Don't get us wrong: We know fine food can come at a price. But leave it to Michel Nischan, the chef behind Dressing Room restaurant of Westport, Conn., and the president of the non-profit Wholesome Wave, to serve up a first rate, seasonal dinner at the down-home price of $4.50 per person.
And who was dining? About 800 movers and shakers at the Partnership for a Healthier America's summit here in Washington, D.C. With the First Lady Michelle Obama as honorable chair, the PHA is enlisting big retailers — from Hyatt Hotels to Walmart to restaurant chains — to help stamp out obesity.
Earlier this year, I reported that the First Lady convinced Darden Restaurants, which owns Olive Garden and Red Lobster, to cut calories and sodium in its dishes. It's all part of a vision of a retail landscape where consumers have lots of healthful, affordable food choices.
To further prove that restaurants (and home chefs) can cook up healthful, easy meals on the cheap, Nischan took to the stove last night.
"You don't need to do much to make great ingredients taste good," Nischan told The Salt as he prepared a chopped herb salad. He was joined by chef Floyd Cardoz of North End Grill in New York City, who served up some of his own favorite recipes with a reality-check budget.
Now, Nischan is no stranger to posh nosh. If we'd been dining at his restaurant last night our options would have included a $23 locally-raised chicken served with foraged mushrooms and brandy cherry reduction, a $17 spicy lobster and mussel stew or a $12 beet trio salad. Yep, it all sounds fabulous.
But here are some tips that helped him pull off the much more affordable three-course menu for PHA. It included an ancient grain risotto with autumn vegetables and an herb salad with mustard vinaigrette for under $5 per person.