Spanish cheeses are the new brie and chèvre―cult favorites pegged for full cocktail party status. It's about time: No tradition makes better use of cheese in its pure state than Spanish tapas. Transforming a wedge into an hors d'oeuvre with a bit of olive, fruit, or meat is so simple, it may well be the ultimate party food.
Make our platter the center of your next celebration. Estimate about 4 ounces of cheese per person, and be sure to bring the cheeses to room temperature before serving. Choose one accompaniment for each cheese, and serve crackers and toasted sliced bread on the side. Cap it off with oloroso sherry.
SOURCES: Look for Spanish cheeses (about $15-$18 per pound) at your local cheese shop, at Igourmet.com, or at a Whole Foods Market.
Everyone loves a wine and cheese party, yet cheese can be difficult to pair with wine, especially when flavors run the gamut from creamy to sharp. The solution lies in looking beyond the usual suspects.
Our favorite: Spanish oloroso sherry
Why: Its semisweet nuttiness stands up nicely to the assertive flavors of both the cheeses and their briny-to-sweet accompaniments.
Runner-up: Hard apple or pear cider
Why: Hard cider's light, sweet character is a nice counterpoint to the rich intensity of the cheeses.
Wine notes: If you want to offer traditional wines, try a Pinot Noir that is light on tannins and oak, or a Riesling with some residual sugar but plenty of acid and minerals.