By now you may be feeling a bit self-conscious about your own pad but listen, “rad” is a subjective term. Your place doesn’t need an ocean view or look like something out of a Dwell magazine spread to qualify. What truly makes a pad rad is how people feel when they are welcomed into your abode no matter how humble it may be.
Dinner parties are a great way for people who are capable of dealing with a tremendous amount of stress to show off their domicile. For the rest of us, there’s simple “entertaining,” which is really just the grown-up word for party. So, if you’re not quite ready to enter full-on adult mode or if you just want a back-up plan in case you set the oven on fire, here’s your primer on the two most important aspects of entertaining–assembling a cheese board and getting your guests good and drunk.
Become a Cheese Wiz
Putting together a proper cheese board is not rocket science, but there are some best practices that will fool your guests into thinking you’re some kind of professional and at the very least, prevent any cheese-related catastrophes. We asked the cheese specialists at The Fresh Market to help us with the following guide to creating the ultimate cheese-lover’s (or turophile since we’re being all sophisticated) dream board.
-Mix it up
The key to a great cheese board is providing a nice variety of flavors and textures. Five is a good number for a small party of 6-8 people and it’s a good idea to try and hit all the bases. You’ll want to start with something fresh and young like a creamy goat cheese, a nice firm cheese like Manchego and something semi-hard and aged like a flaky gouda. A bloomy soft-ripened number like brie or triple-creme is always a safe bet and it never hurts to throw in something funky and blue like a Stilton or Roquefort. Feel free to play around within those guidelines.
When it comes to determining how much cheese you actually need, the rule of thumb is 1 ounce per person so plan accordingly. That’s with dinner so, if you aren’t cooking, make sure you have enough snacks on hand to keep everyone satiated, lest the party end when folks get hangry.
-Don’t sleep on the accoutrements
While cheese is great on its own, it’s better with friends. By friends I mean all the fun little crackers and pickles and mustards and whatnots. The key though, is balance. Don’t go overboard with flavored crackers. Keep it simple with some toasted baguette slices or water crackers. Next, choose one accompaniment per cheese, and go for a good mix of salty, sweet, savory and sour. Think nuts, olives, dried fruit, whole grain mustard and of course, pickles.
-Time it right
Quite possibly the greatest thing about a cheese board is its simplicity. You can literally assemble the whole thing the day before and keep it in the fridge loosely wrapped in wax paper. Take it out an hour before your guests arrive so it can come to room temp for best results. Done and done!
-What about wine?
Cheese and wine go together like, well, cheese and wine. However, certain wines pair better with certain cheeses and sorting through all of that is honestly way too complicated for our purposes. This leaves you with two options: get an assortment of reds and whites and pretend like it’s a fun way to let your guests experiment on their own or just get whatever and don’t worry about it. If you do go the latter route, maybe stick with both red and white pinots. You know what else goes great with cheese though? Beer! And best of all, a simple lager is easily the most versatile.
Pack a Punch
Party time is no time to be fussing with hand-crafted cocktails for each and every guest. Even if you don’t have better things to do, you have better things to do. Make the biggest impact with the least amount of effort by batch-making a cocktail or punch that tastes like it was made by a pro but requires little attention on your part. That way you can wow them when they walk in the door, then switch to the cheap stuff to carry you through the rest of the night.
This crowd-pleasing punch recipe was created by Sidecar’s Shannon Pilcher and is the perfect cocktail for our unpredictable Florida winters. It’s got that seasonal flare yet it’s refreshing just in case the weather decides to do its own thing. Best of all, it’s super easy to prepare in advance and let your guests help themselves.
Spice Up Your Life
Makes about 16 cocktails
24 oz. bourbon
8 oz. Velvet Falernum
8 oz. spiced cranberry syrup (recipe below)
8 oz. fresh lemon juice
8 oz. water
16 dashes Angostura bitters
Mix all ingredients except the ginger ale in a large pitcher or punch bowl. Serve over ice and top with ginger ale.
Spiced Cranberry Syrup
1 pint water
1 pint cranberries
4 cinnamon sticks
1 pint sugar
Combine first three ingredients in a medium saucepan and simmer on low heat until cranberries start to lose their color. Remove from heat, add sugar and stir to dissolve. Strain and let cool.
This column originally appeared in Void Magazine Vol. 9, Issue 9, Rad Pads.