While everyone else is planning for their Super Bowl goodies, let's take a moment to consider a "whine and geez" party. Okay, got you. Actually, I'm talking about a nice wine and cheese engagement party on a sweet Sunday afternoon. You can have this kind of event at literally anytime of the year. It's also a neat alternative to a full-blown dinner. Just how do you concoct a menu for such an event?
Start out with getting the 3 main components:
1) The Crackers and Biscuits
I love all sorts of crackers especially those infused with delicious herbs and spices. They come in different shapes and sizes such as circles, pentagons, or even triangles. But, my all-time favorite ones are from a company called the "American Vintage Wine Biscuits." With these gourmet crackers, you honestly don't even need cheese because the crackers are tasty. The original flavor (i.e., Red Wine and Black Pepper) that I tried is infused with wine and has a nice yet subtle "peppery" taste. Last time, I checked their website, it appears that there are additional flavors (e.g., White Wine, Shallots & Cayenne Pepper, and Chianti, Oregano & Red Pepper) so I bet they are just as scrumptious.
2) Cheeses and Meats
Ah, I love cheese! Just had to say that because if cheese were not invented, we wouldn't have pizza. When looking around for cheeses at your grocery, the most common ones that come to mind are cheddar and swiss, but if you go to the gourmet food section of your grocery, you will usually find cheeses from all over the world. My truly favorites are: Brie from France that has a creamy texture with loads of flavor; Parrano Cheese from Holland that has a texture quite similar to Gouda, but with the nutty taste of parmesan; and lastly Parmigiano Reggiano from Italy that has a sexy savory taste to it (I call it the "ultimate cheese" because I love eating them alone especially "Parma Sticks from Bertozzi." Before getting all caught up in cheeses, let's not forget the meats. When pairing meats with cheeses, I like prosciutto, smoked salmon, or caviar as an accompaniment. They are teeming with flavor yet you only have to eat a few to be satisfied. In this way, if you provide a full variety of cheeses and meats, your guests can still feel like they've had a light meal instead of just a cheese and a cracker. Many of these cheeses and meats can be found in stores such as Trader Joe's, Dean and Deluca, Whole Foods, Better Cheddar, and even Bevmo! Also, small gourmet retailers sell unique products, so be sure to check them out in your locale.
3) Wine Selections
If you are a newbie to wine, don't fear because there is a lot of information out there about wines. I've learned that French wines, though, seem to have a distinct personality and flavor to them. (**No knock against those California wines, but lately, I've just preferred French ones). When looking for wines, be sure to check the alcohol content (is it 12.5% alcohol or does it have more?), the type of wine - whether it's a red or white, the cost if you buy it as a case, and any accompanying tasting notes that are available on the wine. Before you actually buy a bottle, it's a good idea to visit the store first and then jot down names of wines that seem interesting, so that you can go back home and research the wine based on reviews. The best place to get tasting notes is from Robert Parker's website - known as the definitive authority on wines because he doesn't get paid to review wines. You can also check out books such as "Wines for Dummies" and "French Wines for Dummies." Moreover, you can also check out blogs such as Vine Sugar or Vivi's Wine Journal.