Having watched all the nominated films at the AMC movie marathon on Saturday, AK and I felt prepared to host an Academy Awards ceremony viewing party on Sunday night. E had come up with the idea, and while E’s friend Miss G (who sported a trés chic Chanel bag that night, so maybe we can call her Coco for today) offered to have us over at her place, both E and I could not imagine watching TV without a DVR (digital video recorder, for those of you who do not live in Silicon Valley – Tivo being the most well-known example).
Since E and Coco had suggested take-out, there was no cooking involved, which was great since we had spent all of Saturday in a very dark and crowded room. However, on Sunday I still had to rush around to gather the key ingredients to a great party: wine and cheese.
I had recently discovered a wonderful weekend destination called the cheese counter at Whole Foods Market. While I have heard that Bristol Farms up in San Francisco has an unbelievable cheese section that freely dispenses chutney and truffle-infused honey with its tasting (complete with a cheese guru who has the obligatory French accent), I have yet to experience such bliss. Since the nice lady at the Whole Foods Market in San Mateo always lets me taste whichever cheese I point to, and then lets me buy only half or less of the pre-cut wedges (she slices them up then repackages with new price stickers), I keep going back to her like an addict to her dealer. This time, after some discussion and, of course, extensive tasting, I settled on the following four, all of which I highly recommend:
Mt. Tam Triple Crème, from Cowgirl Creamery: Tastes like its more famous French cousin brie, but much softer and creamier and without the strong “earthy” taste that I dislike (and I must be the only person I know who does not just love brie). Plus, Cowgirl Creamery is a Bay Area artisan shop that should be supported. Our guests devoured every last bit of this cheese, and no trace of it was left after the party, not even on the cheeseboard.
Humboldt Fog, from Cypress Grove Chevre: Ah, another local cheese, named after the beautiful misty weather up in Humboldt County. Made of my favorite goat’s milk, it has been aged to acquire a sharper tangy taste, sort of like regular goat cheese with an edge. This goes particularly well with the dollop of Adriatic fig spread that we bought for the contrasting flavors. Super delicious!
Cotswold: This is a stronger tasting semi-firm cheese from England that looks like cheddar but has chopped onions and chives added. Because of the extra ingredients, it is easily recognizable. Apparently Cotswold is considered “pub” cheese in England and often paired with beer, so it is definitely a “cheese of the (common) people.” The last time I brought Cotswold to a party, at least two people were able identify it on sight, with one starting a story about how she used to live in London, ate this cheese all the time, etc. (Aside: Her story in turn reminds me of the blog, “Stuff White People Like,” #72. Check it out, it’s quite funny).
Manchego: This is a Spanish cheese from La Mancha (just like Don Qixote), which just by its origin sounds romantic. However, this was probably the ugly duckling of the four cheeses. Because it is made from cow’s milk, it was harder in texture and “sweated” a little after being left out for a while. While it was good, it lacked the unique flavor of other hard cheeses, such as a good jack cheese.
Anyway, I got carried away with this cheese adulation (this was not intended to be a cheese review). Back at the party, we served sparkling pomegranate and cranberry juices from another favorite store, Trader Joe’s, as well as champagne, wine and strawberry mojitos that I made myself (the guests were impressed with my professional equipment – the muddler used for mashing the strawberries and mint leaves). The toughest part of the evening was telling the Raggedies’ adorable little ones that there was no more strawberries for them because we needed to save the strawberries for the drinks. Hmm, good thing they are still too young to understand what alcohol is – and hopefully it should stay this way for at least another 16 years.