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Here is your guide to a perfectly imperfect, unpretentious and EASY Wine and Cheese Party.
You know I love to host epic yet breezy dinner parties, but sometimes it’s just great to throw a casual, fun, mingling kind of party, and a wine and cheese fits this perfectly.
So WHY host a Wine and Cheese Party?
Well first of all, you get to explore more wines…because yes….wine is good! I would drink it with breakfast if it was socially acceptable! (Bye-bye coffee…hello wine!).
It’s kind of adventurous and you get to explore and nom on cheese and all the delicious accompaniments
There is no cooking so it’s EASY, and can be prepped totally in advance.
It’s super simple to make it look gorgeous, and you can add your own beautiful sassy style or even change it up with the seasons.
Your friends will leave with their tummies filled and their spirits happier than when they came to your lovely soiree.
And here I’ll show you how EASY it really is.
There are a ton of so-called “right and wrong” ways to host a wine and cheese party…so they say, but to tell you the truth, it doesn’t have to be so complicated. And I’m here to tell you, no prior wine and cheese buying experience necessary.
So let’s do this!
The CHEESE please:
Choose 3-5 cheeses (pick from each of these categories and you will have a lovely range of flavors and textures)
Fresh: Mild slightly Tangy (Serve soft cheeses whole)
Mozzarella, Burrata, Chevre, Fresh Ricotta
Soft Cheese: Creamy, Buttery, Mild (Serve soft cheeses whole)
Brie, Camembert, Crescenza, Goat cheese
Pungent Cheese: AKA Stinky in a good way cheese (Serve stinky cheeses whole)
Blue, Taleggio, Gorongzola, Roquefort and Stilton
Hard and Semi Hard Cheese: Nutty, Firm (Serve hard cheeses whole but cut a few slices to get them started)
Pecorino, Manchego, Grana-Padano, Cheddar, Gouda….and, Parmesan Reggiano. (Parm is the king of cheeses and Cervasi imports a yummy traditional Parmesan. You can find it at these stores.
For each type of cheese, buy one to 1 1/2 ounces per person depending on how many accompaniments you will have. But hey…leftovers aren’t a bad thing, hellooo, an incredible mac and cheese the next day…yay:)
Bring all cheeses to room temperature about a half hour before serving to enhance their flavor. Don’t forget this part friend…it really helps to bring out all the delicious flavors.
Find a local cheese store in your area (or on line)…they are super cool places to explore and the folks that work there will always steer you in the right direction while considering your budget. Just mention you would like a range of mild, medium and stinky cheeses. Thats all folk’s, easy peasy.
Choose 1-2 from each category. (take a peek at my cheese-paring guide for a few combinations that I’m obsessed with) [click here]
Fruit: grapes, figs, dried apricots or dates, apples, melons, and pears.
Meats: Genoa salami, Slices of prosciutto, soppressata, rolled Slices of hard salami, capicola, Slices of Capocollo
Nuts: Hazelnuts, Marcona (my fav) or Cashews.
A good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil in a cute bowl. (Locally owned and imported Cervasi of course)
Spreads: Varietal honey, Jams, Chutney, Mustard, Fruit Compotes
Bread: Artisan cracker crisps, crusty bread such as baguette, rustic multigrain, and artisan rye bread or Cervasi pre-made bruschetta.. You don’t even have to heat the oven.
(sorry, I need to insert a weird sorry here. Ok, I hate rye bread, I mean, it’s like the only food I reeeeeally don’t like. Well, I was visiting my sister and was telling her all this, and she started laughing and saying she is the EXACT same way. We both like most everything except rye bread..how WEIRD huh? We must have had a tragic rye experience in our childhood.
Don’t go crazy serving all of these accompaniment options on your grazing board. Pick one or two from each category and leave it at that. Grazing boards look better when they have larger groupings of foods as opposed to a little of this and a little of that.
Don’t let this scare you. I am by no means a wine expert...not even close, but the good news is we don't have to be!
Choose from a variety of wines like these: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and of course a bottle or 3 of Prosecco! Because we all need a few bubbles in our life.
Some people will say that you should drink specific wines with specific cheeses, but you know what? The more wine tastings I attend, the more I hear it’s all in the eyes of the beholder. I say drink what you like, try a few new ones and make up your own mind.
Talk to the guy/gal at your local wine store. They LOVE to help. They know the best wines under $15 per bottle too! I have had a TON of great lower-priced wines, and I’ve had some not-so-good wines at $80…so there. You don’t need to spend a lot.
Oh, and when your friends say what can I bring, say “well yes, “WINE, please!” It gives them something to contribute, they have wine they are sure to like, and it will get others to explore different wines at the same time.
I read somewhere that if you are having 12 people you should have four bottles of wine….BAHAHAHAHA. That would be a very short party with my friends! I suggest everyone (or maybe every couple) should bring a bottle…and we should all be a-ok!
On that note, be sure to have a pitcher of water and glasses out. And UBER is also a very good thing.
Choose a serving platter. It could be a basic everyday platter, an antique family platter, a marble slab, slate, or in my case; it’s always a rustic wood board. CLICK here for boards I make. Just choose what makes your heart sing!
Arrange the platter. Try to add height by piling grapes or stacking bread. Larger clusters of ingredients are more visually appealing.
Have little knives out for each of the cheeses, so you keep them separated. You know, those cute small short stubby knives. But I don’ have any of those, so I just use my Laguiole butter knives, and I haven’t been shot yet.
Sometimes I sprinkle my board with some fresh herbs or even some whole seasonal fruit for a pop of color…or I add olives in cute little mason jars or wood bowls, so look around your kitchen, find thing you love and add them to your spread. It really can be that easy.
So there it is, simple huh? But trust me when I tell you this will be the most carefree party to host, and everyone will be relaxed and have a great time. When friends start trying all the different cheese and accompaniments, the conversations go something like this….“OMG, did you try that cheese with THAT wine?? oh and the honey, soooo gooood, OR, “taste that wine and that jam on that cheese…to die for”. It’s kinda fun.
This is great for anytime of year, but I especially love to have these grazing boards out around the holidays when I want to have friends over but don’t feel like going to any trouble. A party I can pick up on the way home is perfect sometimes.
So now go be awesome and Have.Yo.Self.A.Party! And if you do, snap a pic of your creation and let me seeeeees:)
(This post is in partnership with Cervasi, but all opinions and wine sipping, typos and cheese noshing are totally my own)
I love traditional risotto. It's made with Arborio rice and is truly a labor of love. It takes 35-45 minutes and you need to stay near your stove the entire time to carefully stir in each cup of warm broth.
I’m not however a huge fan of restaurant risotto, which they par-boil the rice and finish later when it's ordered by you:). Although I LOVE risotto done right, I’m not a fan of thick, sticky par-cooked versions served at restaurants. SO I wanted something that had the creamy, cheesy rich flavor risotto is so known for, but wanted to create something more conducive to quick meals and of course entertaining.
Enter…Orzo “Risotto”. Orzo is a cute little rice shaped pasta. Replacing the rice with Orzo pasta, (Cervasi if you’re in KC:) made this dish way less labor intensive but still incredibly creamy, cheesy and oh so versatile. This is a perfect side-dish or paired with a salad it’s a meal on its own. It is also great when other ingredients are added to it, like roasted vegetables, chicken or really anything. This time of year I like to add a bit of butternut squash, omg…just.so.good.
So whip up a batch…and let me know what you think. I think you’re gonna love love love i
What was once just a gallon of milk now has a most fascinating back story.
I recently had the pleasure of visiting several dairy farms in Minnesota at the invitation of Midwest Dairy Association. The passion, I witnessed, by these farmers for their cattle and land was just incredible. I was really surprised how seeing these farmers in action, so aligns with how I approach my own work today. We both work to ensure we are putting the best products on our tables for our customers…and the work they do every single day is truly incredible.
The visit began with a trip to Zweber Farms, a farmer owner of the cooperative, Organic Valley. The farm has been in the family since 1906., and they participate as a family to keep this business thriving. They work with assembly line like precision to ensure the cows are healthy, well fed, and happy. There are well defined routines that occur for the herd and the family to ensure quality milk production.
On an organic farm cows are required to graze in pastures at least 120 days a year which can sometimes be difficult in the north where short summer seasons can limit the field grass growth. The Zweber’s made the choice to go organic in the mid 2000’s as a means of differentiation in a crowded market of local dairy farmers. The strategy appears to have paid off.
The second farm I visited illustrated a true labor of love. This farmer genuinely has a love for his animals and it showed in his enthusiasm for their care and feeding.
Wolf Creek Dairy Farm is located outside Minneapolis, Minnesota. This traditional dairy farm grows all its own alfalfa, hay, and corn feed. They are a member of the Land O’Lakes Cooperative and are primary producers of milk that eventually becomes cheese….mmmmm cheese:)
But dairy farms are more than just about the cows. These farms pass from generation to generation and each generation works to improve the processes and environment handed down.
They carefully rotate the crops every year, in all fields, to ensure the nutrients in the land are not depleted and that the land will continue to provide for their herds and families. Another surprising practice is their stringent rules for manure (a natural bi-product of owning large animals..duh:). They have strict requirements for the removal, storage, and recycling of their manure. Who knew you could recycle poo?
These farms were amazingly clean and surprisingly not smelly. All work areas are constantly sanitized to ensure the milk meets rigorous testing required by the government agencies regulating dairy production for commercial consumption. Every single tank of milk that leaves a farm is tested before it is processed and sold. Milk (both organic and traditional) must be antibiotic and pesticide free before it is allowed to be sold and put into commercial distribution and /or further production.
I was very curious about the differences between organic and non-organic milk. I was surprised to learn that the end product is virtually identical.
So, my big question before these visits was “does organic milk taste better and is it healthier?”
What I learned is milk taste is most subtly affected by location of the farm, breed of the cow, variations in cows’ feed, and even the time of year. Is organic healthier? Research can find no difference between organic and regular milk in quality, safety or nutrition. Both contain nine essential nutrients.
I’ve also always been very wary about “sell by” dates and expiration dates on all foods. So much so, in fact, I routinely throw products away that are beyond their dates. But I learned (and will now save money) that you do want to purchase products by their sell by date, to ensure maximum time available for consumption at home. However, the expiration dates are more of an indicator of optimal taste but not necessarily tied to safety. (good.to.know:)
My trip was such a joy. It reminded me of the passion my father had with his farm in Virginia and I learned so much about dairy farming and production.
I found such beauty in the land, cattle, farming process and the passion farmers have for their products, herds, and legacy. And remember, if you desire to support local, buy milk, either organic or traditional. Dairy isn’t shipped long distances and will always be a nutritious, safe product of a committed local farmer. So whether you go organic or traditional you still get to support your local farm! A sincere thank you to Midwest Dairy for the opportunity to tour, learn and connect with these awesome farmers.