We started our Great Minds Eat Alike series in order to mix up the usual BGSK offerings with interviews and submissions by cooks and eaters whose mentality towards cooking and eating meshes with ours. Today we are incredibly excited to bring you a fabulous, informative guide on how to host a wine and cheese party from Maris Callahan, blogger behind In Good Taste. Maris is also a freelance PR gal and writer, and you can see all her work here.
As it turns out, Maris’s goals on In Good Taste are pretty similar to ours here on BGSK. She works to bring her fans good, accessible food that can be turned out easily from kitchens that are small and cooks that may not have oodles of experience. We’re totally in love with her recipes, from strawberry mojitos to chipotle steak sliders, and we love that she appears to have the same preoccupation with grilled cheese that we do.
–Cara and Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOKS
**How to Host a Wine and Cheese Party**
If you love to eat and entertain in equal measure, it’s likely that you’ve at least thought about hosting a wine and cheese party. Throwing a wine and/or cheese tasting party is a fun way to spend an evening with friends. Just about everything can be planned ahead of time and it’s easy for friends to contribute with their favorite bottles of red or stinky Camembert.
While the fun factor of wine and cheese arguably speak for themselves, wine and cheese can be two of the most intimidating items to shop for and plan a menu around. If you’re drinking wine, you’ll probably want to eat more than a few slices of cheese in order to sustain your guests through a night of Chardonnay-sipping. Serve finger foods and hors d’oeuvres that are fast, easy to prepare and won’t overwhelm your wine pairings–in addition to the obvious: wine and cheese.
**Tips and Tricks**
Plan Ahead. For a stress-free party, do as much of the prep work ahead of time as possible. Decide whether you’re going to plan your menu around the wines or the cheese. If the focus is the wine, select your wines first and plan the cheese and other dishes accordingly. If you’d rather emphasize the cheese, pick a few varieties to serve and pair them with appropriate wines.
When you’re planning on expanding your menu beyond wine and cheese, you’d probably rather spend your party sipping Sauvignon Blanc than sweating it out in the kitchen. Prepare items you can make well in advance like a green market crudite with lemon aioli, which guests can much on as they settle in and pour their first glass of vino.
Cheese is typically a rich, indulgent option, so keep the rest of your food light and serve a refreshing pea and mint crostini, roasted fingerlings with romesco sauce or parmesan almonds for grazing throughout the evening.
Select the Cheese. If you’re new to the world of cheese tasting, remember that variety is key. Cheeses are often categorized by type of milk: cow’s milk, sheep’s milk and goat’s milk. The different styles of cheese depend on a few factors, including rind, color, and texture. Choose a variety of cheeses and begin your tasting with the mildest cheese, such as a light, tangy chevre and progress to the sharpest or strongest cheese, like a full, ripe blue cheese. Pair tangy cheese with crisp white wines (The Naked Grape Pinot Grigio is a great budget buy) sharp cheeses with medium-bodied reds (I love Jacob’s Creek Pinot Noir) and aged cheese with fuller-bodied whites or reds.
When I buy cheese for wine and cheese parties, I typically buy about 2-3 ounces of cheese per person, but if you aren’t serving much additional food, you might want to err on the side of caution and buy more than you think you need (and can you ever really have too much cheese? I think not). While a variety of cheeses are best, don’t go too crazy either – more than three or four types of cheese overwhelm the palate.
Serve Your Cheese. Contrary to common belief, most cheeses are best at room temperature. Place your cheeses out up to three hours before your party and unwrap them to allow the flavors to full develop.
One of the easiest ways to decorate for a wine and cheese party is with the cheese itself. My favorite way to showcase cheese is on a simple wooden cutting board for a rustic look. If you don’t have a stylish cutting board, you can place a piece of brown parchment paper atop the cutting board that you do have for a similar presentation.
Alongside your cheese, edibles are the most stylish table décor you could offer. Place baskets of your favorite crackers or a fresh loaf of crusty no-knead bread – carbs are an excellent palate cleanser between cheeses. Crisp apple slices and tart dried fruit are delicious with rich cheeses and bottles of your favorite oils and vinegars will not only complement your cheeses, but also add rustic elegance to your table.
–Maris Callahan, In Good Taste