In an attempt to bring together some of the people in my newest social circle (from work), I decided to throw something a little different this year. Don’t worry – the annual Expensive Tastes Dinner Party will be happening at some point, but in the meantime, let me paint you a good set of pictures, based on my experience last weekend, as to how to throw a decent Cheese and Wine Night.
First of all, and really this point should be quite obvious – have a good selection of cheeses on your cheese board (see pictured). Half a dozen should be the minimum. And with a decent selection goes a decent variety – preferably from different countries, but at least different types of cheese. The obvious ones, such as Cheddar, Stilton and Brie go without saying, but the less obvious ones may be those such as Port Salut – a French favourite of mine – and something with a bit of flavouring – in this case, a block of Tintern, containing Onions, Shallots and Chives.
Cheese should not be the only thing to offer your guests when throwing such an event; their palates must be tempted to all corners of the tongue, but keep it primarily savoury. By this, I mean meat. Having been inspired by my visit to Renoufs earlier this year, I came up with the idea for some fitting canapés, such as Chorizo and Red Pepper Skewers (see pictured), making very good use of my new stainless steel cocktail picks at the same time (which you can buy from Amazon). A pâté is another definite must, even if it’s something very basic like a Chicken Liver Parfait, which is what I served.
Bearing in mind that this is a very carb-heavy buffet already, so I prefer not to override my guests too much with a box full of eight varieties of biscuits, half of which no one likes in the first place. A good staple cream cracker was sufficient in this case, plus a few slices of baguette. The latter was in turn leftovers from another of the canapés – the Mini English Rarebits and Mini Welsh Rarebits.
If you are continually conscious of the diets of your guests (especially in beach body season), then you may want to cater to their needs even more and provide something like a salad. In my case, I kept the cheese theme up-and-running and presented a Three-Cheese Salad (see pictured) of my own design. Spinach, Watercress and Rocket make up the greens, while a trio of cheeses that did not make it to the board – Feta, Mozzarella and Parmesan – gave it flavour. A light dressing of olive oil, lemon juice and garlic (the fried chips of which also went into the salad) completes the ensemble.
A hint of sweetness has to invade on all that savoury, and what better, again keeping in with the theme, than a cheesecake. A Classic Vanilla Cheesecake (see pictured) is more than sufficient for what you want, and if you are out to impress your guests, then an artistic decoration using red and green grapes will not go amiss.
With regard to the wines: no rosé. That’s an absolute rule of thumb. Nothing spoils the flavour of cheese like rosé. Red wine is typically the wine to go with – preferably something fruity to complement and contrast the savoury flavours of the food. However, always have a white on standby; red wine lovers are harder and harder to come by nowadays (though I may have converted my guests toward it at my particular party). And to cater for the non-drinkers, but to still give the wine-tasting feel, the sparkling drink Shloer, which I came to love as a kid before my alcoholic days, is a perfect and fitting alternative.
Finally, all you need is a game of something, some chilled music and/or a good horror flick and the evening has all its boxes ticked.