Thinking about doing some entertaining this holiday season? Your guests will toast to this idea of hosting a wine and cheese party. Can’t cook to save your life? If you’ve got a corkscrew and can shop, you can pull this event off.
Our good friend, Dave, recently celebrated a significant birthday and since he is a cheese connoisseur and a wine lover, this was the perfect party for us to throw for him. I learned a few things along the way which I wanted to pass along, so grab a notebook and pen, pour yourself a glass of something lovely, and read through Under the High Chair’s first “Do It Yourself” segment.
Assorted olives, walnut bread, grapes and pomegranate made excellent contrasting accompaniments to our cheeses.
Part I: Planning Your Party
Guest list: Don’t try to bite off more than you can chew. Realistically estimate how many people your home can comfortably accommodate- then invite two couples more than that, because chances are, you’ll have at least that many who will cancel.
Inventory: Do a quick count of wine glasses and small plates. No one wants to drink wine out of a plastic cup. Make sure you have enough glasses for each person to have a red and a white, as people will often switch at some point during the evening.
Budget: Have an idea of how much you want to spend. Cheese, like wine, varies vastly in price and if you don’t have a figure in mind when you visit your cheese store, you’ll spend a lot more than planned. One money-saving option is to ask your guest to each bring a bottle of wine. You may discover a new favorite wine and you might actually stay under budget this time.
Clockwise from top: Clandestine, Brie de Meaux, and St-Agur blue made up our soft cheese tray. Apples, pears, grapes, walnuts and dried apricots accompanied them.
L to R: Baluchon, Spanish Manchego, and extra old Gouda are pictured here with walnut bread.
Part II: Shopping
Wine: If you are buying your own wine and you have no clue what to get, ask the store employees for a favorable pairing with cheese. As a rule, white wines are friendlier with the cheese tray, but cabernet sauvignon also pairs well with older, stronger cheeses.
Bread: If you don’t already have one, search out a great bakery for your breads. Buy the bread the day of the party and try for an assortment, such as a few classic baguettes, some grissini or breadsticks, and a nut bread to stand up to the stronger cheeses.
Accompaniments: Try a selection of any of the following: fresh fruit, cold meats such as mortadella or proscuitto, olives, pickles, marinated vegetables, nuts, dried fruit, oil and vinegar for dipping bread. A little something dolce (sweet) at the end is nice too, like an assortment of cookies. Dark chocolate goes well with some red wines, in case people are still sipping.
Cheese: Estimate about 150 grams per person, but don’t worry if you go over, leftovers are good too! Try for a broad assortment including at least one chevre (goat), one blue, a cream like a Brie or Camembert, and a hard cheese like a Conte or Manchego. Ask your cheese shop about the cheeses you have selected so that you can correctly inform your guests about the cheeses they are enjoying.
Part III: Party Prep
Drinks: Chill any white wine. Set up a self-serve bar area on you counter so guest can pour their own drinks.
Food: Cheese platters can be assembled in advance and refrigerated. Don’t forget to remove from the fridge at least an hour before serving so cheeses can come up to room temperature. Slice bread just before serving.
Labels help to identify the cheeses and make life a little easier for the non-gourmet
Part IV: PARTY!
Uncork and unwind.