Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What dinner costs

No pictures, unfortunately, of last night's dinner, which was a run-through for my hubby's big birthday dinner next week. We'll take pictures then, I guess. The menu was zucchini carpaccio; pasta with mascarpone, lemon and caviar; broccoli; pan-seared salmon and, for dessert, tiramisu. I've often wondered how much money we really save by eating at home, so I decided to price out this meal and see. Salmon is a bit of a weakness of ours, and since it's usually quite pricey in restaurants, I can't bring myself to order it when we go out, seeing as how it's a regularly appearing entree at home. (Anyone else have this problem? It seems I only order restaurant food I know that I can't make at home!)

So, without further ado, the breakdown:

Salmon from the local fish shop where the fishmonger always has on such white, clean uniforms: R$14

Pasta. We used the last partial handful in the box and it's an Italian import, thus the elevated price: R$1.50

Mascarpone cheese. I made this last week, with a R$6.99 container of whipping cream and a lemon. I used just 1/4 cup, so I figure that's about R$1 of cheese.

Broccoli, American-style, on sale for R$2.99 a head. Brazilian broccoli is kind of wimpy and limp against the firm clusters of the kind I'm used to. Even when I have to pay more for the American-style I will, because I feel bad throwing out all the extra stuff in the local version: chewed up leaves, long stalks, etc.

Zucchini. R$0.42. Gotta love the price of veggies!

Caviar. Okay, so caviar isn't something I've ever had in my cupboards before. I wasn't sure where to look for it, so I started at this great deli. It's a fun place to window shop, as it carries everything from real Canadian maple syrup (R$45), French butter (R$11) and Italian parma ham (R$1000 for a portion of a leg). They also have affordable luxuries, like the pastries with cream and apricots, a decent Brazilian-made pancetta and dinner-in-a-pinch options behind the case. I asked the guy behind the counter about the prices of the four caviars I was looking at. They were in the open case with the cheeses and none of them had labels. I knew that I didn't want the big container marked "Oestra." It just looked expensive. But there was red caviar, and an itty bitty container the size of eye cream full of black that he insisted on bringing along to the scanner. Red caviar, R$65. Salmon caviar, R$45. Teensy tin of black? R$495. Ick.

So I filed the numbers away and figured that caviar wasn't going to be part of the dinner plan. Until I found it at the local supermarket for R$25. Is it high quality? Probably not. Does it crunch and taste salty and slightly fishy and make pretty speckles that make everything it touches look more va-va-voom? Absolutely. I used perhaps 1/2 t on our dinner last night, so maybe R$1? Maybe? It didn't even make a dent in the container. There's easily 25 more spoonfulls left.

A few salad greens, garnishes and spices, at negligible cost...leaves us (minus dessert and wine) with a restaurant quality meal for about R$21. Ten reais a head. Not bad. Even better was that the whole thing came together in about 25 minutes!


anne said...

I also tend to eat out things I don't make at home. Otherwise, what's the point, really. My dad used to look up from whatever we were eating (usually when we had breakfast for dinner) and say, Well, this would cost $$ if we were eating at Pancake House. OR when we ate out (less fun comparison) he'd say: we could have made this at home for a lot less $$.......which generally put a crimp in the meal, let me tell you! :D
how much salmon do you get for the price mentioned?

--jenna said...

Oh, let's see...260 grams? About a half pound, just enough for a nice steak when there's other stuff on your plate. Salmon runs about R$55 a kilo, give or take.

Sarah said...

Hi Jenna - I just stumbled across your blog and thought I'd say hi. I live in Ipanema with my husband and 2 year old son.

My husband works in Centro and I do a bit of freelance writing but I'm keen to do some volunteer work when my son starts pre-school. From the looks of your blog you are involved in some Christian work here...

Would love to hear from you


--jenna said...


I used to work with Word Made Flesh in Rio. They work here under the Portuguese name of "Palavra Encarnada" and do outreaches to people on the street, mostly. Since being back, I've found little time for volunteering, though I'm sure it will change once I've found a rhythm...
We should meet up for coffee sometime! I don't give my real email address out here, but you can contact me at and we'll exchange better info, how's that sound?

Anonymous said...

Hi Jenna & Vance, Uncle Andy here.

Just happened to drop in on your blog & catch your salmon cooking.

Try to smoke some salmon sometime if you like - I'd recommend one of the recipes off

It takes a few hours of planning, just minutes in preparation, but it's like eating candy when it's done. Not sure if you have access to Maple Syrup down there, but honey is a nice substitute.

I hope you're enjoying life & settling in, I read a little about your adventures in banking. Seems most international banks want to avoid American accounts nowadays..... I wonder why? ;)

Take care,