Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Say Cheese!

This delicious spread is from the cheese and wine party I hosted last week for a ladies group. It was formed out of our need to escape from this hectic lifestyle and relax for a few hours. We all met here and most have kids who went to the same school and some had met at church and live not that far from each other. So far it is going well and we like it enough to keep meeting even though schedules are tight and demands on time keeps going up. H and kids got to go out and enjoy a movie and dinner while mom was chillin' at home with friends.

I picked wine and cheese for my turn as I'd been itching to do one for a while. It was really fun to put together. The good news is you just can't go wrong no matter what you do. I got most of my cheeses and crackers from Whole Foods and some of the sauces and fruits from Safeway. Here is a rundown on what I had.

The Cheese
It is good to have cheeses of different flavors and texture depending on you and your guests' preferences. Soft french brie, salty blue, creamy goat cheese, soft mozzarella, are all good to bring to the table.

Arrange the cheese by texture from soft to hard. Have a sweet cheese to end as in dessert. Some cheeses and their common available names are given below as a future reference for me too. I had some but not all on my cheeseboards.

Brie/camembert/chaource :: from cow's milk - creamy, melting

Triple cream soft cheese from cow's milk

Goat cheese/chevre'/mathais/humboldt :: as soft as brie

Manchega/feta/ossau iraty :: sheep's milk - semi-soft

Blue/gorgonzola/stilton :: cow's milk - crumbly/salty/firm/buttery

Taleggio :: washed rind/sweet/semi-soft

Gouda :: good for flavor and adds some gold to your offering.

I didn't get any hard cheese as I knew that may not go over very well with this crowd and myself. There are many more than I have mentioned here. Like wine, cheese is an interesting fare to read upon and I plan to do just that . The next few paragraphs give an idea of what else to add to the cheeses to make it a full table.

The Crunch
Cheese needs to sit on a base of something so you can eat it as a delectable bite. Crackers are the answer to this. Add some sliced baguette breads to this and you are almost there. Olive bread is a good option to go with brie and brioche toast goes well with the stilton. Baked flatbread is good to top with some protein while any round crackers are always a good pick for anything. Cheese twists were good for the overall look, while sweet olive tortas discovered on a grocery shelf were immensely popular.

Any kind of nuts; toasted, roasted or honeyed will add that extra crunch you are looking for.
I had almonds, spanish cocktail mix and spicy roasted chickpeas to the rescue.

The Savory Dips
I found a spicy fresh guacamole dish on a last minute trip to the grocery store. Glad I grabbed it on the way to the register as it went over very well with the guests. Hummus is a must since it goes with almost anything I think. Veggie dips are good when you are adding baby carrots or steamed broccoli to the mix. Last minute panic made me add some shrimp salad which in hindsight was not needed at all.

The Fresh
I had grapes, blue berries and cherry tomatoes for color and palette pleasures.

The Meat
Prosciutto is a favorite but I found salami worked the best with all kinds of combinations. So it will be a definite go-to next time. I also had cured sausage that went famously with a dollop of some orange-fig jam. Yum!

The Sweet
Black truffle honey is always present next to the cheeses in the grocery stores and I loved the pear sauce which added a nice note on every bite. Orange-fig jam is the best find through and I can eat it just by itself. It reminds me a lot of my mom's home made pineapple jam both in texture and taste and I can't get enough of it.

The Wine
Any clear white wine will do the job. You can add red for a mix up. A sip between bites prepares your taste buds for the next delicious bite. I had Pinot Grigio for the white wine. Red Chianti, a rose wine and sparkling cider for the non-winers completed the wine roaster.

The Knives
Cheese knives are so cute, you'd want some even if you are not thinking of having a cheese event. Picture here shows the assortment that I have but it is not complete. This link or a simple google search can tell you more on these little guys.

Kids and H had the first dibs before heading out the door and it was great to see them experimenting with various flavors with excitement and enjoying it. So what is holding you? Go on, select a cracker base, select your cheese, top off with jam or honey and some nuts or fruits and delve into the world of exploding flavors accompanied by a sip of your favorite wine.