Tricks of the Trade:
by Kate Heyhoe
Host/Hostess Rule #1
Take charge of the party. Don't let it control you! Be realistic. Grand ideas are wonderful but only if you have the time, energy and budget to create them. Plan out the party tasks in advance and schedule them into your lifestyle. For a wine & cheese party, you'll need good purveyors of quality wine and cheese, some serving trays, plates, glasses and utensils, and some atmosphere. Time-wise, plan on a few hours for shopping (you can get the wines way in advance), and the cheeses should be bought only a day or two before.
Caterer's Rule #1
Do as much ahead of time as possible. Set the table the day before so you can play around with it. Decide if you are going with real plates and linens, or the fun, decorator-style paper plates and napkins. A casual party theme can accomodate either. Rinsing lettuce, chopping vegetables, making garnishes can all be done a day or two in advance. And be sure to check your wine glasses—if they have not been used in a while, they may need to be washed beforehand. Same goes for serving platters. If you are using real silver, check for tarnish; you may need to enlist the kids or other helpers to polish it away.
Forget the Hors d'Oeurve Platters
While they do contribute to the variety of foods served, individual finger foods are time-consuming to make. Unless you live a Martha Stewart lifestyle, or can have a professional caterer provide them, or can squirrel-away the time to create such delicacies (and you'll need to create several varieties to make the effect complete), stick with simple fare. Wine & Cheese is one type of party, but there are others almost as easy. For instance, order a Virginia or Honey-baked ham, or a smoked turkey, set up some condiments, imported olives, some finger rolls and let your guests serve themselves.
Focus On What You Enjoy Doing
If reading recipes and planning out the affair is part of the fun, then go for it. Just make sure you have enough time to create your party successfully. If you prefer decorating, spend the time on that and order the foods already prepared.
Use the Unexpected for Decorations
If flower arranging is what you enjoy, then have fun picking the blooms and artfully arranging them. If not, call the florist, or come up with alternatives. Buy a few poinsettias and group them together. Put your potted herbs out with a red bow. Set out a basket of red and green peppers one day, and eat them in a salad the next. Christmas season comes with built-in decorations, including your tree and the gifts underneath it. Just distribute them festively.
Shop for Your Goodies Online
If fighting the crowds is not high on your list, then order your cheeses and other fine foods online. Many of the finest gourmet products are shipped overnight at the touch of your keyboard (including those from our very own Global Gourmet Store).
Steven Jenkins' Cheese Primer
- The Fromage Formula: How to Buy Cheese for a Crowd
- The Art of Serving Cheese
- Suggested Cheese & Wine Menus
- Cheeseboard Accompaniments
- Leftover Cheese
- Tricks of the Trade: Caterers' Tips
More Wine & Cheese-Spread Party Recipes
This page created 1998 and modified September 2007.