I love a good dinner party, especially the kind where the table is set with multiple layers of dishes that foretell of the evening’s coming delights. Collective anticipation grows when dish after dish is brought from the kitchen to the table. This type of evening is a treasure and it typically ends late when friends walk away with their body and soul fed.
However, some gatherings should simply revolve around conversation and grazing. These evenings have their own enchantment of a relaxed atmosphere of food, wine and relationships.
My approach to these types of get togethers almost always revolve around a few wooden boards filled with charcuterie, cheeses, apple slices, bread and smothered tomatoes. Putting together a board involves more prep time than cook time—but even still, it’s a simple and enjoyable task.Of course, the wine served on these evenings is critical. There aren’t revolving plates of food being brought to the dinner table where different pairings of dishes and wines are necessary. What’s being showcased is simple: meats, cheeses and produce. What is served to drink is going to bring out the flavor in each of these items—which is important during these types of dining experiences. The wine needs to be the standout and that’s why I look to Napa Valley and their Cabernets.
Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons are treasures. The tastes of these Cabernets are delicate yet bold. They are incredibly memorable because after each bottle is finished, it leaves you wanting more. Being a lover of a big Cab, there is always a bottle (or two) of Cabernet waiting to be served on diners like these—winter, spring, summer of fall. The tannic Cab pairs beautifully with the meats, cheeses and accoutrements.
Recently, I had a group of eight friends join me for one of these nights of grazing. The table was filled with three types vessels piled with the odds and ends of a charcuterie and cheese board: meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, pickles and condiments. The purpose, of course, was to have a laid-back evening with new and old friends—but it was also to showcase the beauty of grazing.
An hour before my guests arrive I open a bottle of Napa Valley Cabernet. A flavorful and full-bodied Napa Cab was needed for this evening. It pairs beautifully with the cured meats, variety of cheeses and the only cooked dish of the evening—smothered tomatoes.
You see, not all my guests eat meat. Considering this, I wanted to have a grazing atmosphere but one that did not revolve around salty, cured pork products.In this instance, I serve smothered tomatoes. In this recipe tomatoes are gently simmered in a balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic and fresh rosemary mixture. Time and heat produce a concentrated, thickened tomato glory. This tomato condiment is incredibly versatile. It is not only complimentary enough to serve alongside breads and cheeses but it is also hearty enough to serve by itself with an appetizer fork. Plus, it pairs wonderfully with Napa Cabernet.
For get-togethers like this, I like to start my guests in the living room—a small station of wine and glasses is waiting to greet my friends. As people begin to arrive, I hand them a glass of wine (which keeps them from wandering to the kitchen) encouraging them to mingle at the front of the house. We circulate around the living room, cozily talking by the fire until all have arrived. Then—we make our way to the food. Set out an hour before arrival time, the meats and cheeses have relaxed to the perfect serving temperature. I remove individual ramekins of smothered tomatoes from a warm oven and place them on individual plates. We all sit back, grab from the boards what looks most tempting at the moment and start our evening. Talking, grazing and sipping.
I don’t know how many times I cleaned my plate to go in for more—but I did realize I wasn’t the only one who had this same plan of attack. As the trays were thinned out—and the Napa Valley wine continued to be poured, we were all in a happy state of eating, toasting and conversing the slow evening of good food, wine and relationships.
Charcuterie Board with Smothered Tomatoes
2-3 varieties of cured meats
2 hard cheeses
1-2 soft cheeses
smothered tomatoes (see recipe below)
homemade pickles (click here for recipe)
whole grain mustard
crusty bread, lightly toasted
- Place all ingredients onto a wooden board or large platter one hour before serving.
for the smothered tomatoes
3/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil
1 rosemary sprig
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Place all ingredients (except the bread) into a sauté pan. Cook on medium heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes until the tomatoes are softened and the balsamic reduced.
- Serve warm with crusty bread.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post on behalf of Market Street. All opinions are my own.