My New Year's Resolution is to Stop Procrastinating
December 30, 2011 11:04 AM   Subscribe

What is the best sparkling wine or champagne under 20 dollars? Also, I need help with a last-minute New Year's celebration.

What is the best inexpensive sparkling wine or champagne that I can buy at Walmart, grocery store, or chain liquor store?

Also, I need ideas for food.

One guest is bringing meatballs and Italian sausage in sauce and the other is bringing lemon cream cheese cupcakes. What are some hors d'oeuvres or finger food ideas to complement or fill in these items?

I have procrastinated. I'm cleaning my house and getting things in order and don't have a lot of time to make complicated recipes tomorrow. I just need some good food to throw on the table. Any ideas appreciated. There are three couples and six kids. I was thinking seven layer taco dip but what else? I also have no decorations! Any ideas appreciated.
posted by Fairchild to Food & Drink (42 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I like barefoot bubbly. The extra dry is good if you like not sweet. And I think it's rated well too.
posted by leahwrenn at 11:05 AM on December 30, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you leahwrenn. I bought Barefoot Bubbly (at least I bought one item) at grocery store the other day but my sister laughed at me. She was only kidding, I think. I'm glad you like it. I'll serve it but might need another bottle.
posted by Fairchild at 11:07 AM on December 30, 2011

Prosecco is a very nice sparkling wine, and most sells for under $20 a bottle.
posted by Dolley at 11:07 AM on December 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

Jaume Serra Cristalino Cava is rather cheap but quite nice.

Cava in general is a good (cheaper) alternative to Champagne.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:08 AM on December 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

Go for cava. Freixenet Vintage Especial should be within budget. Mumm Cuvée Napa Rosé is also worth a look in.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:13 AM on December 30, 2011

I agree, decent Cava or Prosecco is usually much cheaper than decent Champagne. Bonus, lots of people seem to actually like Prosecco more than Champagne, in my experience.
posted by ifjuly at 11:17 AM on December 30, 2011

if you want sweet, i suggest Risqué
posted by nadawi at 11:17 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is a hearty second for Admiral Haddock's suggestion of Cristalino Cava. It's pretty great. When my local liquor store stopped carrying it, I switched to Poema Cava, which I also quite like and is totally reasonable at ~$12/bottle.
posted by amelioration at 11:19 AM on December 30, 2011

Gruet makes a nice one. They have it at my Whole foods.
posted by mercredi at 11:20 AM on December 30, 2011

Fresh fruit and veggies are always a good thing to have on hand at parties. Add to that some flatbread and hummus type dips (that also go with vegetables).
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 11:21 AM on December 30, 2011

For less-dry sparkling California wines I really like the Korbel Chardonnay and Natural blends. I find them much tastier than Korbel's regular Brut, and they're usually like $10-12 at Safeway (a couple $ more than the Brut).
posted by zomg at 11:21 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd second the Toad Hollow Risqué. Sweet and affordable and has a bit of class. I could have had the whole bottle.
posted by advicepig at 11:23 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

My go-to bubbly for big parties is Domaine St Michelle extra dry. I don't know if it's readily available everywhere but out here in the Pacific NW it's $8 a bottle at the grocery store.

We recently served it at our wedding rehearsal and everyone raved about it. Not so dry like a brut, not too sweet like a dessert wine, really good amount of bubbles. And cheap!

We have tried the brut and blanc de blanc from this winery and didn't like them as much as the extra dry. Maybe just personal preference, but I thought there was a huge difference in the palatability.
posted by joan_holloway at 11:23 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

yeah, that reminds, Domaine Ste. Michelle's blanc de blancs and blanc de noirs are pretty good, really cheap, and available at places like Costco so I imagine other common spots too.
posted by ifjuly at 11:25 AM on December 30, 2011

Another vote for the Domaine Ste Michelle. It's our go-to bubbly.
posted by amarynth at 11:27 AM on December 30, 2011

Response by poster: So many good suggestions. I'll have to buy Cava for sure and maybe the Risque, too since they are so affordable. I saw the Domaine Ste Michelle. It's good to know it is decent. I appreciate all of the wine suggestions. I'll write them all down and see what I can find.

One of my guests is a chef and distributes gourmet food and wine. He might bring something but I'm not sure. I'm clueless when it comes to wine so this is very helpful. I want to make sure I have something nice on hand to please the people. I'll definitely make up a fruit salad and veggie platter.

Thank you so much for all of these suggestions!
posted by Fairchild at 11:35 AM on December 30, 2011

Here is a French sparkling wine that, to my palate, is close to Champagne. A lot less money, if you can find it.
posted by Danf at 11:39 AM on December 30, 2011

I might be biased, because I have a love for Prosecco so strong that some friends have taken to calling me "Bubbles," but yes, Prosecco is your answer. Cheaper than champagne and also quite tasty.

Cava if you must.
posted by sweetkid at 11:39 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Prosecco too! How could I forget. I want all of them.
posted by Fairchild at 11:45 AM on December 30, 2011

Six kids? If they're too little to drink cava, you'll want a couple of bottles of Martinelli's sparkling cider.

For low-prep hors d'oeuvres: cheese plate. One good sharp cheddar, one creamy like a Brie, and one interesting: a blue or smoked or goat cheese, depending on what you/your guests like. Carr's crackers are ubiquitous and delicious. Nut Thins too, if anyone is low-carb or can't eat wheat.
posted by clavicle at 11:48 AM on December 30, 2011

Domaine Chandon is hot among my friends (on several continents) and runs right around $20. I prefer Prosecco and Cava (and that Cristalino runs like $7 here and I like it just fine).

My go-to always-a-hit repeated-by-demand appetizer is this torte/torta. I make my cheese layers using a gallon zip-loc bag (you need the kind that is NOT pleated at the bottom, so get the cheap ones) with the tip cut off as a piping bag. Pipe in and spread smooth with the back of a soup spoon rubbed or spritzed in oil. You either need little spreading knives or a very firm cracker, I like Triscuits.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:03 PM on December 30, 2011

Casteller Cava. It blows most champagne away, and it's ~$15 btl.
posted by brand-gnu at 12:07 PM on December 30, 2011

Martini & Rossi's prosecco is very good.

Seconding a cheese plate. Here are some good tips: 1, 2

You can't go wrong with raw vegetables and a few dips. Ranch dressing can be classed up a bit with fresh herbs. Blue cheese dressing is also good, especially with grape or cherry tomatoes. Hummus is extra-easy if you buy pre-made.
posted by neushoorn at 12:15 PM on December 30, 2011

I just need some good food to throw on the table. Any ideas appreciated.

Cheese. Sausages. French bread. Carr's Table Water Crackers. If you want to get posh, open a jar of olive tapenade.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:17 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

The best bubbly I've had for under $20 was Gloria Ferrar Rose/Blanc de Noir -- I think you can also get the Brut at about the same price point, $12-17 depending on where in the US you are.

(Spec's Liquor in Texas: Brut is $12, Blanc de Noir is $16.41)

If you can afford it, the Domine Carneros Brut is $20/bottle at Spec's. It's tasty.

Korbel Brut is also fairly highly rated for a less expensive bottle, but there's a dramatic difference in taste as you go from the Korbel to the Gloria to the Carneros.
posted by SpecialK at 12:23 PM on December 30, 2011

My favorite is Tosti Asti, which gets a Best Buy rating from Wine & Spirits magazine this month. I get it from my local grocery store for about $12 a bottle.
posted by katemonster at 12:29 PM on December 30, 2011

Veuve du Vernay! I call it Veuve Cliquot's slutty little sister.

I spent 1999 buying and tasting cheep bubblies in anticipation not of the millennium but my 30th birthday. Veuve du Vernay's Brut was my favourite, and I liked it so much I served a case at my 40th, too. I've heard the Rosé is excellent, but haven't tried it.
posted by looli at 12:44 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

For food, I always go with cheese. So easy, so delicious. (Although admittedly kinda spendy.) Get a nice sharp cheddar, something creamy like brie or Camembert, something stinky like a Danish Blue or a Cambozola and a bunch of Vache Qui Rit or Baby Bells for the kids. Crackers and crusty bread. Grapes, apples, pears, nuts.

If you want to get fancy, buy a big cheap brie and bake it. You can wrap it in phyllo or puff pastry, too. Or top it with brown sugar and pecans, then bake. Or bake it plain, and bake several heads of garlic, then squeeze the garlic cloves on top of the brie and drizzle the whole thing with honey, or truffle honey if you want to knock it out of the park. Serve any of those with crusty baguette.

Shrimp ring? Who doesn't love a shrimp ring? Or some frozen puff pastry hors d'oeuvres.
posted by looli at 12:52 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

People will love you forever if you make Ina Garten's onion dip. IT'S AMAZING. Serve with fancy potato chips. People love fancy potato chips.

I also make deviled eggs for every holiday event and people LOVE THEM. Both the eggs and the dip are better after they've sat awhile, which is nice -- you can make them right away and forget 'em. Very retro, both, but also delicious.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 1:09 PM on December 30, 2011

Add me to the list of Risqué fans, and at $10/bottle it's well within your budget. In fact, I just picked up a half-dozen bottles for this evenings meetup!
posted by Runes at 1:20 PM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Countess Sandwich, I have made Ina's onion dip. It is delicious! Lyn Never, your torte recipe looks divine as do all of these suggestions. Thanks for all suggestions for a cheese plate. I love a cheese plate but unfortunately three of the six people that will be here could care less so I don't know if I want to spend that much for this party. looli, all of your food suggestions are right up my alley. I love baked brie and you are right, who doesn't love shrimp? So many great suggestions. I'm heading out the door in about 45 minutes to get my supplies. Thank you again to everyone.
posted by Fairchild at 1:48 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Kriter and Gruet are both like $15. But also, the liquor stores have specials this time of year so a normally $20 bottle may be much less.
posted by BibiRose at 1:52 PM on December 30, 2011

I'm seconding Freixenet, it's about ten dollars a bottle and I love it. Nice and dry.
posted by Polyhymnia at 1:59 PM on December 30, 2011

You might also consider offering drinks made by mixing your sparkling wine with cranberry or pomegranate juice. I use Knudsen's concentrated pomegranate and float a few pomegranate seeds in each glass. Or you can freeze some fruit (grapes, canned drained lychees, etc) and drop them in the glasses. Keeps the wine cold too. Just use brut because it's plenty sweet with fruit added.
posted by BibiRose at 2:04 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do you have access to a Trader Joes? Their own label "Blanc de Blancs" is $4.99 or something like it, and it's fantastic.
posted by crabintheocean at 3:43 PM on December 30, 2011

I love Mondoro Asti.
posted by winna at 3:54 PM on December 30, 2011

Nth-ing the Risque from Toad Hollow. It is pretty sweet, though, so you might also want something a bit more dry for those who prefer it.

Definitely sparkling cider or pear juice for the kids, maybe even in those cheapo plastic champagne glasses so you don't have to worry about breakage.

Foodwise, something for dessert would be nice. A pan of brownies, even if made from a mix, is certainly delicious and easy finger food. Depending on how casual you are, you can let people cut their own from the pan, cut into squares and stack prettily on a plate, or even cut them with cookie cutters (save the scraps to eat later, if you don't finish them off before the guests arrive).

Hummus and pita are also quick and delicious. You can stack the round pitas and use a chef's knife to cut them all into wedges (1/6th or 1/8 of the circle, depending on size) with just a couple passes of the knife.
posted by vytae at 4:11 PM on December 30, 2011

If you can buy a box or two of any kind of mini meatballs, be they beef or bird or meatless and a box of toothpicks, you can bake a bunch at once, and put out a variety of dips for them and they will magically disappear. Try mayo with roast garlic or spices; barbecue sauce; sweet and sour sauce; and just plain ketchup. Or, put them in a crockpot with some bizarre sauce like this, and they'll disappear. They put a secret in mini meatballs that makes people consume them mindlessly.
posted by peagood at 6:44 PM on December 30, 2011

It's probably too late but for future reference, pimento cheese is for some reason finally getting its due beyond the South/Midwest and is super duper easy--just some of those little jars of pimento, shredded sharp cheddar, some spice and/or smoke element (I like mincing canned chipotle in adobo but most people call for minced fresh habanero or other hot chile), mayo, salt, pepper. You can tweak it any which way, it can be made a day or more in advance, and it goes well with lots of stuff (celery sticks are the norm but my friends will eat it with anything, including carrot sticks, all kinds of crackers, toast rounds, whatever).

REALLY good homemade hummus is another nice easy thing that can be made ahead. There are lots of variations so you don't get bored--pine nuts, black beans, etc. You might want to follow Melissa Clark's (Cook's Illustrated's test kitchen-approved) tip of heating the chickpeas beforehand for super silky results.
posted by ifjuly at 7:39 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's one example of a pimento cheese recipe. It's funny to see something so aw-shucks Southern comfort trash food become trendy.
posted by ifjuly at 7:41 PM on December 30, 2011

Maybe I'm the only one but I love Cupcake Prosecco. Slightly sweet and under 15.
posted by ibakecake at 10:34 PM on December 30, 2011

Late to the thread but for future reference, better a good Cava than a bad Champagne. Freixenet is very good.

However while Champagne will take you right through a meal, Cava will go with everything but red meat. For the meatballs and sausage I would've said a nice big round red Barolo.
posted by tel3path at 7:41 AM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

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