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See the appetizer planning page and the beverage planning page for some help.

In the meantime, here is a quickie cheese cheat sheet:

You will use a bit less if the cheese is chunks/ logs/bowls that people have to carve or spread themselves, but this requires more serving room, as people will cluster as they serve themselves.

Cheese logs and spreads, cubes and slices are all equivalent in the appetizer world.

  • If it is the main/ only dish on an appetizer table, you need 20 pounds per 100 people.
  • with other dishes, 10-12 pounds per 100 people
  • at least 6 pounds of crackers or bread per 100 people
  • to accompany sandwiches, 2 ounces/ slices per person

The Wine and Cheese (or Beer and Cheese) (or Tea and Cheese) Party

A lovely opportunity for relaxation and conversation, the wine and cheese party is a great choice for a two to three hour event. It can be planned far ahead with formal invitations, or it may arise as a spontaneous event.

For the genuine wine and cheese party, you want at least 5 different cheeses, and you need 1 to 1 1/2 ounces of each cheese per person. Since you are looking at about 1/2 pound of cheeses and 1/2 bottle of wine per person, the budget is about $10 per person minimum and can go way up. For a low cost party among friends, you can ask each guest to bring one cheese and a complementary wine or beer choice; but you will probably have a better selection if you do it yourself.

For every 6 people, 2 bottles of white wines and 1 bottle of red wine. For 20 people, 6 whites and 4 reds. Specialty beers are another good option; 1 6-pack replaces 1 bottle of wine. If you are spending good money on cheeses, don't get box wines! And since not everyone drinks alcohol, have a few bottles of chilled sparkling apple cider or pear cider, and some sparkling mineral water like Perrier or Pellegrino.
Black or oolong teas, which have tannins like wine or fruits, are another beverage option. If you go this route, choose flavorful teas that have distinctive notes to them: try 2-3 black teas with one oolong and a green to expand the variety. Black choices among Darjeeling, Assam, Lapsang Souchong, and Yunnan, all full-bodied teas that can stand up to the creaminess of cheese. Prepare your tea carefully, avoid bitterness and do not overbrew. Make enough of each for everyone to get a good taste of each. Here are some pairings recommended at Teamuse.com:

  • Asiago Pressata with a vegetal Green, Kukicha or Sencha (Asiago is a very mild cheese and goes well with a green tea that has a low amount of tannins).
  • Irish Whiskey Cheddar with Lapsang Souchong (the smokiness of Lapsang Souchong really holds up to the bitterness of the cheese)
  • Goat cheese with Assam. Try with a dribble of honey on the cheese-it makes for a great flurry of flavors- the maltiness of the tea goes well with the tart of the cheese and the aftertaste of the honey.
  • Brie and Darjeeling (I learned to eat the 'flurry' which is the waxy rind on the brie- it helps bring out the flavor).
  • Manchego with Sencha (the tea helps mellow out the sharpness of this hard cheese).

Cheeses should be fresh, purchase just a day or two before the party.

Each cheese should have its own platter and serving utensils. Regular table knives are not good cutters for harder cheeses, so consider supplying some real hard cheese and soft cheese knives. Decorate the cheese board with grapes, pear or crisp apples, dried fruit or stuffed fruits such as stuffed dates, fruit pastes, chutneys or fig jam, nuts, possibly olives. Budget allowing, a little caviar or smoked fish is also possible, or some smoked or cured meats such as prosciutto, dry salami, orpancetta. Offer crusty breads, flat breads such as lavash and a variety of crackers, allowing 3-5 ounces of breads and crackers per person (the lesser amount for mostly crackers, the larger amount for mostly breads). Maybe some crostini, bruschetta or tapenades? Soft cheeses such as feta or haloumi and goat cheese go well with slow roasted red peppers, tomatoes and onions ( with a hint of olive oil and balsamic and herbs).

Take the cheeses out of the refrigerator at least 1 hour before serving. On the other hand, sparkling wines should be chilled overnight for the event, white wines 2-3 hours before the party and red wines to be chilled half an hour before serving.

  • Soft Cheese examples: Blue Castello, Boursin, Brie, Bucheron, buffalo mozzarella, Camembert, feta, goat cheeses, Gorgonzola, Haloumi, Limburger, Mascarpone, Muenster, Neufchatel, Pave Affinois, Teleme
  • Hard Cheese examples: Asiago, Blue, Derby, Edam, Emmentaler, Grana Padano, Gruyere, Jarlsberg, Manchego, Parmigiano, Pecorino Romano, Raclette, Reggiano, Swiss, Wensleydale, Zamarano
  • Semi-Soft Cheese examples: Bel Paese, Baby Swiss, Colby, Fontina, Havarti, Kasseri, Madrigal Baby Swiss, Morbier, Port Salut
  • Semi-Hard Cheese examples: Cheddar, Chesire, Cotija, Danish Blue, Double Gloucester, Gouda, Graddost, Panela, Provolone, Roquefort, Sonoma Jack, Stilton

If you are having a single wine, you might consider a sparkling wine or sauternes. Pairing wines and cheeses is a real skill: check out the great advice at Murray's Cheese Shop. Also look at Gourmet Sleuth, another good offsite link for wine and cheese pairings. Then come back for more planning tips.

You can set your cheeses up buffet style along one wall, but for a larger party, you may want to set up several different tables with the wine and cheese pairs on various tables. Usually, a little nice looking decoration, such as tablecloths, improves the party, and a seasonal centerpiece is not out of order. Make labels for the cheeses and wines, maybe with a little history, origin, etc. Coasters and cocktail napkins are essential; you also need many small plates. It makes things a little more special to have both red wine and white wine glasses, as well as the correct glasses for sparkling wines and the smaller ones for sherry or port if they are included in the wine selections.

A selection of small sweets/ desserts is a great addition. What about cheesecake bites, small brownies, fig or date bars? A dinner service of coffee at the end of the party is an excellent idea (see the beverage planning page on help with quantities).

Here are some foods very unfriendly to wine:
Wasabi, horse radish, artichokes, asparagus, shell fish

Salty food (meats, cheeses) brings out the fruit in wine.

Use fresh ripened fruit or dried fruit.

This chart offers a guide; its not a rule, so experiment.

Foods Wine
Avocados, eggplant Albarino
Apples, pears, peaches, blueberries Asti Spumante
Melons, mangoes, dried fruitsBarbaresco
Bardolino
Melons, mangoes, dried fruits, white truffles Barolo
Plums, berries, peaches
bell peppers, zucchini and squashes, capers
Beaujolais
Foie grasBarsac
Bourgueil
Pears, plums, dried fruit Bordeaux
Apples, pears, peachesCabernet
Seedless grapes, peaches, lady apples, blueberries Champagne
Apples, pears, peaches, tangerines Chardonnay
Blackberries Chateauneuf-du-Pape
ApricotsChenin Blanc
Figs, dried fruitsChianti
Chianti Riserva
Chinon
KiwiDessert Wine
Fleurie,Fruity Red Wines
Bananas, sweet onions Gerztraminer
AsparagusGruner Vetliner, Light Red Wines
Dark chocolate desserts Madeira
Beef brisketMalbec or Merlot
Blackberries, melon, cherries, melon and prosciuttoMuscat
Grilled chicken pinot gris, pinot grigio
Berries, cherries, apples, grilled salmon, mushrooms Pinot Noir
Figs, melon, cherriesPort, Ribera del Duero
Blackberries, guava, peaches
Grilled tuna
Riesling, Rioja
watermelon, blood oranges rose, sparkling rose
clementines, Roussanne, Sancerres
Sangiovese
BananasSauternes
Tomatoes, corn, grapefruitsSauvignon Blanc
FigsSherry
KiwiShiraz
PomegarnatesSyrah
Dried fruitTawny Port
Plums, blackberries, mushrooms Tempranillo
PearsViognier
Mango, melonVouvray
Pears, Fuji Apples, grilled lamb White Zinfandel
Blackberries, grilled ribs Zinfandel (Red)