15 Sep Charcuterie, wine, and friends … a casual gathering
What says love for friends quite like a warm welcome, great food and drink? A charcuterie & wine gathering is a lovely, unique, and memorable afternoon or evening.
Honorable mention of this soiree is that you, as the host, will savor in relaxation with your company instead of being a slave to the kitchen and your next course.
Whether you have determined to host a small or mid-sized crowd, it is easy to have fun with this invitation. As professed paper snobs, we of course would encourage a printed invitation if time is on your side. That said, the bevy of online invitation options have many fun templates circling around this fun and casual theme. Paperless Post, Punch Bowl, Green Envelope, and Evite are just a few. Your guests will RSVP quickly with the baiting of yummy cheeses, meats, and wine.
In addition to fun invites, the décor opportunities are endless. Rich dark florals and greenery lend themselves as a stunning backdrop to this warm gathering. ‘Great’ you may say…’so, where to start?’ Most of us can barely spell ‘charcuterie’ — how do we know what goes with what? Fear not, friends — that’s why we’re here today!
The word charcuterie comes from the French words ‘chair’ (meat) and ‘cuit’ (cooked). It translates more or less to ‘delicatessen’ and is the branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products, like bacon, ham, sausage, salami, etc.– that is to say, mostly pork-based meats. Originally developed as a manner to preserve meat before refrigeration, they are prepared today for their flavors derived from the preservation processes.
OK, great linguistic/historical lessons…but what goes with what?
The list and options of artisanal cured meats, sausages, and cheeses is plentiful. A good variety is certain to please the crowd. A charcuterie is most often accompanied with breads, pate, sweet and savory spreads (such as honey, apricot preserves, mustard), nuts, bit sized fresh and dried fruit and some pickled vegetables. Finding knowledgeable sources for your menu is not hard in our beautiful city. Ted’s Butcher Block, Goat Sheep Cow and Whole Foods are three easy and great sources to walk you through the perfect pairings.
Your charcuterie selection should be repeated multiple times as you span the entire table to make access easy for all of your guests to sit, talk, drink and nibble for hours of enjoyment.
For this gathering, the charcuterie IS the main act of the evening; to that end, be certain to have a strong selection of carbohydrates. A selection of crackers, sliced baguette and mini croissants, parmesan straws, and crusty breads are a must.
While an oversized charcuterie should be ample, if you feel your crowd would appreciate additional fare, some easy tapas can easily be added to this party. For ease, reach to Hamby’s Catering for their scrumptious selections.
Oh pray tell, the wine … let us not forget the wine!
Conventional charcuterie wisdom often encourages red wines, and to be sure these can be a big hit with your meats and cheeses. A Malbec or Merlot, for example, are generally a popular choice with a charcuterie plate. Also for your red(s), think less/lighter is more — a Pinot Noir for example, especially those that can be chilled– are generally a bit lower in alcohol content and usually have less tannin than Cabernet Sauvignons. This will help keep the wine from mixing with the higher salt content that charcuteries often have, and overpowering your palate. The Willamette Valley in Oregon produces a number of such pinot noirs at a reasonable price — like Erath, an estate pinot noir that goes for under $20.
For white wines, anything from silky and moist to dry and intense usually will do great. Consider a Prosecco or something else with bubbles, these often are very pleasing to both the palate and the stomach. Mild whites with less oak such as New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, or a Riesling — especially an off-dry or a Kabinett variety — tend to compliment charcuterie assortments quite well.
If you want to take your gathering to another level, hire a professional sommelier to bring a selection of wines and treat your guests to some exceptional pairings, and knowledge. There are many local wine shops that would welcome such an opportunity. A local company that specializes in wine tastings and pairings is Cellar Experience.
Last but not least — experiment, listen to your tongue, and have fun! What suits one palate often does not another so a good assortment is a good idea. And remember — hosting a wine and charcuterie party is just that — a party! Have fun, enjoy the new tastes, and moreover, the opportunity to either reconnect with old friends or to make new ones.