In this second part of this blog series, I am sharing ideas on presentation – and some thoughts on beverage pairings. Beer or wine – what should it be?
If you have not yet read the first part on how to choose the actual cheeses and accompaniments, find that blog post here.
I recommend pre-cutting the salami and cheeses into portions that are two bites worth. While whole wheels of cheese with a knife in them signal a certain generosity, it is really hard to portion out the right amount of anything while you are in a conversation with a fellow party guest, juggling a plate and a wine glass. Chances are a too big a portion will land on the plate – and with all the beautiful spread you’ve prepared, it would be a pity if your guests overate on the first bite – an overly huge chunk of triple cream brie. Cut salamis in thin slices and cheeses in triangles (if the cheese came as a wheel) or lengthwise slices (if it came as a slim brick).
As for the accompaniments – place them close to the suggested pairing on the table, but do not pour the jam over the cheese etc. Some guests might want to try the cheese, but do not care for your choice of jam. It’s an exploration of flavors, and the best way to explore is by taking a bite of cheese/charcuterie by itself first, and then try with the accompaniment the second time.
Also – signage to introduce your guests to the suggested pairings can help guide the cheese & charcuterie novices. Put out little table tents with the name of the cheese and its suggested pairing. If your guests are the type that geeks out over these things, include the name of the creamery, age and what kind of milk. Another option – faster than creating all these table tents – is printing a one page “menu” for the table.
A beautiful option for signage is also to present the cheese on a slate (like our favorite ones from Brooklyn Slate) and use chalk to write the information on the slate itself.
And just when you thought we’d be done discussing pairings – beer or wine, red or white? While most cheese go great with red wines, many cold cuts are actually much better when paired with a crisp white wine. Whites have higher acidity, and it helps to balance the fattiness of the meats. Beers are a great option, too, to pair with both food groups (read this past blog post on beer & cheese pairings). If you have a specific beer or wine that you plan to pop open, ask your cheesemonger or trusted wine merchant for cheese & charcuterie recommendations.
Because while the perfect pairing is truly wonderful, the evil pairing does exist, as well. And we want none of that at your next party!