The Dinner Challenge

Featuring Charmaine Landicho Baechle
Photography by Shana Jade Trajanoska
Words by Aaron Peasley

Known for her legendary weekend gatherings, serial hostess Charmaine Landicho Baechle pulls out all the stops for Margot’s entertaining challenge.

The challenge: throw a festive weekend dinner party for 8 friends. Must feature superb food and wine, a chic mise en scène and follow a budget of $20 per guest.

An entertaining challenge that would overwhelm many of us was a mere stroll in the park for Charmaine Landicho Baechle, the director of New York City non-profit catering company City Beets. Lucky to procure an invitation, Margot arrived early to get the inside scoop on sparking culinary creativity, how to be an effortless host and the secrets of French and Filipino cooking.

The Menu

Whipped Ricotta with Honey & Lemon Zest
served with toasted baguette or/and crudité

Bringhe with Chicken and Chorizo
(Filipino-style paella with coconut milk)
Romaine Salad with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette

Traditional Tarte Tatin sprinkled with Maldon Sea Salt
served with whipped cream

“Food has always been my obsession. The simplest meal can be a revelation with careful planning, personalized details, a good playlist and most importantly my favorite people."

For menu inspiration, Landicho Baechle keeps it personal, drawing on her Filipino heritage, her years growing up in Switzerland and more than two decades of adventures in New York City. “For the challenge, I incorporated my love for one-pot dishes, my Filipino background and my favorite French dessert so that the food would feel like a true reflection of myself.”

Given that a successful dinner party is first and foremost about human interactions, the hostess allows plenty of time for guests to mingle and get acquainted. In this casual spirit, with her charming Emmy-award winning composer husband Mark tasked with serving wines and making introductions, she serves the first course comprising a zesty ricotta dip accompanied by endive and sliced baguette. “I prefer a relaxed atmosphere and instead of a plated first course, I usually serve a simple dip,” she says, explaining that a dip plated is easy to make in advance, is a perpetual crowd pleaser and isn’t too filling. Most importantly, guests are given the space to ease into the evening and soak up the home’s special ambiance (a bespoke playlist enhances the vibes).

With a philosophy that food should always “awaken the senses,” Landicho Baechle chose a beloved dish that offers serious wow factor. “Bringhe is a Filipino-style paella with coconut milk, broth, and banana leaves,” Charmaine explains. “Its beauty is that it's a one-pot dish served straight from the skillet - you will wow your guests when you remove the banana leaves. They will delight in its colorful ingredients, fragrant smells and earthy flavor.”

Bringhe, Charmaine adds, can also be easily adapted for vegetarians. “I gravitate towards dishes that easily accommodate different food preferences,” she says. “The bringhe can easily be made vegetarian or even vegan by using vegetable stock and replacing meat with extra vegetables that add texture and flavor.”

“I like to set my table ahead of time,” said Landicho Baechle. “Perfection isn’t your goal, but having a pretty table sets the tone for the evening.”

Such considered and vibrant flourishes - a joyous combination of traditional technique and creative flair - extends to the non-edible components of the dinner party. The tablescape, anchored by an arrangement of vibrantly hued artichokes, is an elegant hodge-podge of antique glass and stemware, vibrant linens procured on travels and at local estate sales and other personal curios.

Perhaps the most laborious dish, and one met with the suitable amount of oohing and aahing, arrives last. An exquisite Tarte Tatin - the classic French upside down apple tart - appears warm and baked to a resplendent golden caramelized brown, apples formed in elegant concentric circles worthy of a storied Rive Gauche brasserie. As delicious as it is appealing to the eye, the sensational dessert is but one grace note in an affair overflowing with them.

The Budget Breakdown

Food: $83.20

Decorations: $7.50

For the centerpiece, I skipped expensive flowers and got creative. I spotted beautiful colored artichokes at my local supermarket and arranged them with some extra lemons and chili peppers I had on hand. Fresh and fun (with more of the budget to spend on wine).

Wine/Beverages: $59.71

My husband knows good wine and he had the job of finding three good bottles.

Baguette: Carissa $6

Good quality bakery bread is always a good investment.


Ricotta Dip


15 oz ricotta

1 tbsp honey

1/2 lemon grated lemon zest


Romaine Salad


3 heads of romaine
1 lemon juiced and zested (fancy word for grated)

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tbsp Dijon mustard





1 pack of chorizo (4 pieces)

3.5 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs

2 tbsp curry powder



Tarte Tatin


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1tsp salt

1tsp sugar