This weekend I hosted a wine and cheese party. This was probably my fifth wine and cheese party that I’ve ever hosted. Last time that I threw a party I finally got smart and started writing down the numbers – how many people came, how much they ate, how much of everything to buy.
This might sound ridiculous – but do you know why I do it? Because the WORST part about throwing a big party is the amount of money you spend. The problem actually isn’t even really spending the money so much as wasting the money. It’s so frustrating. So if it’s something that you can easily perfect, why waste the cash?
I’m going to share with you all what I’ve learned along the way.
I’ve got to tell you, unless you know somebody who really knows what they’re talking about when it comes to wine and cheese and is going to teach a class – nobody really cares about the pairings. They’re going to drink whichever color wine that they like and they’re going to have it with whichever cheeses don’t scare them. If the point of your party is to learn about wine and cheese – fabulous, put it all out, pair it up really nice and have somebody give a 20 second spiel about each wine and cheese pairing, otherwise, it’s not worth your time.
The crowd I’m dealing with: 10-15 people ages 21-30
Evite had an awesome wine invite. It was easy, simple and to the point. It was also really easy to get in contact with people. Save money on the invitations (and time if you don’t have it) and put a little bit of extra money towards party favors.
Assume that everybody will drink 1/2 a bottle of wine for quantities sake. Don’t open every bottle of wine right away, start with two or three and then keep opening from there, otherwise you will end up with a lot of open bottles. Don’t buy any bottles of port unless you’re dealing with sophisticated drinkers. Do have a non-alcoholic option for those people who just don’t drink, are pregnant or are the ones driving home. The best option for fun beverages for them is probably Trader Joes.
If you’re not buying cheese from the “deli counter” – assume each precut piece of cheese counts as 1 cheese (including a small brie wheel, the large counts as about 3). If you are buying cheese from the “deli counter” – you’ll probably be okay with 1/2 pound of cheese. Assume that each person will eat 1/2 of “a cheese”. Now, if you read the websites – they tell you to stick with four cheese or so, in which case you’ll need to increase the quantities of everything, but really, why complicate things? Also, don’t bother buying cheddar or swiss, it’s not fancy enough (seriously, guests just kind of avoid it).
Things To Eat With The Cheese
1 Baguette, 1 box of crackers (people tend to like the Ritz simply social crackers), 6 apples, & 2 bunches of grapes (one red, one green)
Things That Are Cool If You Have, But Not Worth Buying
Almonds, Honey, Dried Fruit
It’s a wine and cheese party, why would you need dessert? Well, here’s the thought process – you need something a little bit more substantial to soak up the alcohol for people AND it’s a nice way to bring the evening to a close. What do I recommend? Anything. I made strawberry shortcake, brownies, fruit salad and cupcakes. They were all delicious – but only about 5% of each was gone. Make ONE dessert. Just one. That’s all you need. One cupcake for everybody or one (probably larger) brownie for everybody or one piece of strawberry shortcake or one bowl of fruit salad (etc).
- I bought shooter shot glasses from Walmart ($4.50 for 6) and bought Puff Paint and my friend Tina and I decorated them before the party. (Note: Puff Paint takes 4 hours to dry.) As everybody left I told them to be sure to take a shot glass and everybody was thrilled. I also got to keep the extras and ended up with my own personalized shot glasses which is pretty cool.
- I labeled the cheeses and wrote which wines they should try to pair them with. I’m not sure anybody even read it, but I think it’s the first step towards having a real wine tasting
- I made homemade cheese and asparagus puffs (recipe courtesy of Chef Darin) right before everybody came and served them steaming hot out of the oven. They were a big hit and the apartment smelled wonderful as everybody walked in (not my original intent, but it was a nice mood-setter).
Wine and Cheese parties are probably the most expensive type of party you can throw. I’ll tell you what I did and what I’d do next time.
The second(ish) party – I had everybody bring a bottle of wine or $5 – the money didn’t cover the cost of the cheese, but it was nice to have some compensation.
The fourth(ish) party- I paid for everything. My grand total came close to $180. That’s too much for a college student.
This past party- I had everybody bring a bottle of wine. This would have worked had I not bought four bottles of wine. My original idea was to pair my four bottles with specific cheeses, but that got too complicated too quickly. I also now have approximately 7 half-open bottles of wine in my kitchen. (As I said, do not open them all at the same time.)
Next time- Ask 10 people to bring a bottle of wine (and I don’t buy any) and ask 2 or 3 of the people closest to me that I think know something about cheese to bring a type of cheese. I would then buy a few cheeses as well as all of the extras (bread, apples, dessert, non-alcoholic beverages, etc). It might not be the classiest way to do things – but for somebody just out of college with lots of friends willing to help – I think that’s the way to go.