My friends Deb and Matt are usually the host of any get together that we have. They have a beautiful home and an amazing patio where they like to entertain. But, when it’s your birthday, you shouldn’t really host… So, I decided to host a birthday celebration for them at my place!
I invited them over and a few other friends for an evening of wine and cheese. I’d never done a wine and cheese like this, so it was an adventure. Wine and cheese will certainly be a repeat party. It was SO fun, and so DELICIOUS!
Step One: Prepare the Guest List
Figure out how many people you will be having at your partay, so that you can plan accordingly. Your guests will want to get in on the fun, so ask them to bring a wine or maybe their favorite cheese/meat.
Choosing either of these really helps to bring new flavors into the mix that you may not have normally tried. For my bash, I had each guest bring a bottle of wine. Deb and Matt also contributed some blue cheese, Alecia brought some yummy crackers, and Pam chipped in with several meat options.
Step Two: Find a Great Cheese Counter
I made two stops when I was purchasing cheeses: 1) Whole Foods and 2) King Soopers. I chose these locations because they have fantastic selection and SUPER HELPFUL staff. I am not a cheese expert (and I don’t even play one on TV) so I needed some help.
One of the most helpful pieces of information I received was that for my party I should plan to buy 4 oz. of cheese for every person. Keep in mind, cheese was our dinner, so it made sense that the cheese portion lined up to what a protein portion might have been if I was cooking chicken or beef.
Step Three: Explore the Flavors and Take Recommendations
Whole Foods is always giving cheese samples when I am there, and I wanted to buy some of their Parrano cheese.
Parrano tastes like a VERY creamy parmesan or romano and is just fantastic. I knew that I had to have this on my cheese platter.
I also got a recommendation for Whole Food’s very own Smoked Seaside Cheddar. I knew I also wanted to feature a smoky cheese (because it’s amazing!) so I took the cheese expert’s recommendation on this one.
When I got to King Soopers, this is where I did the majority of my cheese shopping. I ended up with a Merlot flavored cheese, a creamy Cotswold with chives and onions, and a manchego-like cheese.
Overall, that were THREE pretty plain cheeses options and THREE (including the Blue Cheese that Deb brought) that had bold flavor. The cheese connoisseur behind the counter warned me against picking too many cheeses that had bold flavors because my guests would want to play with pairings a little bit without always being overpowered – - Excellent Advice!
The other thing that was great about working with a counter is that they gave me tiny pieces to try before I purchased. I loved everything they suggested, but if I hadn’t… this could have been an easy opportunity to change directions.
Step Four: Gather Your Accompaniments
This was perhaps my favorite part. I eat at a local wine and cheese restaurant quite often, so I already knew of a few items I wanted to add to my platter. I also popped over to Pinterest to find a few new suggestions. Here’s a few things I ended up with:
Marinated Balsamic Onions
A fresh baguette (sliced)
Granny Smith Apples (sliced thinly)
Rosemary and Sea Salt Artisan Toasts
Whole Grain Mustard
There are SO many other items you could add. I debated olives or adding my delicious tapenade, but there wasn’t time to make it. I think roasted garlic would be fun, too. My helpful cheese expert also recommended some gingerbread pita chips to go with the blue cheese. Sounded interesting, but I already had a cart full! Dried cherries and dried apricots are two others that I think would be fun. Play with it! There are so many options out there. You are only limited by your imagination, really…
Step Five: Build Your Platters
I got a Fiesta Pizza Plate a few years back and have never used it until this weekend. I guess now I know why I have it! It was an amazing cheese platter!
Tip: My folks at the cheese counter shared that you should take your cheese out of the refrigerator about 45 minutes before you’re ready to serve it so it comes to room temperature.
Once the cheese had sat out of a few minuets, I decided to begin the arranging process! My strategy was to spread out the cheeses and try to mix in the accompaniments and meats in a pretty fashion. One thing that the cheese experts warned me was to separate the fragrant cheeses… I definitely did that, too!
We actually had too much meat, cheese, and whatnot to fit on the big platter, so it ended up on four different plates. Here’s what I came up with… aren’t they gorgeous??
I set the table with small appetizer/salad sized plates, because I knew we would graze a lot. For serving, I’d recommend spoons for anything small (i.e. pistachios, dried cranberries, etc) and a few forks and small tongs for folks to get at the cheese. Also if you have soft cheeses, those cute cheese spreaders (like the one in the picture above) come in handy.
I really loved this party… it was SUPER easy to pull together and I think the group really enjoyed it. I’m already starting to think of how I want to do the next one.
What are your favorite things to pair with cheese? Any additional recommendations for flavor combinations?