Thank you Decoy and Tillamook for sponsoring this post. Find your perfect pairing this holiday season with Decoy and Tillamook! We’re talking the perfect wine and cheese pairing, an epic cheeseboard, and the easiest bacon, cheddar, and fig crostini. Entertain with ease!
Wine and Cheese Pairing
Some people love the holidays for the general feeling of joy and happiness in the air. Some people love the holidays for the magic…and the music. And a lot of people love the holiday for the presents.
Me, I do love all of those things as well, however another big reason I love the holidays, is for the entertaining. I throw my fair share of get togethers during the holidays, and while some are larger than others, the best get together of all is small, intimate, and includes lots of cheese and wine.
Today we’re going to talk about:
- How to throw an amazing happy hour for your friends
- The ideal wine and cheese pairing
- How to make the most perfect cheeseboard
- Tips and tricks to make entertaining easy and fun
- The simplest bacon and cheddar crostini that would be perfect at any holiday gathering
How to entertain without stress
Ok, so here’s a little secret….
Entertaining doesn’t have to be stressful or hard.
It’s true. I entertain A LOT, and I’m rarely stressed about it. Here’s how I do it.
If I’m doing a casual happy or cocktail hour, like we are today, I love to skip making anything elaborate and serve a simple cheese board alongside one easy recipe. I buy all of the cheeseboard items ahead of time, and make a checklist of every item that goes on the board so I don’t forget anything.
Because cheese needs to sit out for about an hour before serving, I get everything assembled and just let it sit out until guests arrive, then I finish up any other little things that need to be done – i.e. ferverously picking up all toys, trash, and other items.
Make one recipe from scratch
Because I like to have one single item made from scratch, I always make some sort of easy appetizer that will go with a cheeseboard. Note, EASY. Usually it’s a quick dip, sausage rolls from the freezer, or an easy crostini that compliments my cheese board. (More on that later.)
Limit alcohol variety
For happy hour or cocktail hour, you don’t need to offer a full bar. I like to serve just one type of alcohol, which today is Decoy Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. Celebrations start with Decoy wine! Two of my favorites! I love serving a Pinot Noir because it’s a light wine that goes with absolutely everything. Decoy’s is smooth, delicious, and I can’t get enough of it. Plus, this time of year, all I want is a big glass of red wine to warm me from the inside out.
Items to have in the perfect wine and cheese pairing
Duh. What’s an epic cheeseboard without the cheese?? Today we’re using our favorite Tillamook cheese. Have you guys tried it yet? I’ve been eating Tillamook cheese for years, and today I’m using two of my favorites. The Extra Sharp Cheddar and the Medium Cheddar Slices. I’m obsessed with sharp cheddar cheese, and the sharper, the better, Tillamook cheddar is naturally aged to get the sharpness just right, which I love.
The farm style slices are relatively new. I like them because they have Tillamook quality, but also because they are farmstyle, meaning they are thicker so you get more cheese and more flavor in every bite. Which makes them perfect for a cheeseboard…or your favorite turkey sandwich.
For a cheeseboard, it’s important to feature a few different cheeses, and textures. I served the extra sharp cheddar two different ways. First in cubes that can be popped into guests mouths by themselves. Second, in slices so guests can make make mini cheese sandwiches with a cracker and a piece of meat (my favorite way to dig into a cheeseboard.)
I like to serve red or green grapes alongside the cheese. I also like serving dried dates, figs, and apricots. Thinly sliced apple or pears would also be great. Plus, they make for a gorgeous presentation.
I ALWAYS have crackers on hand, so the variety I use is basically dependent on what’s in my cupboard. Just like the cheeses, I like to have a variety of tastes and textures. For this particular cheeseboard, I used whole-wheat rounds and crunchy fig and olive crackers.
You could also use rice crackers, water crackers, really whatever you want! Sometimes I’ll also pick up a few of those long crispy breadsticks, or if I have it on hand, I also like to tear up pieces of hearty ciabatta or sourdough.
A cheeseboard isn’t complete without nuts. Around the holidays, instead of going with my go-to truffled almond, I use a variety of ginger-infused candied nuts. It adds a little something sweet and special to the board that I love.
We can’t for get the meats! I kept things simple here with just thinly sliced salami. I also like to use prosciutto, capicola, mortadella, or Serrano ham. I’ll usually have three different meats, but since I was just serving three people, I stuck with one.
Honestly whatever goes! I usually will throw on whatever I’ve got in the fridge. Olives, pickles, roasted red peppers, pickled veggies, anything you’ve got that could add a little bit of dimension and texture.
Bacon and Cheddar Crostini
I can’t tell you how many crostini I’ve made for parties over the years. They’re one of my favorite easy apps to serve when I’m hosting happy hour because they’re:
- easy to throw together
- endlessly versatile
- don’t require utensils
I wanted to mimic some of the same flavors going on in the cheeseboard, so this crostini is slathered with fig jam, a small slice of cheddar cheese, a crispy piece of bacon, and just a touch of fresh thyme. It’s the perfect balance of sweet, salty, and cheesy. Here’s how to make it:
- Cut a good-quality French baguette into 1-inch slices.
- Brush with olive oil oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Toast in a 325-degree oven just until the bread is slightly toasted. (Don’t let them get too crispy, you want guests to be able to easily bite into them.)
- Spread the crostini with fig jam when they come out of the oven. Top with a 1/4 piece of sliced cheddar cheese and 1/3 piece of bacon. Sprinkle with fresh thyme.
- Optional: After you put the cheese on, pop them back into the oven until the cheese melts. Top with bacon and thyme.
Can I prep a cheeseboard in advance?
Absolutely. I’ll oftentimes prep the board completely the morning of, then take the crackers and nuts off and store them in a plastic baggie, so I have the exact amount I need. I cover the board with plastic wrap and store in the fridge. When you’re an hour our from guests arriving, pull it out and put the crackers back on.
You actually really do want to prep a cheeseboard at least an hour in advance, because the cheese and meats needs to come to room temperature.
What is the ideal temperature for red wine?
So it’s actually a myth that red wine should be served at room temperature. Ideally, if you can, it should be stored in a cool, dry place at a temperature of 60-68 degrees. Some say to serve it even cooler. I like to store mine in the fridge and then pull it out about two hours before I have guests over. By then, it’s usually at the perfect temperature.
However, it’s also a personal preference, and even though I’m not one to break rules, sometimes I break this one, since most people seem to prefer their red wine at room temperature.
- 4 slices bacon
- 1/2 french baguette, sliced into 1-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup fig jam
- 3 slices Tillamook medium cheddar farmstyle slices
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- fresh thyme
- sheet pan
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add bacon to one half of a sheet pan lined with cookie cooling rack. Cook the bacon until crisp.
- Brush the crostini with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. When the bacon is about halfway done cooking, pull the pan out with the bacon on it and place the crostini on the other half. Bake until slightly crisp, about 5-6 minutes. (Don't let them get too crisp, as you want guests to be able to bite into them easily.)
- Spread the crostini with fig jam. Top with a 1/4 piece of cheese followed by a 1/3 piece of bacon. If desired, place the crostini back in the oven to melt the cheese. Sprinkle with thyme just before serving.