Valentine’s Day wine and cheese party
A cheese tasting is the perfect Valentine's celebration whether you are planning a romantic fete for two or a raucous hullabaloo for 40. Everyone loves great cheese and a little good wine or beer to go with it.
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Cheese selections and pairings
I have published five recipes for cheese platters to get you started. Once you start putting cheese platters together, you will find your way and come up with new pairings of your own. There are no right or wrong answers, just what tastes good to you. So here are my cheese platter recipes:
Cave-aged cheeses and pairings Spanish cheeses and pairings Blue cheeses and pairings Triple cream cheeses and pairings Parmigiano Reggiano with honey, balsamic and dates
Pairing wine and cheese
Wine can be a little challenging to pair with cheese, because a lot of the wines people love really don't pair that well with cheese. Chardonnay, particularly an oaky chardonnay, just does not go well with most cheese.
Some general rules of thumb when pairing wine and cheese
Big bold cheeses require a big bold wine, such as a Gruyere and a Merlot or a Stilton and a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Wines made in the same region that the cheese is made are often complementary, such as a Manchego and a Rioja.
Fruity, dry white wines high in natural sugars, such as Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Sancerre, or Sauvignon Blanc tend to go well with many cheeses, and generally are a better choice than Chardonnay.
Port, sherry and dessert wines pair well with many cheeses, particularly blue cheese.
Champagne and cheese
Sparkling wines are fantastic with cheese. You don't have to serve an expensive champagne. An inexpensive Spanish Cava or an Italian Prosecco will do. The crisp effervescence of a sparkling wine compliments and doesn't fight the creaminess of the cheese.
Beer and Cheese
Many hearty cheeses go very well with beer, particularly many hearty cave-aged cheeses.
My cheese platter recipes call out specific food and cheese pairings, but there are some foods that do well with a variety of cheese. Honey is awesome on most cheese. Strawberry jam works incredibly well on many cheeses. Figs and fig preserves also complement many cheeses. Fresh fruit, dried fruit and nuts are delicious with cheese.
Quantities for cheese parties
The beauty of a cheese tasting is that you can create a very interesting cheese platter of 5 to 7 cheeses that is perfect for two people or you can build several cheese platters to accommodate 40 people or even 100 people. Here are my rule of thumb portions:
For 2 people
5 - 7 cheeses in 1.5 ounce slices
For 40 people
10-12 cheeses in 1/2 pound portions, with one special cheese in 1-2 pound portions. For instance a whole wheel of Brillat-Saverin. Arrange 3-4 cheeses together on a platter, grouping cheeses that work well with the same pairings. See my cheese platter recipes for ideas.
For 100 people
18 - 20 cheeses in 1/2 to 3/4 pound portions, with two or three special cheeses in larger 1-2 pound portions. For instance a whole wheel of Brillat-Saverin, Torte de Casar, or Stilton.
Bring cheese to room temperature
To bring out their flavor and aroma, cheese is best at room temperature. Remove cheese from the refrigerator about three hours before serving.
Serve a little something in addition to cheese
For our cheese parties I like to serve my French lentil and garlic sausage soup. It is easy to make, can be doubled or tripled, and it really sticks to the ribs. This hearty soup is just the thing to help out friends who drink a little more wine than they planned on. Serve the soup in mugs half way through the tasting for those that need a little something extra.