Hey friends,It is supposed to be a beautiful weekend and our deck is aching to welcome friends around the table outside. We know this is short notice, but with a forecast of gorgeous and a looooong week of work, we would love to have you join us for a simple wine and cheese night on Saturday (this weekend) around 6:00 pm.The details:Bring whatever wine or non-wine you like, to share. As well as a hunk of cheese with bread or crackers you would ordinarily have with it. (Really, bring anything that sounds good to you.) We will have a couple of wines, meats, and cheeses to share too. This is as casual as it gets. Just friends enjoying a lovely Colorado evening. Let me know if you can make it.Here’s to summer!
7 Tips for Hosting a Wine & Cheese Party
1. Bless, rather than impress. Chances are good your friends will already be impressed you’re even planning a wine and cheese party and pleased as punch to be on the invite list. Keep it simple and sane for everyone’s sake so you can all relax and enjoy. With specialized diets and allergies popping up everywhere, you’ll be better prepared if you ask a few questions in advance. The last thing you want to do is knock yourself out on a beautiful bread basket only to find out half the people coming can’t have gluten. Choose one favorite item for each guest to have on the table with special consideration for allergies. If I know a friend likes spicy food, I’ll go for a sample of spicier sausage I know they’ll enjoy. Someone else likes candies pecans, I make sure to include those too.
2. Select a maximum of 6 types of cheese. This will provide a nice variety of soft, semi-soft, semi-hard, firm, aged, and milk types (cow, sheep, goat). If you’re not already familiar with the various types, don’t hesitate to ask for a sample before you buy. Most grocery stores are happy to slice samples of gourmet cheese. For a list of cheese by type, texture, color, milk, or country, as well as buying and storing guides, check out Cheese.com.
3. More on cheese … don’t overdo (like I did) and end up with cheese-for-days. But how do you know how much cheese to buy? Well, it depends on what else is served. If there is an assortment of nibbles on the table like olives, bread, crackers, nuts, vegetables, and meat, figure about 1/2 ounce per person, per cheese. If guests are encouraged to bring food items, give direction as to whether it needs to be prepped before they arrive.
4. Ask guests to bring their favorite wine or non-wine beverage to share (no matter what it is) and reassure them there is no pressure to try to choose something unique or exotic. This guarantees everyone will be happily sipping at some point. It also encourages participation and stirs conversation, especially if you ask where they first discovered it and why they like it (sometimes the story is better than the wine). As the host, provide one white and one red per 6 people, as well as having a couple in reserve. If you are providing all the wine, plan 1/2 bottle per person, plus 2 extra.
5. Set the table with three glasses per person—1 for white wine, 1 for red wine, and 1 for water. If you are careful to pour a small amount for a first taste. Once a guest indicates it is wine they like, offer them more. (You shouldn’t need a dump bucket unless you are hosting a wine tasting. See #6 for more on that.) If you don’t have enough glasses, consider borrowing rather than buying for one event, and don’t worry about everything matching. Store a couple of bottles of sparkling cider in the fridge for anyone abstaining or done with wine. Pear is a popular stand-in for white wine and cherry is a pleasing substitution for red.
6. Don’t try to be a wine expert if you’re not, it comes off as pretentious. However, learning about wine tasting together can be loads of fun. Whether following an on-line guides for a DIY wine tasting or hiring a sommelier for the evening, a wine tasting provides a fun activity if guests are not well acquainted. Food & Wine and Epicurious both offer guides for organizing a more educational affair.
7. Plan a highlight. Spend a little more on a particular vintage or choose a recipe that stands out. Once we made mussels in a white wine, another time we served shrimp cocktail as the centerpiece for the table. Next time it might be the dessert that grabs all the attention, but it will be something special we’ll all reflect back on and smile.
You may have expected a nice list of wines to get you started, but I didn’t mention any wine specifics because I don’t want you to get caught up there. There are loads of resources for suggesting wines and it would be worth your time to spend about 10 minutes checking them out. However, I read an interview with New York City restaurateur, Danny Meyer, in the July issue of Food & Wine where he was asked what was the most extraordinary wine he’d ever tasted. I loved his response:
“I think it’s dangerous to expect wines to be extraordinary! The best bottle you’ve ever had in your life could be a simple Pigato, if you’re sitting in the right spot on the coast of Liguria, eating the right fried little fish, with the right person. That could be the perfect wine, because context is just as important and anything.”
- Soft varieties (Brie, chevre, Camembert, Saint Andre)
- Semi-soft varieties (Gouda, Blue, Port Salut)
- Firm varieties (manchego, Parmesan, aged Gouda, cheddar)
- Assorted crackers, any variety
- Crusty or rustic bread (rosemary), sliced, lightly toasted
- Shrimp cocktail
- Smoked salmon
- Dry-cured salami, ham, or sausages (chorizo, capicola, pepperoni, prosciutto, sopressata)
- Apples, sliced very thin
- Avocado, cubed
- Bell peppers, sliced
- Blueberries (large), whole
- Broccoli florets, blanched
- Carrots, cut into sticks or chips
- Celery, cut into sticks
- Clementine oranges, peeled sections
- Cucumber, sliced thin
- Figs, sliced fresh or baked
- Grape tomatoes
- Grapes, trimmed, on vine in groups of two or three
- Jicama, sliced thin
- Melon, sliced
- Pears, sliced
- Pineapple, bite-size pieces
- Radishes, halved
- Strawberries, halved
- Aged Balsamic, for cheese
- Fig jam, for meat and cheese
- Honey, for cheese
- Mustard, for meat
- Cornichons and pickled peppers
- Honey roasted or smoked nuts
- Olives (unpitted Castelvetrano or Kalamata)
- Roasted garlic cloves
- Sparkling cider or juice
- Lemon or mint water
- Slice cheese in advance and refrigerate until 30 minutes before guests arrive; cheese should be cool, but not cold. Slice meats if not already and set out just before serving. Prepare fruit closely to the time of serving and squirt lemon juice on apples and pears to prevent browning. Remove fruit spreads and olives from refrigerator and hour before serving to bring to room temperature for enhanced flavor.