the nitty gritty on the second dinner

I’d been getting some feedback after the first meal we did for the University District Food Bank, and while most of it was positive, a few people were wondering if $50/person was a bit on the expensive side for what was supposed to be the cost of a “normal” meal at a favorite restaurant.

Totally fair question. Depending on what you’re used to, $50 for a meal (food+beverage+tax+tip) might seem like a lot, not that much, or just right. And it definitely has me thinking of the kinds of meals we can put on that might be a bit more affordable for more people. As I mentioned in an early post, the idea with this effort is to create an act of giving out of an expenditure that would have happened anyway so that it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. If the meal is too expensive, that defeats the purpose.


On the other hand, I do want these meals to be special… something where the diners can look back and think “hey, that was a pretty good deal,” or, if I’m really lucky, something like “wow, I can’t believe what we got to eat for that price…” We’ll definitely be experimenting with different formats for some of the future meals (more people, more casual/communal food, different setting)… but in light of all this, we knocked the price of this meal down to $40/person (tax deductible, I might add, since the contributions were made directly to the charity by each person). For now though, the eight-person multi-course meal seems to be working pretty well.

How well? I’ve done the calculations, and we raised (insert drumroll…) $900 for Northwest Harvest!

How did we get to $900?

Out of the eight diners, we had five whose contributions were matched by employers. Three of those people ended up contributing $50/person instead of the requested $40/person (no protest here), and one diner didn’t have alcohol, so his share was only $30. That’s $440 right there. The other three contributed $40/person without employer matching, adding another $120 for a total of $560.

But wait, there’s more.


I submitted the idea for the dinner to’s “24 Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Blogs” event for November, and our idea was selected. As a part of the selection, they gave us a $300 stipend once the blog post was published on my other blog. I used that $300 to pay the cost of the ingredients for the meal, and the rest was donated to Northwest Harvest.

Our ingredients cost $130; the additional donation of $170 was matched by my employer… bringing us to a grand total of $900.

The Foodbuzz boost was definitely key because unlike the first dinner, we had a lower percentage of company matching and the cost per person was also lower. We were able to manage overall costs really well, even with the purchase of mostly local, organic and sustainably farmed ingredients. Here’s the breakdown of the shopping list:

First course ($10.00)
celery $0.50
fennel $2
apple $1
beets $2
quail eggs $1.50
shallot $1
gruyere $1
swiss chard $0.50
1 strip of bacon $0.50

Second course ($7.25)
romanesco cauliflower $6
anchovy $1
garlic $0.25

Third course ($13.50)
riccioli $5
mussels $4 (half of a 2 lb. bag)
parsley $1
garlic $0.50
pecorino romano $2
olive oil $1

Fourth course ($43)
4 lbs short ribs $31
onion $1
garlic $0.50
celery $0.50
carrots $0.50
1 bottle red wine (a gift from a dinner party several months ago)
broth $2.00
star anise $0.50
parsnip $1
jerusalem artichoke $2
chanterelles $3
sage $1

fifth course ($14)
molly moon ice cream $5
almond lace cookie ingredients $3
chocolate cake ingredients $6

beverages and misc ($41)
Dom. Ste. Michelle Sparkling Blanc de Blanc $10
2006 Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine Lirac $12
2006 Chono Syrah Elqui Valley $10
cocktails $5
Columbia City Bakery Pain de Campagne $4
misc. seasonings and oil $1-2

The biggest expenses definitely came from the pasture-raised, grass-fed short ribs (but so worth it). The best deal was the wine. Both the lirac and the syrah were amazing wines for the price… thank you Seattle Wine Outlet and North Berkeley Wine Imports!


I’ll be putting up a final post on this meal sometime in the next few days that will have 1 or 2 recipies from the dishes we created that evening. In the meantime, if you know of any local stores who have great deals on things like produce, seasonings/spices, wine, etc., please share!


~ by jak on December 3, 2008.

2 Responses to “the nitty gritty on the second dinner”

  1. Sounds like you do an amazing job.
    As for the diners… what if they think about it this way – They pay $30 or $40 for the meal and donate the extra $20-$10 for the unique experience or the sake of pure philanthropy?

  2. hey j&l, it’s miriam, connie’s friend. she told me about what you were doing and i almost cried because i thought was so beautiful! congrats and keep on posting! the pictures are mouth-watering!!!

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