A cheese tasting follows the same rationale as a wine tasting. Start with the mildest cheese and progress to the strongest. For an almost spur-of-the-moment party that requires no cooking, try a cheese-tasting buffet, mating each cheese with a complementary fruit or vegetable. Wine enhances cheese and offers many options, from a tasting of California Zinfandels or French Beaujolais, to a choice of Merlots, Pinot Noirs, or Cabernet Sauvignons from two vintages. Offer a combination of at least six cheeses, each paired with a fruit or vegetable:
Shopping: Count on one-half bottle of wine and 4 ounces of cheese per person. Figure on 1-1/2 whole fruits and a smaller amount of vegetables per person. For 24 guests, offer a combination of 3 cheeses and 3 fruits and 3 cheeses and 3 vegetables. A sample list would include 12 apples, 12 pears, 2 whole pineapples, 8 red peppers, 2 heads fennel, and 4 cucumbers
Serving: Let the cheeses warm to room temperature for about 1 hour before serving, depending on the kind of cheese and the heat of the day. Serve in wedges or blocks and accompany with a cheese plane, slicer, or cheese knives so guests can cut their own. Arrange and serve the cheeses beginning with the mildest and ending with the strongest in flavor. Thinly slice the baguette, cut the focaccia into squares, and offer the crackers in a basket. If you like, place a different wine at each cheese station.
With countless varieties of both cheese and wine, the possibilities are endless. Yet certain rules apple. Often, pairing the regional wines with local cheeses makes and ideal combination, such as Muenster with Alsatian Gewurztraminer, chevres with Sancerre, or Roquefort with sauternes. Consider other beverages, too: tart cider or Calvados has a natural affinity for soft-ripened cheeses such as Camembert, and beer is a good partner for strong cheeses. Good combinations include:
Nestled between slices of fresh bread, baked into a souffle, sprinkled atop pasta, or accompanied by a glass of wine and a sliver of fruit, cheese is as perfect for entertaining as it is for everyday snacks and meals. Cheese includes a host of delectable recipes and menu suggestions featuring such international favorites as Parmesan, Gorgonzola, Edam, Cheddar, Gouda, Brie, and more.
Short descriptions of two dozen varieties of cheeses and suggested pairings with wines, fruits, and breads, as well as three dozen quick and easy recipes for cheese appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, and desserts, will help make your next family meal or social gathering a delicious success. Enjoy a French Onion Soup baked to golden brown perfection with melted Jarlsberg. Savor a tasty sandwich of Grilled Eggplant with Mozzarella or of tangy Monterey Jack with Chutney and Prosciutto. Or serve a classic Greek Seafood Casserole of Shrimp and Feta as a delightful light supper followed by a luscious Coeur a la Creme with Raspberries for a tantalizing dessert.
Illustrated with charming watercolors, Cheese is an elegant and compact guide to a tasty and versatile food-and it makes the perfect gift.
Food has been Lou Pappas's passion for most of her life. She is the author of 28 cookbooks, including 8 other titles in the Artful Kitchen series-Biscotti, Cheesecake, Holiday Feasts, Pesto, Cinnamon, Chutneys & Relishes, Ginger, and Pizzette-published by Chronicle Books. Her many food, wine, and travel articles have appeared in national magazines and newspapers. A former newspaper food editor for the Peninsula Times Tribune, Ms. Pappas lives in Palo Alto, California.
Quick and Easy Recipes for Elegant Entertaining
by Lou Seibert Pappas
Illustrations by Melissa Sweet
(Reprinted with permission)
This page originally published as a FoodDay article (circa 1997).
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This page modified February 2007
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