Gourmet meal made from 99-cent-store ingredients

The New York Times's Henry Alford prepared a gourmet meal for a dinner party using ingredients he bought at $0.99 stores:
The four friends I served dinner to included two who had shopped for food at 99-cent stores and two who had not. Guests were met with an antipasto tray – pepperoncini, olives, artichoke hearts, crackers, very greasy salami and a hockey puck of Brie that I had softened by baking.

Disparate nibbling yielded several polite, neutral comments. My guests stared off into the mid-distance as if in the throes of Art Appreciation. But the compliments started flying when I served my chilled pear soup – nothing more than a mixture of Goya and Kern’s pear nectars that I served in beautiful Chinese bowls with star anise floating on top. (Mark: “I feel like I’m at a chic restaurant.” Heather: “I’ve cleaned my bowl.”)

Our entree of penne with peas and turkey bacon in a light cream sauce gave way to much conversation about frozen peas. I explained that food luminaries like Marcella Hazan and the Silver Palate women approve of them. Heather told us how she had used bags of frozen peas to help soothe her mother after her hip replacement surgery.

The flourless pecan torte that I served for dessert met with approval, but nothing like the semiriotous adulation inspired by my subsequent offering of a 3.5-oz. Toblerone bar. (Scott: “Wow!” Heather: “Nice!” Greg: “Airport candy!”)

Link (via Kottke)