Chronogram & Preparation

Chronogram & Preparation
Keep in mind, these tips are from my own experience, I’m not a party organizer nor am I a sommelier or a turophile (a cheese connoisseur). I just love cheese, wine and spending time with my friends.

Chronogram

When it comes to planning your own Wine & Cheese party, start at the beginning. And by beginning, I mean weeks early. Write lists upon lists of food and drinks choices, groceries Shopping List, decorations, table settings, guests… Pick items up as the days pass by instead of having one massive shopping trip looming.

Weeks before the party

Decide who you are going to invite and send out the invitations.

A few days before the party

Confirm guests: Follow up with those who have not yet RSVP’d to make sure they do. Send reminders to those who have confirmed to get them pumped up for the party.

Make cheese labels.

Shopping List

Once you know how many friends are coming, it’s time to do a little shopping.

Buying cheese

Cheeses should be fresh, purchase just a day or two (max 3 days) before the party.

I like to buy the most of items from Costco. They have great options, it is always fresh and the prices are great based on the quality.

If there isn’t a Costco in your area, just buy at your favourite grocery store or cheesemonger. But remember:

  • When buying cheese, it’s best to find a reliable source, such as a specialty market, cheese shop, or gourmet foods store that specializes in cheeses. Often, your local farmer’s market and a cheesemaker’s Web site are excellent resources, as you will often speak directly to the cheesemakers, who will ensure that the products are in the best possible condition.
  • Check the labels, especially on fresh cheeses, to make sure that the product is well within its expiration date. For larger cheeses that are cut down to smaller amounts, the store label should also include an expiration date near the weight and price amounts. If a cheese is reduced in price for quick sale, it’s generally not a bargain, and your experience will be a less than happy one.
  • Check the condition of the cheese, especially for aroma, appearance, and flavour. Less desirable characteristics include ammonia, sour milk, barnyardy or unclean aromas. Further, the cheeses should be characteristic of their style, with an interior that is free of cracks, discolouration, and mold (unless it is a blue cheese). Note that natural rind cheeses may have a rustic appearance, which is one of their attributes. When possible, taste the cheese before you buy. This is much easier in a cut-and-wrap environment. If you are unable to taste the cheese but want to give it a try, buy the smallest amount possible.
  • When in doubt, go with something local. There’s no doubt about it being superior to the supermarket. Buying from a local cheesemaker at your local farmer’s market is a great way to have the highest quality cheese and also support a local producer. Look for seasonal cheese while you’re at it; ask the cheesemonger or farmers’ market employee if anything is special to the season. (Often, something will be.)
  • Because of the wide variety of dietary concerns and restrictions, check labels for the type of milk (cow, goat, sheep) from which the cheese was made, whether it is a pasteurized or raw milk, and whether it uses animal, vegetal, or microbial rennet. If the label doesn’t say, ask. A good cheesemonger will be able to tell you and will be happy to steer you in the right direction, especially if religious, dietary, or animal rights concerns govern your diet. At present, product ingredient labeling is inconsistent, but most good cheesemakers will supply the most important information on their labels.
  • In general, buy only as much cheese as you will be able to consume within a few days.
  • If you get a cheese that is over the hill, return it to the store and ask for a replacement or a refund; most retailers are willing to keep their customers happy.

Storing Cheese

You’ve bought cheese at your local grocery store and now that’s it home, how do you care for it best to keep it fresh and “happy?

Here are a few tips to help you extend the life of your cheese:

  • Remove from plastic stretch wrap when you get it home. To avoid having the cheese dry out or pick up other flavours, always re-wrap cheese in cheese paper, waxy or parchment (baking) or waxed paper and store separately in zip bags, leaving a small part of the zip open to allow the cheese to breathe. Cheese is alive that need air and moisture to survive; do not wrap in plastic at home. It will keep fresher and tastier longer. However, you should not leave cheese in the same wrappings for extended periods of time.
  • The recommended temperature range for storing cheese is between 1.5-7°C/35-45°F, at a high humidity level, preferably in a warmer part of the refrigerator such as the bottom vegetable/fruit bin or in door. To avoid accidentally freezing the cheese, don’t store it near the freezer compartment or in the meat bin.
  • Blue cheese stores better in aluminum foil.
  • Double wrap strong, pungent cheeses, such as blue, aged brick, or washed rind varieties, to avoid having their aromas permeate other foods. Surface-ripened or blue cheese should be stored in a separate plastic container away from other cheeses for extra assurance against aroma leakage.
  • And it’s best to store cheeses separately if possible, especially blues, washed rinds and milder cheeses, as they will pick up each other’s flavours.
  • If cheeses other than fresh cheeses and blues have surpassed their expiration dates (imprinted on the packaging) or iIf a surface develops a blue-green mold on the exterior, make a cut about a ½ inch below the mold to ensure that it has been entirely removed; the remaining cheese will be fine and eat the rest of the cheese within two days. If the mold is coal-black or pink, throw it away or return to retailer if still within “Use by” date code.
  • If stored and wrapped cheeses are overly dry, develop a slimy texture, exhibit ammoniated or any off odours, it’s best to discard them. If you find these characteristics in cheeses at your local shop, do not purchase them, as they are past their prime. If a retailer’s offerings consistently display the above characteristics, it’s best to find another resource for your cheese.
  • In general, never freeze natural cheeses, as they may lose their texture, and in some cases their flavour profiles will be seriously altered. If you must freeze cheese, allow the cheese to thaw slowly in the refrigerator and use it for cooking, as the texture will become crumbly and dry after it is defrosted.

A day before the party

Sparkling wines should be chilled overnight for the event.

It’s easy to underestimate the amount of time it takes to prepare any cheese plate.  The great thing about building a cheese board is that it can be done in advance, loosely covered & refrigerated for up to 24 hours in advance. Just be sure to remove from the fridge about one hour before serving to allow the cheese time to cool to room temperature.

2-3 hours before the party

Set the table.

Prepare the bar. Chill the white wine and set out glasses. White wines should be chilled 2-3 hours before the party and take care of getting all the last-minute things in place.

Arrange on platter with remaining ingredients just before serving.

Arrange the wine glasses. Depending how many guests you have, it’s best to have almost double the amount of glasses for last minute guests and/or for misplaced glasses.

Open 2 reds to make it easy to get the party started. Red varietals — especially tannic ones such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah/Shiraz, and Tempranillo — need to breathe for a few hours. Open the bottle and pour it into a decanter about an hour before (or according to the wine type recommendation) the party. Please check the right temperature for each specific wine. In general Red wine should be served at 15°Celsius/60°Fahrenheit.

1 to 2 hours before the party

Allow the cheeses to warm to release their flavours. Take them out of the fridge about an hour before serving. It has the fullest flavour at room temperature.

Set separate knifes for each cheese to prevent mixing flavours.

Remember to label the cheese so your guests will know what they are sampling.

Remove fruit spreads and olives from refrigerator an hour before serving to bring to room temperature for enhanced flavour.

Until 30 minutes before party

Slice meats if not already and set out just before serving.

Prepare fruit closer to the time of serving and squirt lemon juice on apples and pears to prevent browning.

Open 2 whites to make it easy to get the party started.

  • White wines only need to breathe for roughly 25 minutes, so just open them 10 minutes before your guests arrive. Please check the right temperature for each specific wine. In general White wine should be chilled to 7° Celsius/45° Fahrenheit.
  • If you’re serving crisp white and sparkling wines (think Brut, Champagne, or Sparkling Rose), make sure you chill the glasses in your fridge to get them nice and cool.

How long can a cheese platter sit out?

Cheese can typically sit out at room temperature anywhere from 4 to 8 hours, depending on the type, and remain safe to eat.

Soft cheeses have a relatively high moisture content, which in turn encourages bacterial growth, so leftovers should be refrigerated as soon as possible.

Hard can sit out longer —up to 8 hours at room temperature— due to their lower moisture content.

That said, your cheese may start to dry out and otherwise go downhill in appearance after 4 or 5 hours of sitting out at room temperature. So from a quality point of view, it’s a good idea to put any leftover cheese back in the fridge as soon as you’re finished eating it.

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Note: I get really excited about cheese and wine, so it’s difficult for me to be brief when there is so much wonderful information to share!

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Reference: Content and images based on information from: https://www.wikipedia.org/ https://cheese.com https://www.cookipedia.co.uk
https://culturecheesemag.com https://www.gourmetsleuth.com https://winefolly.com/ https://www.tasteatlas.com https://www.wine.com/ https://winemonger.com https://www.terroir-france.com/


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