Ted Allen is best-known for his role as the foodie on Bravo's "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," as well as his stint as a judge on "Top Chef," where he was a big fan of Atlanta's Richard Blais. Allen's an entertaining guru and a prolific author. He visited Atlanta a few weeks ago as a brand ambassador for Robert Mondavi Private Selection wines. We used the opportunity to ask him for advice on cheapo holiday entertaining. Here are some of his tips for making it feel lavish even when your bank account ain't:
FOR A HOLIDAY PARTY: "Make your party a potluck; assign dishes to friends, and especially parcel out beverages, which can really run up your bill."
ON HOLIDAY BOOZE: "If you're accustomed to pouring Champagne, try an affordable, delicious domestic, such as Chandon or Scharffenberger; or, to really reduce your bubbly bill, go with an inexpensive Italian prosecco or Spanish cava. There also are a number of good quality wineries using the much disparaged box for cheaper, more environmentally friendly packaging. You can hide the box in the kitchen and serve wine from carafes. For cocktail hour, it is cheaper to offer one featured drink – a punch, say – than it is to stock a full bar."
FOR HOLIDAY DINNER: "Some of the most flavorful and delicious cuts of meat are the least expensive. Pork shoulder is a delicious cut and is very easy to cook, just allow yourself plenty of roasting time – I'm talking four to six hours – and carve it in the kitchen because it's not the most pretty piece of meat. Or, of course, stick with the tried-and-true turkey, which is a great value. Just be sure to order it ahead of time so you don't have to pay a premium at the last minute."
GIFT AND WRAPPING IDEAS: "Food gifts are a great way to tighten the budget. A jar of homemade jam or chutney is a lot more personal than a gift certificate, and, if made in bulk, can cost very little. Ditto homemade pickles, fudge, cookies, etc.; the trick is to wrap them attractively, using something clever like Chinese food containers, butcher paper, raffia, cotton string with vintage-looking price tags from the Container Store, that sort of thing."