Our friends Adrian and Kelly were here for 10 days, so today I need to get myself together and start working on eating like a normal human being again. You know how it is when you have guests visiting – you go to all of your favorite restaurants, bars and sandwich shops. Then, if you live in New York City, multiply that by a thousand. There aren’t enough days in the year, let alone in 10 days, to visit all of my “favorite” spots. In the last couple of days alone, we went to Arrogant Swine to attempt to get some BBQ, but since it was their first day open and the lines were long, we acquiesced and went to the still delicious Mabel’s Smokehouse for ribs, brisket, mac and cheese, collard greens and pulled pork, followed by a drink at the Wythe Hotel for the beautiful view. The next day, it being their last day and town and all, we got sushi at Bozu, then drinks at Larry Lawrence, Duck Duck and Featherweight, because why not? Featherweight is the best place to say goodbye to friends over fancy cocktails, a bowl spiced bacon mixed nuts and an intimate ambiance. The next day, when I got to work, I made sure Adrian knew to walk over to The Meat Hook Sandwich Shop for an Italian sandwich and a roast beef sandwich – thankfully, he picked one up for Kramer and I to split when we got home, too. That’s the best gift a house guest could possibly leave for us, and Kramer and I happily chowed down on our sandwich when we got home from work.
I love a good cheese board. I’ve always got a random assortment of cheeses and meats at home, because whenever I see them at the store I can’t help but throw one or two items in my basket. Sometimes I’ll even assemble a little charcuterie plate for Kramer and myself to eat for dinner. I love having a little of this, a little of that, and experimenting with different flavor and texture combinations. Recently, Sargento released a line of Tastings cheeses, which are perfect for the kind of everyday snacking I’m talking about here, or a great way to buy the perfect portion of cheese for a dinner party charcuterie and cheese platter. If you’re new to picking out cheeses for these sorts of things, the packaging on Sargento Tastings gives you a clear description of what you can expect from each cheese, and they’re not going to leave with you a ton of leftovers – the sizes are exactly right for the average cheese board. I’ve definitely been faced with a leftover cheese problem after a party or even on my own after buying too much cheese, but if you don’t have the time to use up those tasty leftovers in something like macaroni and cheese or some grilled cheese sandwiches, the Sargento Tastings options are the way to go. I’m a big fan of buying local cheeses from around New York, so to be honest, I was a bit wary of Sargento branching out into the artisanal cheese game, but I was really surprised with the quality of these offerings. The havarti was rich and creamy, the asiago was sharp with a nice bite, and the pepper jack was perfectly spicy. If you’re not quite ready to venture out to your farmer’s market and wander into the wide world of all the different kinds of cheese options available there, your local supermarket is sure to have these Sargento Tastings right in the dairy aisle, ready to start you off on your cheese tasting adventures.
As previously stated, a cheese board isn’t something that you have to make only when you’re hosting a party. Sure, it’s always an impressive thing to display when you’ve got people over, but after a long day of work and I don’t feel like breaking out cutting boards, pot and pants, or whatever else, I like to just throw some olives, cheeses and meats on a plate, alongside some crusty bread and maybe a dip like honey or apple butter, throw something on TV, and snack. To be truthful, this is my favorite kind of dinner, and I’ve done it with just about anything. Kramer and I have gone all out before, going to a speciality deli for nice meats and cheeses, or we’ve gone the other way and made a big plate of sliced pepperoni, a little deli turkey and string cheese. I’m not above anything when it comes to snacking, and a glass of red wine or a nice beer alongside it all certainly doesn’t hurt. If you want to go out all out, though, I’ve put together a brief outline of what I like to see when I’m going to town on a charcuterie board. You want to have all the essential textures: creamy, crunchy, crispy, chewy – the works. You need some basic flavor profiles, too: smoky, buttery, spicy, earthy…the list goes on. Surprising your palate in this way makes you go back for seconds, thirds and fourths – believe me. There’s no right or wrong way to put these elements together, but as long as you’ve got some nice colors, flavors and textures on display, you will be in cheese board heaven. I always have a charcuterie plate or cheese board out as an appetizer for my Thanksgiving dinner, by the way – it’s a great way to whet everyone’s appetite without filling up before the main event.
A quick weeknight dinner of roasted vegetables and tofu, another weeknight frittata, tom yum soup and Joy the Baker’s new book!
The best part is always the prosciutto, right?
- 4 ounces firm, sharp cheese (such as Asiago or Pecorino)
- 4 ounces soft, mild cheese (such as Havarti or Brie)
- 4 ounces spicy, crowd pleasing cheese (such as Pepper Jack or a black pepper crusted goat cheese)
- 4 ounces soft, stinky cheese (ask your grocer or cheese monger which his or her favorite is - they vary widely but are always delicious slathered on bread)
- 4 ounces prosciutto
- 4 ounces salami (I like a fennel variety)
- 4 ounces pate
- roasted or sun-dried tomatoes
- fresh cherry tomatoes
- dried figs or medjool dates
- mixed olives
- sliced radishes
- apple butter or quince paste
- grapes and/or sliced apples
- almonds and/or walnuts
- thick, crusty bread
- Arrange on different plates or platters with enough small knives to as to not get into a fight over who gets to slice the Asiago or spear the Havarti first. Toothpicks can also be handy, and be sure to have a small bowl for any olive pits or discarded bits.