that you use whatever is in season!! what about starting with a chilled soup(gazpacho or zuchini), move on with a watermelon feta salad with tomatoes...then perhaps a summer pasta(pesto or caprese style comes to mind) and what about flank steak grilled or smoked pork, maybe with a side of grilled peaches...and for dessert definately strawberry shortcake or blueberry pavlova....you could even go with a sorbet made of summer berries...elegant doesnt have to be expensive, simple is the most beautiful, and by using local produce you may just manage to keep your food costs down...remember, we eat with the eyes first, so your dinner can be as elegant as you want, you choose how to plate and dress the table!