by Jennifer Nicole Dienst | August 20, 2008

Berry dessert 
Considering filet mignon for your next banquet? Think again. With rising food costs -- the USDA estimates a 5 percent increase in 2008, the highest in 20 years -- planners need to be creative to do high-end on a low-end budget. Claudine Revere, president of Relish Caterers in New York City, who has planned menus for the likes of Nike and Avon, offers her tips for serving up an impressive menu on a modest outlay.

Choose cheaper cuts.
Revere suggests serving grilled hanger steak in a shallot and Madeira sauce instead of filet mignon. “It has lots of flavor at a fraction of the cost,” she notes.

Go seasonal. “It’s the best way to guarantee costs won?t go up due to ingredient availability,” says Revere. A spread of organic berries in summer, for instance, is an elegant and frugal treat.

Skip raw sushi bars.
A seafood sauté station is an affordable alternative. “You can serve shrimp scampi and mussels marinara,” Revere suggests. Watching as the dishes are prepared to order provides bonus entertainment for attendees.