The Cheese, Etc
Before starting this annual cheese party, I think I had only eaten a handful of cheeses in my life: Swiss, cheddar, cream cheese, string cheese, and Kraft singles. Most Asians are lactose intolerant, so we just didn't eat a lot of cheese. I was ignorant--all I knew back then about cheese was I didn't want to try anything that was fuzzy and green with mold.
|My lactose intolerant family|
In my mid 20's when I started this party, I was older, my palate had changed, and I wanted to expand my cheese horizons. (And yes, I am still lactose intolerant, but I try to stick to those older cheeses that have less lactose in them!)
I asked party attendees to bring a cheese that started with the first letter of their first name and I would provide things that would go along with cheese--crackers, bread, veggies, and fruit.
That worked out really well and there were over 25 different cheeses at that first party!
|Starting to get a few cheeses at one of my earlier parties|
I suggest that if you are hosting your own epic cheese party, ask your guests to bring the cheese. It can get rather spendy if you're providing the cheese and everything else. Here are some possible variations you can put on the invitation to encourage people to get out of their cheese funks and try something new:
- Bring a cheese that starts with the first letter of your first name
- Bring a cheese that starts with the first letter of your last name
- Bring a cheese that starts with the first letter of your pet's name or your middle name. (This is a little harder because some people don't have pets or a middle name!)
I can promise you one thing that will inevitably happen if you go with any of the above routes: someone, say your friend whose name is Victoria, will call up and say, "But there is no cheese that starts with the letter V!"
You counter and say, "Yes, there are cheeses that start with the letter V! Just look at this list!"
Okay, okay, so you might not be able to find every cheese on the list in your local grocery store--just encourage them to be creative. Your friend could bring a cheese that was made in Vermont or something.
|Part of the spread at this year's party|
Because cheese can be extremely filling/heavy, we have tried a few twists each year to mix things up:
- Cheesy Dish: You can have people bring a dish in lieu of a cheese. This could range from mac & cheese to cheesecake to a cheese soup.
- Gourmet Grilled Cheese Bar: Along with your cheese, bring a "gourmet" ingredient (eg onions, pesto, pears, etc) to share at the grilled cheese bar. You provide some butter, good bread, and a few panini presses or George Foreman grills and you're golden. Be careful not to overload the electrical circuits!
- Fondue: We've been wanting to do a fondue party for some time now. This is definitely a party for a smaller group of people--maybe we'll do it sometime this winter.
|How to cut the cheese for the cheese party!|
Here's a shopping list of things that we buy for the party:
- A variety of crackers: You don't need to buy a ton, because people get full quickly and some people end up bringing crackers with their cheese.
- French baguettes: Get these sliced at the grocery store using their slicing machine if they've got one--it will save you loads of time. Once again, you don't need to buy a lot.
- Fruit, namely grapes: After many years of trying different types of fruit, I found that our money was best spent on seedless grapes. Apples and pears go brown and it takes too much energy cutting them.
- Veggie platters: This balances out all the heavy cheese and filling bread. Or you can buy bags of veggies and put them out on a platter.
- Cheese: If you're the host/hostess, I say you can skip this step only because you're providing everything else.
|The Ballerina arranged the veggies all pretty-like this year|
Now, invite all your friends to come, because...
More friends = More cheese
Any questions or have any tips you'd like to share? Feel free to comment or email and we'll be happy to respond!
Tomorrow, we'll continue on with Italian sodas! See you then!