Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Entertaining.. Sophisticated-Like

Statistics show that the more fulfilling lives are ones centered around relationships, events, and socializing. No wonder we all feel an itch for popularity, eh? The more friends, the more you can accomplish!

Couples (and individuals) are shown to be happier and more satisfied with their lives when money is spent on trips, concerts, outings, food and drinks- instead of fancy cars, designer shoes, or the latest in technology. Less materialism, more.. experiencing.

One of my favorite ways to incorporate this in my own life is entertaining. It's cheap, it's fun, and you can increase your social network quite easily over time.

While the typical college kid's version of this is throwing a really jammin' keggar on Friday night, I prefer to keep beer pong out of my venue.

With that said, I've developed some experience in throwing some pretty awesome dinner parties on a budget, and I've decided to share with you my Guide to Throwing the Best Wine-and-Cheese Party:

The Wines

Depending on the age, the type, and the make of the wines, many on this next list can be paired with all varieties of cheese. This guide is just kind of the standard, so be sure you can't go wrong. But don't be afraid to experiment!

Soft Cheese: Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Champagne, Cabernet, White Zinfandel, Vidal, Beaujolais, Bordeaux, Chianti, Sancerre

Hard Cheese: Bardolino, Tawny Port, Madeira, Sherry, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre, Côtes du Rhône, Rioja, Cabernet, Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello di Montalcino, Ribera del Duero, Chardonnay, Chianti Riserva, Beaujolais, Dark Beer, Sangria, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir

Semi-Soft Cheese: Chardonnay, Champagne, Riesling, Barolo, Barbaresco, Gattinara, Bordeaux, Rioja, Fleurie, Beaujolais, Chinon, Bourgueil

Semi-Hard Cheese: Chardonnay, Champagne, Riesling, Cabernet, Sancerre, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chianti Riserva, Barolo, Tawny Port

The Cheeses

As with wine, cheese has all sorts of variation. At my local grocery store alone, there are 4 different types and mixes of feta. I haven't tried them all, but the different flavorings can be paired better with a different wine than standard feta. Again, feel free to mix it up and find what you like best.

Soft Cheese: Blue Castello, Boursin, Brie, Bucheron, buffalo mozzarella, Camembert, feta, goat cheese, Gorgonzola, Limburger, Mascarpone, Muenster, Neufchatel, Pave Affinois, Teleme

Hard Cheese: Asiago, Blue, Derby, Edam, Emmentaler, Grana Padano, Gruyere, Jarlsberg, Manchego, Parmigiano, Pecorino Romano, Raclette, Reggiano, Swiss, Wensleydale, Zamarano

Semi-Soft Cheese: Bel Paese, Baby Swiss, Colby, Fontina, Havarti, Kasseri, Madrigal Baby Swiss, Morbier, Port Salut

Semi-Hard Cheese: Cheddar, Chesire, Cotija, Danish Blue, Double Gloucester, Gouda, Graddost, Panela, Provolone, Roquefort, Sonoma Jack, Stilton

More Great Vino-Friendly Pairings

Dark chocolate: best kind of chocolate to work with wines. Goes great with reds.

Crackers: water crackers have neutral flavor for in between wines, otherwise find a variety of good ones to lay out near the cheeses.

Nuts: walnuts are a wonderful complement to many cheeses, almonds are rich and salty yet not overpowering, good for cutting through the creamier cheeses. Other good ones to try are hazelnuts and brazil nuts.

Fruit: Strawberries and peaches go well with lighter, sweeter wines. Also include plums, pears, grapes, or apples.

Look Like A Pro

How to taste your wine:

1. See. Hold your glass by the stem at a 45-degree angle so it catches the light. It’s really about appreciating what you’re going to sip.
2. Swirl. Hold the base of the stem between your first two fingers and move it around (slowly!) in a small, circular motion to aerate the wine and unlock its aromas.
3. Smell. Stick your nose way into the glass (no, it won’t get stuck) and deeply inhale. This ritual triggers your taste buds.
4. Sip. Take a nice-sized sip and let the wine touch all parts of your mouth, rolling over your tongue and hitting the sides to really get the flavor.

A few terms to define the wine and flavors:

• Acidic. The tart (or over-the-top sour) quality that wine gives off naturally.
• Tannic. Tannins create a dry, puckery, astringent sensation in your mouth.
• Body. A full-bodied wine feels heavy (the way whole milk feels thicker than skim).
• Dry. A wine is called dry if it’s not sweet. Most table wines are considered dry.

For More Ideas

A fantastic go-to that I've found when you're looking for pairings. The Wisconsin Cheese Cupid pairs your wine or cheese to its "perfect mate" with just a few clicks. I love it!

Last but Not Least!

Invite some friends. Good themes I've used- having everyone bring their own bottle, or have everyone bring another friend that you might not know. Be creative, and have fun with it. Cheers to a more fulfilling life that is sure to be yours!

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