Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cheese & Wine . . . yes please !

Who needs to prepare an actual dinner when you can just fancy up a few pretty trays with cheese and some well paired bottles of wine? I'd take that over a slaved over meal any day! Maybe it's because mom and dad loved (still love) taking us to Europe. Maybe it's because my husband is Australian and the most laid back human being I know. Or maybe it's because I have deep seeded heritage in the traditions of family gathering around the table for a simple meal of the staples: bread, cheese, olive oil and wine. I could write for YEARS, I'm sure, on this topic alone... and I probably will always interrupt our regularly scheduled foodie posts for the sake of cheesy conversation... (get it?) ;) so I'll keep it short and sweet today, knowing that it will most definitely not be my last post about my most favorite sort of meal.
Last weekend, two of my friends and I had our first girl's night in a LONG time. They invited me over for "snacks" and I offered to bring a new bottle of Barbera that I had just discovered. Well, I arrive to their BEAUTIFULLY decorated and candlelit home and I'm totally halted and the sight on the table. They'd prepared a gorgeous, shiny, fancy tray of assorted cheeses and perfectly complimentary melons, olives, crusty, delicious bread, crackers, oils and beautiful plates to decorate with the delights. I was immediately at home and with family. Is that crazy? Does that happen to anyone else? Seriously, the sight of that table, with the comforts of those few staple elements made me feel immediately like this was my home, too. I was relaxed, I was happy, and I knew we were going to have great, intimate conversations just like families do, simply because we were partaking in an age- old tradition of sharing a simple meal of these particular things. Yeah, I love cheese and I love wine... but it's very much an emotional thing, too. The point is, if you don't already do this on a regular basis, get into it. Experience the joy and simplicity of it. I have a feeling something inside you will connect in a way you may not be expecting.

Do you feel warm and cozy yet? I do just revisiting these photos! So here's the basics:

Serve a variety of different cheeses: different shapes, different textures, different regions... those are all important, in my opinion, for experiencing an array of different flavors and being able to keep things interesting in lieu of not serving an "actual meal."
Serve items that well compliment each selection of cheese: for example, if you're serving an extra sharp cheddar and a smooth, rich brie, don't just serve grapes to compliment "the cheese," serve toasted almonds and walnuts to compliment the brie and crisp green apples to compliment the cheddar.
Serve wine that will compliment your cheese selections: even if it means serving more than one type of wine... you want the wine to either pair well with or contrast the cheese. sometimes, the contrast of a  sweet, full-bodied dessert wine to the strong bleu cheese veins is the perfect way to taste the complexity of the cheese. But a sweet wine won't pair very well with a sharp cheddar! So have an acidic, crisp white to pair with as well! Are you on a budget? Have a guest bring a bottle! That way, you're only providing one or two!
Always, always, always serve olive oil: to complement the bread, to complement the cheese, to complement the wine, to stick a straw in a drink! Just have it. Extra virgin is the only way to go. If you think it's not affordable, think again. head to Trader Joe's.

So what are you waiting for?! Next time you're perusing the grocery aisles and you see that FANCY, intimidating round case of world cheeses, approach it with confidence! Be adventurous! Always wanted to try that crumbly Parmesan- Reggiano? Dying to sink your teeth into that perfect white ball of Mozzarella? DO IT! Pick up a few complimentary produce items along the way and imagine how fabulous your evening is going to be around the table.

Great food, great friends, great conversation... isn't that what life's about? 


  1. Sidney...with my new dietary regimen I am excluded from the "indulge yourself with cheese" club. However, that fact does not alter the fact that you are 100% correct when you say "something inside will connect in ways you did not expect." I love our times over good wine and delicious cheeses - both served at room temperature. How I miss you...hurry home...I'll uncork the wine and await the great conversations. Dad