Holiday Feature

Kate Heyhoe  

Holiday Open House:
Wine & Cheese Party

by Kate Heyhoe

wine and cheese

None of us have much free time during the year, and during the holidays we're even more frantic. Yet, the tradition of entertaining, of hosting your friends and relatives, is one many of us will never give up—despite the extra stress it puts us under.

In my mind there are two solutions to hosting a painless holiday party: 1) hire a caterer, or 2) serve a "Wine & Cheese Open House." The former definitely has its appeals: once the menu is picked, you can send the caterer away to do all the work—for a fee, of course—while you continue your Christmas shopping. But personally, I prefer the latter—it's almost as easy, let's me put my own personality stamp on the event and is perfectly casual yet elegant. Remember: you want your guests to feel comfortable and relaxed, not formal and strained. The best way to do that is to be relaxed and sociable yourself.

cheese primer

"But I know nothing about cheese and wine!" you cry? No problem! An excellent guide to cheese has just been released, Steven Jenkins' Cheese Primer (Workman). Steven is one of the nation's top authorities on cheese, having had a creative hand in all the best cheese counters: Dean & Deluca, Balducci's and the Fairway Market, among others. He is opinionated, but his opinions come not without their merit. We've included Steve's valuable advice on serving cheeses, pairing them with wine and what to serve as accompaniments, including suggested menus. This is all you really need to know to create a festive Wine & Cheese Open House.

We suggest a wine and cheese party that sets up stations in several places of the house. Small tables can accomodate a tray of three cheeses, their matched-wines and accompaniments, and serving ware. This also allows your guests to mingle, tasting a bit at each station and meeting new folks as they go along. Steven Jenkins adds, "Tell your guests the names of each cheese and in which order it's best to sample them—beginning with mild cheeses and progressing to strong-tasting ones. Of course, guests should feel free to taste in whatever oerder they wish, but a little advice and information may be welcomed by less knowledgable cheese-eaters."

Of course, we have a few other party tips to inspire you. From my own and other caterers experience, I've put together some tricks of the trade (at Caterers Tips) that non-pros can use. Keep them in mind as you plan your Wine & Cheese or other holiday events.


Steven Jenkins' Cheese Primer


More Wine & Cheese-Spread Party Recipes

All About Cheese

Wine Suggestions

Holiday Recipe Headquarters

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This page created 1998 and modified September 2007.