Hosting a casual cheese tasting party in place of a sit-down meal is a relaxed and fun way to entertain. Well-planned pairings of cold meats, cheeses, condiments and beverages set the scene for a memorable get-together that’s easy on the host and hostess.
Perfectly paired: Cheese, charcuterie, and wine
For this assortment, we’ve chosen a trio of cheeses from different parts of the world and paired them with complementing cold meats and condiments. The ingredients we’ve featured should be easy to find at your local grocer and we’ve included a couple of easy recipes to give your party that homemade touch.
Jarlsberg is a cow’s milk cheese from Norway. It has a slightly sweet, nutty flavor and smooth texture.
- Sliced deli turkey
- Seedless grapes
- Buttered Pumpernickel Rounds (see below)
- Chablis – light-bodied, dry white from France
- White Bordeaux – medium-bodied, crisp, dry white from France
- Pinot Noir – medium-bodied, smooth red from France
- Wheat Beer, Hefeweizen – medium-bodied, yeasty beer from the US or Germany
How To Make Buttered Pumpernickel Rounds
Get a loaf of fresh, thin-sliced pumpernickel bread. Using a round biscuit cutter, cut 2 or 3 rounds from each slice. Spread each round with a very thin layer of softened butter and sprinkle them with a pinch of salt. Bake in a 400° oven for 5 to 7 minutes, until toasted and crisp.
Goat’s Milk Brie
This cheese has all the rich, creamy qualities of Brie, with the added grassy notes of goat’s milk cheeses. Try Woolwich Dairy’s Triple Crème Goat Brie, a 100% goat’s milk cheese produced in Canada.
- Black Forest ham
- Apple-Cranberry Chutney (get the recipe)
- Chardonnay – full-bodied, fruity white from California
- Dry or Semi-dry Riesling – light, aromatic white from Germany
- Beaujolais – light-bodied, fruity red from France
- Belgian Lambic – fruity, dry, slightly sour beer from Belgium
- Pale Ale – light-bodied, slightly hoppy beer from the US
- Hard Apple Cider – fruity, dry, mildly sour, from US or Ireland
Manchego is a sheep’s milk cheese from Spain with a semi-firm texture and slightly tangy, buttery flavor. Try Gran Maestre’s Manchego, a 100% sheep’s milk cheese produced in the La Mancha region of Spain.
- Serrano ham
- Spice-Toasted Almonds (see below)
- Fresh or dried figs
- Cava – light-bodied, dry sparkling white from Spain
- Rioja – robust, dry red from Spain
- Sherry – fruity, sweet, fortified wine from Spain
- Amber Lager – medium-bodied, malty lager from the US
How To Make Spice-Toasted Almonds
Preheat the oven to 350°F, line a baking sheet with foil and spray it with nonstick spray. Place 6 ounces of whole shelled almonds in a small bowl, cover them with 2 cups of boiling water and soak for 3 minutes. Drain completely.
Slip the skins off the almonds and toss them with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake until light golden brown, 16 to 20 minutes.
While the almonds bake, mix 1/2 teaspoon of paprika, 1/2 teaspoon cumin and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the nuts as soon as you remove them from oven. Allow them to cool on the sheet, then transfer to a serving bowl.
Party planning tips
When cheese and meats (charcuterie) are making up the whole menu you should plan on about 1 ounce of each cheese per person and about the same for the meats.
Using these guidelines, 1/2 pound of each of the three cheeses and meats we’ve suggested here should serve 8 people. If you don’t mind leftovers, you may want to allow a little extra of each to be safe.
Be sure to take your cheeses out of the refrigerator at least 1 hour before serving. Cheese has much better flavor and texture at room temperature.
Group each meat/cheese pairing together on decorative serving platters, wooden boards or marble slabs. Have plenty of small plates, picks and cocktail napkins available so your guests can enjoy the food easily throughout the evening.