DIY: Host a Smashing Wine and Cheese

Thinking about doing some entertaining this holiday season? Your guests will toast to this idea of hosting a wine and cheese party. Can’t cook to save your life? If you’ve got a corkscrew and can shop, you can pull this event off.


Our good friend, Dave, recently celebrated a significant birthday and since he is a cheese connoisseur and a wine lover, this was the perfect party for us to throw for him. I learned a few things along the way which I wanted to pass along, so grab a notebook and pen, pour yourself a glass of something lovely, and read through Under the High Chair’s first “Do It Yourself” segment.
Assorted olives, walnut bread, grapes and pomegranate made excellent contrasting accompaniments to our cheeses.

Part I: Planning Your Party

Guest list: Don’t try to bite off more than you can chew. Realistically estimate how many people your home can comfortably accommodate- then invite two couples more than that, because chances are, you’ll have at least that many who will cancel.

Inventory: Do a quick count of wine glasses and small plates. No one wants to drink wine out of a plastic cup. Make sure you have enough glasses for each person to have a red and a white, as people will often switch at some point during the evening.

Budget: Have an idea of how much you want to spend. Cheese, like wine, varies vastly in price and if you don’t have a figure in mind when you visit your cheese store, you’ll spend a lot more than planned. One money-saving option is to ask your guest to each bring a bottle of wine. You may discover a new favorite wine and you might actually stay under budget this time.


Clockwise from top: Clandestine, Brie de Meaux, and St-Agur blue made up our soft cheese tray. Apples, pears, grapes, walnuts and dried apricots accompanied them.

L to R: Baluchon, Spanish Manchego, and extra old Gouda are pictured here with walnut bread.

Part II: Shopping

Wine: If you are buying your own wine and you have no clue what to get, ask the store employees for a favorable pairing with cheese. As a rule, white wines are friendlier with the cheese tray, but cabernet sauvignon also pairs well with older, stronger cheeses. Bread: If you don’t already have one, search out a great bakery for your breads. Buy the bread the day of the party and try for an assortment, such as a few classic baguettes, some grissini or breadsticks, and a nut bread to stand up to the stronger cheeses.

Baguettes and assorted crusty Italian Grissini


Accompaniments: Try a selection of any of the following: fresh fruit, cold meats such as mortadella or proscuitto, olives, pickles, marinated vegetables, nuts, dried fruit, oil and vinegar for dipping bread. A little something dolce (sweet) at the end is nice too, like an assortment of cookies. Dark chocolate goes well with some red wines, in case people are still sipping.

Juicy Pineapple, Blackberries, Clementines and Apples sweetened up the night.


Cheese: Estimate about 150 grams per person, but don’t worry if you go over, leftovers are good too! Try for a broad assortment including at least one chevre (goat), one blue, a cream like a Brie or Camembert, and a hard cheese like a Conte or Manchego. Ask your cheese shop about the cheeses you have selected so that you can correctly inform your guests about the cheeses they are enjoying.
Part III: Party Prep

Drinks: Chill any white wine. Set up a self-serve bar area on you counter so guest can pour their own drinks.

Food: Cheese platters can be assembled in advance and refrigerated. Don’t forget to remove from the fridge at least an hour before serving so cheeses can come up to room temperature. Slice bread just before serving.

Labels help to identify the cheeses and make life a little easier for the non-gourmet


Part IV: PARTY! Uncork and unwind. Enjoy yourself!!

Parmesan and Poppy Seed Cheese Straws disappeared fast

Best of ’06: Ice Cream


Ben and Jerry put out a new flavor this year called “Vermonty Python”: Coffee Liqueur Ice Cream with a Chocolate Cookie Crumb Swirl and Fudge Cows.
It’s absolutly brilliant and has earned the title of Best New Ice Cream Flavor of 2006 in my books!
I love coffee anything, but this leaves Hagen Daaz coffee and B&J’s Coffee in the dust.
If you haven’t tried it yet, go buy some right now! If you live in Quebec, Metro grocery store are carrying it and it’s even on sale!!

Gingerbread House : Phase 1


Construction is underway for the gingerbread house!

We finally had our first snowfall and that spurred me into action. My right-hand girl, Miranda, was there to help me and we spent a relaxed afternoon listening to Christmas music and playing with ca
ndy. Snow fell all day long and we were pretty content as we chatted and got in touch with our creative sides.
“I don’t have a creative side” said Miranda, but it was obvious that she does (all Wimbushes do!)
by her expert handiwork. I was happy to have her around to help with all the ‘masonry’.

As we worked and munched, each sugar high was higher and each crash was lower until we finally said “eno
ugh!” and left the rest for another day.
Here are some photos of the process.


Noah checking to make sure the dough is coming together just right. Can you tell this is a pre-haircut shot? 🙂


Cutting out the pieces of gingerbread.


Raising the walls. They are burnt on purpose to dry them out as much as possible so they don’t soften and fold.


And here we have the shell together and it’s going to dry overnight.
In case you can’t tell, it’s going to be a church. Stop by soon to see the finished product!

National Cookie Day

It has been brought to my attention that today is National Cookie Day. I did a quick check on my own, and sure enough, our friendly neighbours to the south call today their ‘cookie day’. How fun that I posted all about cookies today (see next post) and had no idea.

But, humm, friendly Southeners, what is the deal with this ‘National something Day’ situation. Hasn’t it gotten a little out of hand?
I mean…
National Stick A Plunger On Your Head Day?
Middle Name Pride Day?
Gazpacho Day?

What about “Panic Day”? I think I’d call in sick to work.
Now “Good Samaritan Day” I can see, but why ‘National Pretzle Month”? They get a whole month??? I don’t think they are that great. Not even chocolate dipped.
And while I would support “National No Beard Day”100%, I am baffled by “Toot Your Flute Day”.

I’m not making any of these up. Check out the whole list for yourself here.
I guess some of them could be useful, like “National Sleep-In Day”. You may want to look that one up.

Anyway, Happy National Cookie Day everyone, American or not.
Cookies Rule!

More Than A Cookie Swap

Antique cookie cutters encircle a delightful assortment of homemade cookies

The doorbell rang cheerily a few times on Saturday and Danny, Noah and I welcomed friends and family in from the cold. Danny was especially welcoming, as each person came bearing big tins of cookies. This was the first time I’ve hosted a cookie swap, and it won’t be the last! Even though we were few, due to a slew of last minute cancellations, a good time was had by all from the oldest to the youngest. The youngest being Noah, who tasted shortbread for the first time and now agrees that this should be an annual or semi-annual tradition. Pots of tea and copious cups of coffee were drunk and a well-laden plate of cookies consumed as we chatted and laughed and watched the kids play together. It was something more than just swapping some baked goods, but a cozy sense of fellowship and friendship: woman to woman, mother to mother.

A big thanks to all the ladies that came and brought their delights!
Terrie came bearing chocolate chip cookies so fresh, they didn’t have time to cool and were still on the baking sheet! Diana’s yummy chocolate mint snaps were a hit and their mysterious crunchy centers a topic of interest. Arlene was inspired by my invitation and baked her first batch of cookies in three years. Tavia’s hand rolled coconut caramel cookies were perfect and her colorful holiday oatmeal raisin cookies the ideal round-out to our table. I contributed my usual spice snaps, some two-bite brownies, and shortbread in various shapes and flavors.

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread Santa Boots
Needless to say, if you decide to drop by for tea in the next few weeks, I could probably rustle up a little crumb of something to serve alongside. That is, if Danny doesn’t find my stash……

Caramel Coconut and Holiday Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Shortbread Candy Canes

And now, here is my most requested cookie recipe!!


Spice Snaps

Preheat oven to 325F

Cream: 3/4 cup butter, room temp
2 cups sugar

Stir in: 2 eggs, room temp
1/2 cup molasses
2 teaspoons white vinegar

Sift and add:
3 and 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger (or 3 teaspoons ground)
1 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated Tonka bean
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves


Mix well and roll into 1 inch balls. Roll balls in white sugar to coat and place two inches apart on baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes until tops have cracked and edges start to brown. Cool.

These cookies freeze well. Make 4 dozen