So the saying goes :”champagne mouth and beer pocket” or in my homeland Barbados : ” champagne mouth and mauby pocket”. Mauby is a drink made from the bark of the tree with the same name. It is fairly popular throughout the Caribbean and like beer, is very inexpensive compared to champagne. I drink neither beer nor mauby, but I do drink Prosecco which I often refer to as Champagne’s cheaper Italian cousin so this is the drink I use for comparison.
The point I’m making is this post is about enjoying something very pricey without spending all your savings at once.
A couple nights ago I had dinner with family and friends at a fairly upscale osteria. The ambience was gorgeous with glass light shades housing Edison bulbs and tall glass vases with sheaths of wheat inside them not to mention an open faced floor to ceiling shelf housing an eclectic array of items from metal colanders to cook books reflecting the Italian cuisine they serve.
As we sipped and supped, and believe you me, we did, I thought to myself about the fact that I love food and love fine dining but my entire life mantra is to stick to a budget. I basically assessed the entire experience along with other previous similar ones and came up with some tips that a budget savvy individual might want to use.
The point of living life on a budget isn’t to always choose the cheapest option and deny yourself of enjoyable, meaningful experiences but rather to achieve what you want in the most cost effective way.
1) Eat the bread
Most dine-in restaurants will offer a complimentary bread basket. It can be as basic as sliced french bread or as varied as olive bread, cheese crusted bread etc. A few restaurants will devitae from bread and offer things like popcorn. But the point is…EAT IT.
Many times most persons will nibble at a piece and leave the rest behind, hoping not to ruin their appetite with empty calories but trust me the bread will fill you up and decrease the need for extra food. You may be able to skip an appetizer or avoid having to order a soup or salad if you fill up on that bread.
Olive bread- came with balsamic vinegar and olive oil to dip.
2) Make the most of appetizers
If you decide to order appetizers this can be where more savings come in. Most appetizer servings are now as large or in some cases larger than mains. You may want to order an appetizer and eat it as your main since it will be cheaper.
Another benifit to appetizers is the ability to share. For example our dinner party was comprised of eight persons and we had 3 appetizers between us. The combination of the bread and the appetizers left most of us almost full.
Tempura fried portobello mushrooms
Bruschetta with: tomato, prosciutto and pear with gorgonzola cheese
Tagliere with Prosciutto, salami, olives and cheeses.
3) Share your food
This was touched on in the previous tip but to reiterate the point, ordering something that can be spread among two or more persons is almost always more cost effective. This means selecting dishes that are easily shared such as pizza or large pasta dishes.
Seafood soup, easy to share
4) Have water
Just like the bread basket, most respectable restaurants offer complimentary, refillable glasses of water. DRINK IT! Ordering a fountain drink or juice will cost you especially if you go through more than one drink per meal. Just stick to the water.
5) Order the bottle
Most “fancy” meals are never complete without a glass of wine. We all know the alcohol sold in restaurants is always ridiculously marked up, however the wine gets cheaper with increased volume. If eight persons were to order a glass of wine each, it would have easily added up to more than an entire bottle from which you can get multiple servings.
6) Skip dessert
This is not a hard and fast rule (none of these are). If for example the restaurant is known for it’s desserts then it’s different, or if you are like my close friend Mark and totally addicted to sweet treats then go ahead.
I personally have found that no matter how good a restaurant is, the desserts are often just okay. There are usually limited to just 4 or 5 options and it’s either some kind of cake or some kind of ice cream. When I go to a fine dining restaurant I am going for the appetizers and mains. If I want desserts I go to a bakery.
Dessert- Ice cream with espresso
I hope my tips are useful to anyone planning a fine dining dinner experience and I hope you have an awesome day!