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Cheese PlateEach year as the hustle and bustle of Christmas arrives, my most important aspiration is to simply enjoy time with family and friends. A few years ago I realized having friends in our home did not require extensive planning and stress or even a complicated menu and seating charts. I found our best and most memorable times were around the living room coffee table sharing conversation while sipping from mismatched wine glasses.
While you can’t plan an impromptu get-together, you can make sure you’re prepared. An easy way to do this is to stock your pantry or refrigerator with the makings for a spread of traditional cheeses and unique wine pairings.
The secret is keeping things casual.
Mix up your cheeses from different milk sources, textures and colors. A simple cheeseboard could include a blue cheese, soft cheese, creamy cheese and hard cheese. Since the cheese and wine will be your showpiece, choose breads with few additional ingredients, like a baguette, breadsticks or crackers. If you want to add a few accompaniments, consider foods that will complement the pairings such as black and green olives, prosciutto di parma, Serrano ham, local sausage blends, tapenades, apricots, pears, apples or figs.
After cutting out this column you have only to make a quick trip to your wine shop and grocer.
Grab the glasses, call a few friends and simply clear a place on your coffee table to delight in a simpler way to entertain for your future gatherings.
Suggested pairings:
Brie and Champagne or quality sparkling wine

  • NV J Vineyards and Winery Sparkling Brut, California (about $39 retail)
  • NV Moet Chandon Imperial, France (about $60 retail)

Goat cheese and sauvignon blanc

  • 2012 Ventisquero Casablanca Valley, Chile (about $13 retail)
  • 2011 Honig Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, California (about $20 retail)

Aged cheddar and syrah

  • 2009 Frei Brothers Syrah, California (about $19 retail)
  • 2008 Bell Winery Sierra Foothills Syrah, California (about $27 retail)

Blue Stilton and tawny port

  • Sandeman 10 Year Tawny Port, Portugal (about $44 retail)
  • Taylors 20 Year Tawny Port, Portugal (about $74 retail)