James Oseland, editor-in-chief of the Saveur, loathes the idea of "pinching pennies" when it comes to food, but he does feel pressure to curb excessive spending. "For me, the economic crunch equals, 'Wow, I've got to get cooking at home,' " he says, "and experience the great sensory pleasures of cooking at home and eating at home."
Recreating a restaurant's culinary experience at home, in fact, can be relatively simple, not to mention significantly cheaper. Butchers such as Fleisher's, DeBragga and Spitler, and D'Artagnan, which supply high-end New York restaurants like Savoy, Craft and Daniel, also sell directly to the public. Fleisher's only delivers in the New York City area, but DeBragga and Spitler and D'Artagnan sell online and ship overnight in the U.S. DeBragga and Spitler, which supplies to Tom Colicchio's Craftsteak, sells a four-pack of 16 oz. grass-fed, New York strip steaks for $81.50. At Craftsteak, a similar 12 oz. cut costs $50.
Chefs who include the farm source in dish descriptions on their menus also make it easier for the quality-obsessed to replicate meals at home. At the Berkeley, Calif., restaurant Chez Panisse, for example, desert includes a bowl of mission figs and a Frog Hollow Farm Warren Pear for $8.25. But a six-pack of those same pears is available on the farm's Web site for $24.
Knowing When to Spend
Even if financial restraint is not a personal strong suit, there are ways to splurge wisely, including on "recession specials" and gourmet street food.
Amanda Kludt, editor of the Web site Eater.com, says that while Michelin-starred restaurants like Le Bernardin or Jean-Georges aren't likely to start slashing prices anytime soon, some fine-dining establishments are offering recession specials. Table 8, with locations in South Beach, Fla., and Los Angeles, is offering a "recession concession" meal. At the Florida restaurant, a kobe beef carpaccio appetizer, skirt steak entrée and vanilla panna cotta desert can be had for...