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Vernalisa's Wine and Cheese Party

Wine and Chesse Party

Humm delicious cheese--especially when paired with a good glass of wine. A wine and cheese party is easy to put together, fun and great tasting so good with a rich, sweet Port. Take a step beyond plain wedges and try my recipes for cheesy nibbles. Get tips on how to pair wine with cheese.




Triple Cream (St. Andre)

Ripe Goat cheese

Fresh figs

Fresh dates pitted stuffed with cream chesse and walnut

Crusty bread, thinly sliced asstored crackers and flat bread Assemble ingredients on platter and serve at room temperature


1/2 pound imported Swiss cheese, shredded

1/2 pound Gruyere cheese, shredded

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 garlic clove, peeled

1 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon cherry brandy, such as kirsch

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

Pinch nutmeg In a small bowl, coat the cheeses with cornstarch and set aside. Rub the inside of the ceramic fondue pot with the garlic, then discard. Over medium heat, add the wine and lemon juice and bring to a gentle simmer. Gradually stir the cheese into the simmering liquid. Melting the cheese gradually encourages a smooth fondue. Once smooth, stir in cherry brandy, mustard and nutmeg. Arrange an assortment of bite-sized dipping foods on a lazy Susan around fondue pot. Serve with chunks of French and pumpernickel breads. Some other suggestions are Granny Smith apples and blanched vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and asparagus. Spear with fondue forks or wooden skewers, dip, swirl and enjoy!Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes


1 wedge of brie, about 12 ounces

1/4 cup of honey

1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds

1 large French baguette Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place brie in a baking dish. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle With toasted almonds. Bake for 10 minutes. Serve with thick slices of French bread Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 10 minutes


Recipe Courtesy of Curtis Akins2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons garlic, chopped

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/3 cup fresh mint, chopped

4 red onions, halved and peeled

8 fresh figs

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

5 ounces Gorgonzola

Dash of Tabasco

Dash of Worcestershire

3 tablespoons heavy cream

12 slices baguette

3 tablespoons olive oil which has been mixed with 1 crushed garlic clove Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix the olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and mint. Slice the onions in half, from stem to root end and add to bowl. Coat onions and place in a shallow baking dish and roost for 30 minutes. Add figs to baking dish, baste with juices and roast for 15 more minutes. Meanwhile, mix gorgonzola, Tabasco, Worcestershire and thin with cream to make a spreadable mixture. Brush baguette slices with garlic oil. Remove the onions and figs from oven, raise oven to 400 degrees and toast the baguette slices for about 7 minutes, until browned. To serve: Spread the cheese mixture on the bread. Place the onion and fig mixture on a platter, and surround with the croutons. Serve immediately. Tip: DRIED FIGS Heat your figs with a mixture of brandy and water to barely cover. Cook 15-20 minutes until softened. Serve with mascarpone cheese or whipped cream. Yield: 4 servings


8 ounces soft fresh goat cheese

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons plain yogurt

3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

Toasted baguette slices

Assorted raw vegetables: carrots, red bell peppers, cauliflower, English cucumber, zucchini etc. Blend goat cheese, oil and yogurt in processor until smooth. Add herbs and season dip to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate about 4 hours. Serve dip with toasted baguette slices and raw vegetables. Yield: 1 1/2 cups

Prep Time: 15 minutes


1/2 pound extra-sharp Cheddar, grated

1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sesame seeds, toasted lightly and cooled

1/4 cup minced shallot

1/2 teaspoon salt

Course black pepper to taste

In a food processor blend the Cheddar, butter, flour, sesame seeds, shallot, salt and pepper until the mixture forms a ball of dough. Halve the dough. On sheets of plastic wrap form each half into a log about 6 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter, and chill the dough, wrapped in the plastic wrap, for 1 to 2 hours, or until it is firm enough to slice. Cut the dough into 1/4-inch slices, arrange the slices 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets, and bake them in batches in the middle of a preheated 400 degree F oven for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Transfer the crisps carefully with a metal spatula to racks, let them cool, and drain them on paper towels if desired.Yield: About 56 crackers


1 pound extra sharp cheddar cheese

1 stick softened sweet butter

2 teaspoonfuls of Dijon mustard (or to taste)

1/4 tsp.Cayenne pepper

1/4 cup dry sherry

1 to 1 1/2 cups chopped toasted pecans

Garnish: finely sliced chives Grate the cheddar cheese while very chilled, but then let the grated cheese get back to room temperature. In the bowl of a food processor, whirl the cheese, butter, mustard, sherry and cayenne pepper until smooth and creamy Transfer to a mixing bowl, cover and refrigerate until needed. (You can do 2 weeks before serving.) Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before serving; fold in the nuts and repack into four 1 cup ramekins of crocks. Dust with chives for garnish Serve with crackers, or a crunchy vegetable like celery or fennel or jicama. Yield: 3 to 4 cups

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Easy to make


1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

16 large white mushrooms, stems removed and finely chopped

2 cups fresh bread crumbs

1/4 tsp. finely chopped fresh flat parsley

Dash of hot pepper sauce

4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled Use side burners or preheat grill. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until soft. Add mushroom stems and cook until golden brown. Remove from heat and add bread crumbs, parsley, hot pepper sauce and cheese. Mix until well combined (if mixture looks too dry, add more olive oil.) Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Fill the mushroom caps with the mixture and brush the entire mushroom with more olive oil. Grill over medium heat until tender.Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cooking Time: 10 minutes


2/3 cup finely chopped walnuts

6 ounces crumbled blue cheese Roquefort or Gorgonzola

4 ounces cream cheese

30 loose seedless red grapes (about 1/4 pound with stems)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. On a sheet pan spread out the walnuts and toast in the oven for 7 to 9 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. In a bowl with an electric mixer, cream together the blue cheese and the cream cheese until smooth. Put one tablespoon of the cheese mixture in the palm of one hand and in it roll a grape, shaping the mixture around the grape to coat. Cover the remaining grapes and chill on a sheet pan for 15 minutes. Roll the cheese-coated grapes in the walnut mixture to cover completely and chill for 30 minutes or until coating is firm. Using a sharp knife cut grapes into halves. Yield: 8 servings

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cooking Time: 55 minutes


2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup confectioners' sugar

6 to 8 tablespoons melted butter

1 pound cottage cheese

1 pint sour cream

8 ounce package softened cream cheese

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 can cherry pie filling, optional or fresh sliced fresh strawberries or blueberries to serve with cake Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Butter a 12 inch springform pan. Mix the pulverized graham crackers, sugar and melted butter and pat this dough into the bottom of the springform pan. Bake for 15 minutes or until set, remove and cool before filling. Raise the temperature to 350 degrees. With an electric mixer beat the cottage cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, eggs, sugar, flour and vanilla. Beat for 10 minutes; batter will be very thin. Pour over crust and bake for 40 minutes. Turn off oven but leave cake in for an additional 30 minutes. Do not open oven door. Remove cake from oven then cool cake for 2 hours. When cool, run a thin metal spatula around edge of cake. Loosen and remove sides of springform pan. Note that, when cooling, cheesecake will develop a large crack across the top. Slide cake onto plate. If you wish, top with pie filling or serve a wedge of cake with fresh berries. Yield: 12 to 16 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cooking Time: 3 hours 15 minutes

Water is a fine thirst-quenching option when mealtime rolls around, but there's nothing quite like a crisp glass of Riesling with your grilled fish, or a fruity Beaujolais to complement your roast chicken. Wine is an ideal partner for nearly all foods because of its acidity. Acidic tastes make your mouth water, and that extra burst of saliva and its enzymes help bolster the flavor of food. But what is it that makes a classic wine and cheese pairing so magical?

It's all a matter of chemistry. Tannin is an astringent substance that roughens your tongue and palate when you drink a harsh young red, such as a Chianti. The reason some wines can be left in a cellar and aged for so long is that they have a high tannin content, which mellows over time and helps develop more complex flavors in the wine.

However, a protein can smooth mild tannins on the tongue, which is why wine and cheese, or red wine and a steak, are classic combinations. The protein and fats in the cheese or meat coat your tongue and prevent the tannin from tasting harsh, and the tannin keeps the steak or cheese from tasting greasy and heavy. Eaten and drunk together, cheese and wine bring out the best in each other.

Even a mediocre wine will taste a little better with a bite of cheese, but there are some combinations that rise to new heights. Andrea Immer, beverage director of Starwood Hotels and author of Great Wines Made Simple (Broadway Books, October 2000), recommends a Parmigiano with Cabernet Sauvignon. A true Italian Parmigiano goes with nearly any wine, but a strong, tannic Cabernet Sauvignon is perfectly heightened by the cheese's sharp flavor.

Immer also recommends a dessert wine, such as a Sauternes or Port, with a blue cheese such as Roquefort or Stilton. Instead of generic blues from the local supermarket, buy a true French Roquefort or an English Stilton to experience fully the pleasure of the strong salty cheese with the sweetness of the dessert wine, be it the white Sauternes or the red Port.

Sauternes also makes a perfect accompaniment to rich, fatty foie gras, but the ingredients don't have to be gourmet for you to appreciate the interplay of wine and food. One of the more unusual pairings Immer suggests is an off-dry white wine, such as a Riesling, with chips and salsa. The acidity of the wine with its hint of sweetness mellow the spiciness of the salsa.

Not all wine and cheese combinations work well, however. Immer recommends avoiding cheeses with rinds, such as Brie, with wine. The moldy flavor of the rind competes with the wine.

Start to explore the flavors of various wines with different cheeses, and you'll discover new pairings the most pleasurable way possible

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