This is a sponsored post for Whole Foods Market Tucson – River Rd. All opinions are my own.
I don’t know about you, but just this week I finally washed, folded and put away the linen napkins we used for Thanksgiving dinner and already it’s time to start thinking about hosting a Christmas party. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to this being my absolute favorite time of year–in part because I’m a hostess at heart. I like my guests to feel as though they’ve been invited a one of Martha’s sophisticated soirees. I want the ambiance, decor and food to be both festive and impressive. The only trouble, of course, is that I want to be able to enjoy the party, too, rather than be stuck in the kitchen flambeing crepes or braising oxtails. That, my friends, is where my secret weapon comes in: the cheese plate. Seriously, the cheese plate is my go-to when it comes to serving an appetizer that is sure to impress (not to mention disappear in no time). Just see for yourself how beautiful a cheese plate can be.
I know, I know. Cheese plates can be somewhat intimidating. Don’t worry, though, because Whole Foods Market and I have got your back.
The local Whole Foods Market, located at 5555 E River Rd. in Tucson is hosting a dressing rehearsal even on Friday, December 13th from 4-6pm, Saturday, December 14th from 11am-2pm and Sunday, December 15th from noon-2pm. Stop in to sample several holiday flavors and learn a thing or two in the process.
On Friday, they’ll be sampling seasonal favorites from the bakery and top ten wines. On Saturday, stop in during the event to sample their holiday ham and on Sunday, they’re showcasing some unique gift ideas and wrapping techniques straight from Santa’s workshop.
I speak from experience when I tell you that Whole Foods offers a ginormous selection of specialty cheeses and fabulous, inexpensive wines that will pair beautifully with your perfect holiday cheese plate.
Speaking of that cheese plate, there are a few basics to keep in mind when you’re building it: balance, accompaniments and presentation. Let’s start with balance.
The perfect holiday cheese plate offers a little something for everyone. I like to feature at least four cheeses, one of which is ideally spreadable. My personal favorites include a whole grain mustard cheddar, a firm Parmigiano-Regiano, a fruit-studded Stilton (cranberry is especially festive this time of year) and any of Boursin’s creamy flavored specialties (though their black pepper variety is my favorite). You can expand from there, maybe opting to include a Manchego or goat gouda.
Once you’ve properly balanced your cheeses, you can dress up your cheese plate with accompaniments. Try to choose something in one of each of the following categories:
- Salty – olives or proscuitto
- Sweet – honey, dried fruits or even chocolate fudge
- Crunchy – roasted nuts and seeds
- Tart – a cranberry chutney or thinly-sliced green apples
Of course, you’re also going to need a vehicle for all those delicious cheese selections. It’s easy to find a wide variety of crackers. I like to include thin rice or nut crackers along with traditional multi-grain rounds. Bread baguettes and rye toasts are also great choices.
Now that you’ve got all of your tasty components gathered, it’s time to assemble the cheese plate. My favorite way to present my cheese plates is on a gorgeous wood slab cutting board, but there are several options. Slate boards are very popular right now, in part because you can use chalk to mark the cheeses. You could also divvy up the goods between three or four small cutting boards and place them on several tables around the room, giving guests the chance to discover something new at each station. In addition to the cheeses and accompaniments, I like to add a touch of color to my platter; springs of rosemary work well for this. You’ll also want to be sure to include a separate cheese knife for each variety. Oh, and wine. Everything is better with wine.
Be sure to browse the wine department at Whole Foods when you stop in for their Dressing Rehearsal event. The top ten wines they’re sampling on Friday (Dec. 13th) are all priced under $25 and feature flavors from around the globe including bottles from Greece, Argentina, New Zealand, France, Spain and the good ol’ U.S. of A!
Want to win a $50 Whole Foods gift card to build your own holiday cheese platter? I thought you might. To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite cheese is (commenting is a mandatory step). For an additional entry, like Whole Foods Market Tucson – River Rd. on Facebook and leave a separate comment telling me you did so. Entries will be accepted until Monday, December 16th. Good luck!