Entertaining guru Ted Allen hosts both Chopped and Food Detectives on The Food Network. He also serves as the spokesperson for Robert Mondavi Private Selection wines. We asked the go-to party guy to share a few tips for pulling off a recession-era soir\u00e9e that\u2019s more chic than chintzy:\r\n\u00a0Mix up pitchers of frugal yet festive Sangria: This crowd-pleasing Spanish sipper packs enough of a punch that guests won\u2019t miss a costly full bar. And rather than meekly apologizing for the lack of liquid options, Allen suggests boldly declaring \u201cSangria night\u201d as a theme and just running with it. He prefers starting with a full-bodied red like Zinfandel or Cabernet, and then adding Cointreau or Triple Sec, Brandy and slices of fresh fruit. For a lighter version, pour Pinot Grigio or oaky Chardonnay.\r\nSavor wallet-friendly flavor: Allen loves the flavor (and versatility) of dried beans. For a quick and easy casual dinner, place unsoaked black beans in a pressure cooker for fifteen minutes, and then mix them with rice, cilantro and chopped tomatoes. If you would rather serve a meaty main course, choose hangar steak or flank steak. These chef-preferred cuts are a delicious steal\u2014just remember to marinate them for a day or two to make them super tender. As Allen points out, not even the toniest of affairs requires lobster or filet\u2014the best wedding he ever attended was a pig roast. It\u2019s about the taste, not the price tag.\r\n\r\n\u00a0Embrace the casserole dish: There\u2019s no shame in potluck, Allen says. Especially for holiday gatherings, it gives guests an opportunity to sample other families\u2019 classics traditions. Dividing the cooking duties also means sharing the grocery expenses\u2014a win-win situation.\r\n\r\nThink outside the vase: Since food itself can be visually striking, use bowls filled with lemons or apples instead of pricey floral bouquets. If you do opt for stems, use a simple arrangement of one color of flowers, thoughtfully cut so everyone can see over them. Even better, create groupings of natural elements that reflect the current season\u2014sticks you pick in late fall or winter, wildflowers in the early days of summer.