My key to hosting parties: having a spread of appetizers that guests can enjoy. In my house, this usually takes the form of a cheese board. The appetizer on arrival is the greatest distraction technique any host can deploy. Guests now have an area that you’ve subtly invited them to gather in and have a glass of wine and conversation. You’ve now got the kitchen to yourself to finish up any last-minute preparations, or you can disappear and get yourself ready, knowing your guests will not starve in the meantime. I also think it takes the pressure off of guests. It’s awful when you are running fifteen minutes late and someone texts to make sure you are still coming, isn’t it? Take everyone’s mind off of the stress we endure daily with constant deadlines.
With that in mind, here are some of my favorite cheese and appetizer spreads to give you some inspiration:
This is the prettiest cheese plate I’ve ever seen. Not homemade. The Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky gets credit here. I love the blackberry slice on top of the strawberries and the drizzles of jams.
Adding a sprig of fresh rosemary or another herb brings aroma and color. I also use rosemary as a separator to keep the cured meat away from the cheese.
I’m including this recent cheese plate for a couple of reasons. First, the portion is small, but the arrangement looks full because of the way the plate is arranged with the crackers down the middle. Second, the plate does not need to be fancy or pricey to impress. Dried cherries, a few herby olives, and two kinds of cheese (Dubliner – delicious and not at all pricey is on the top right of the plate). The cheese plate is not intended to replace a meal – just to tell guests where to gather and to give people something to snack on so their stomachs aren’t rumbling as your guests trickle in.
This simple slate tray was enjoyed in California and featured several local cheeses, which was a thoughtful touch.
For a date night dinner, I made this to occupy the Husband while I freshened up before we left for the evening. Triple cream brie, Honeycrisp apple slices, balsamic reduction, honey, and salty pistachios.