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A Southern-style Wine and Cheese Christmas Party

December 18, 2011
by Jackie Garvin
southern wine and cheese, christmas breakfast table 023

I strongly identify with my Southern heritage and take great pride in it.    Any chance I get to show my “southerness”, I’ll jump at it.    The idea of a Southern-style Wine and Cheese party seemed like the perfect theme for a Christmas party.  Showcasing Southern wine and food while showing folks some genuine Southern hospitality has my name written all over it.

Planning for the party was fun.  I intended to make some of the food and purchase some ready-made.      A wine and cheese party is relatively   stress-free because you don’t have to make the wine or the cheese unless you’re a wine and cheese maker.   I’m neither.  I simply had to find a source for Southern made wine and cheese.    In case you haven’t heard, we’re not known for our wine and cheese making in the South.    This proved to be a little bit of a challenge, but one that I was willing to take on.  If this type of party is one that interests you, I’ve done a lot of the leg work for you.   That’s just the kinda guy I am.

The items on the menu in blue are direct links to the recipes.

MENU

Red Wines

Biltmore:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Asheville, NC

San Sebastian:  Vintners Red, St. Augustine/Clermont, FL

Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards, Clermont, FL

White Wines

Biltmore:  Chardonnay Sur Lies, Asheville, NC

The Williamsburg Winery:  James River White, Williamsburg, VA

Cheese

Sweet Grass Diary, Thomasville, GA

Cow’s milk cheese:  Green Hill, Thomasville Tomme, Asher Blue

Goat’s milk cheese:  Holly Springs,  Eden

Ham Biscuits with Honey Mustard Butter

Ham:  Cumberland Gap Provision Co., Middlesborough,KY

Biscuits:  Garvin kitchen, Valrico, FL

Honey Mustard Butter:  Garvin kitchen, Valrico, FL

Pear Preserves

Braswell’s, Statesboro, GA

Vidalia Onion Honey Mustard Sauce  

McClain’s, Sarasota, FL

Tupelo Honey

Savannah Bee Company, Savannah, GA

Pickled Okra

Wickles, Dadeville, AL

Spicy Sweet Jalapeno Relish

Louisiana Delights, Lake Charles, LA

Sea Salted Almonds

Blue Crab Bay Company, Melfa, VA

Spiced Pecans

Pecans:  South Georgia Pecan Company, Valdosta, GA

Spicy Coating:  Garvin kitchen, Valrico, FL

Virginia Peanuts with Chesapeake Bay Seasoning  

Blue Crab Bay Co.,Melfa, VA

Southern Tea Cakes  

Garvin kitchen, Valrico, FL

Mary Ball Washington’s 1784 Gingerbread Cake 

Recipe from Mount Vernon, Mount Vernon, VA,

Baked in the Garvin kitchen, Valrico, FL

The wine table was set up on our back patio and we had all the food in the kitchen.   Setting up food and beverages in different locations helps with the traffic flow.  It keeps everyone from being bunched up in one spot.  We had seating both inside and outside.  This is Florida.   We can go outside in December.  Don’t hate.

Reds.  We were familiar with Biltmore wines but had never sampled any wine from Florida wineries and were pleasantly surprised.   The only grapes suited for Florida climate are muscadines which have a unique flavor that’s nothing like traditional wine grapes.

Whites.    Biltmore  and The Williamsburg Winery both have quality wines.

The food buffet.

Cheese.   This was the most difficult item to find.  I located several sources but they were either out of inventory, prohibitively expensive or the shipping costs were more than the product.  I posted a comment on Facebook asking if anyone knew of a good Southern cheese maker.  Janet posted a comment right away and suggested Sweet Grass Dairy in Thomasville, GA.  I found their website and called them immediately.  They had an excellent selection, reasonable prices and even better customer service.   Along with your order, they send you some cards that have a picture and description of each variety of cheese your order. I will order from Sweet Grass Dairy again, and again, and again….

I decided to stick close to my Southern roots and have soda crackers (saltines) and Ritz crackers.  Neither of those are made in the South and they were the only exception  to the rule.  Both of these crackers were readily available throughout the South and I grew up with them.    I’ve found that the multi-grain versions of both types crackers hold up better than the original versions which have become very crumbly for some reason.

Ham Biscuits with Honey Mustard Butter.  Cheese boards typically have some type of cured meats.  I added my Southern thumbprint by serving miniature ham biscuits.  Cumberland Gap ham is consistently good.  It’s the only ham I’ll buy now.

Pear preserves, Vidalia Onion Honey Mustard, Tupelo Honey.   Instead of fresh or dried fruit, I chose pear preserves to honor our canning heritage.  Mustard is a classic ingredient for a cheese board and Vidalia onions, grown only in Vidalia, GA, added to mustard was a slam-dunk.  The sweetness of honey pairs well with salty cheeses.  Tupelo honey is my favorite.

Pickled Okra and Spicy Jalapeno Relish.    If you’re going to include a pickle on a Southern-style cheese board, you don’t need to look any further than pickled okra.  Wickles brand pickled okra is out of this world good.  Southerners love relish and jalapeno relish was a new find that became a nice addition.

Almonds, pecans and peanuts. Salty, sweet/spicy and savory.   We’ve covered all the bases.

I just love the look  of these.

The hot beverage and dessert bar.   I used my Keurig coffeemaker and offered a variety of k-cups: coffee, hot chocolate, hot apple cider and hot tea.

Southern Tea Cakes and Mary Washington’s Gingerbread Cake.  Both were fine choices if I do say so myself.

 

Our napkins.  I don’t need to explain them.   I just need to say I love them.

We had 24 attend the party.   I had 5  (1/2 pound) cheese selections  and I think that was just about the perfect amount.    This is the first time that I’ve used paper and plastic when entertaining.  I felt that glass, crystal and china was proper.  Finally, practical meets proper in my little brain.  I’ve come to realize that when you have that many guests, unless you’re catering the event or have hired someone to help you clean up,  using paper and plastic is just fine.  In fact, it’s sensible.  I’m all about sensible these days.   Thank heavens the light bulb finally went off in my gray matter.

We sent our guests away with a little bit of southern hospitality.  We put  homemade hot chocolate mix, homemade marshmallows and a Southern Tea Cake in a pint canning jar with a note on the top that read, “Thanks for coming, y’all!  Add 1/4 cup hot chocolate mix to a large mug.  Fill with boiling water. Stir well.  Top with marshmallow.  Eat with Southern Tea Cake.”    We signed the card, “Sam and Jackie”.  The hot chocolate mix was measure into a small plastic ziplock bag, the marshmallows each went into petit four wrappers and the tea cake in a cupcake wrapper.

Merry Christmas!

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18 Comments leave one →
  1. December 18, 2011 11:27 pm

    Jackie, sounds like a lovely party!! Just so you know, there’s a cheese maker over in Elberta, Alabama called Sweet Home Farms. I don’t think they have a website, but you can find all kinds of info on them through interviews, magazine write ups, etc. We keep passing by there on the days when the storefront isn’t open, so we’ve not been in. However, I’m told their cheese is to die for. I know the Fish House in Pensacola (a very nice restaurant) gets cheese from there. If you’re ever over that way on a Friday or Saturday, stop in and see them and give us a review.

    • December 18, 2011 11:36 pm

      Sue,

      Someone else mentioned them to me. I looked them up and they don’t have a website or mail-order. You have to go to the dairy to buy cheese. The next time we go to Mobile, it might be worth the drive to Baldwin County….if I can remember. :)

  2. Mary permalink
    December 18, 2011 11:38 pm

    What a great party idea…..you did a fantastic job! I’m sure your guests appreciated your hard work and thoughtfulness in the planning of this party. And you gave the rest of us the information to have a great party!!!! Thanks, Jackie for this blog!!!!

    • December 18, 2011 11:47 pm

      Mary,
      It truly was a fun evening. People enjoyed being able to sample different foods and wines. They liked the little signs I made up identifying everything, too! Now that I’ve broken the paper/plastic barrier, it sure makes clean-up way yonder easier. ;)

  3. Jean permalink
    December 19, 2011 5:55 am

    Jackie, the party looked like fun with some great choices you made. There are 2 wineries around my part of the woods here. I hear they make great muscadine wine there too. I always give goody bags too and tried a few time to have a party at my shop with china rather than plastic. Too much trouble!
    Plastic is the way to go and into the garbage! You have fortunate neighbors and friends!

  4. Dawn permalink
    December 19, 2011 6:39 am

    You missed “Still Pond Vineyards and Winery in Arlington, GA. Great award winning wines! and great people.

    • December 19, 2011 8:32 am

      Dawn,

      Thanks for the tip on Still Pond Vineyards. I’m not sure where Arlington is. We visited some wineries in north GA a few years ago.

  5. Carol permalink
    December 19, 2011 1:38 pm

    Jackie, That looks scrumptious and with such Southern Class! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  6. Honey permalink
    December 19, 2011 2:04 pm

    Do try the country ham from Benton’s Country Hams in Madisonville, Tennessee. A visit there is quite an experience. One of my all time favorite discoveries!! Bacon to die for and they also carry Sourwood Honey from Morris Bateman, Topton, N.C. I buy a year’s supply of both when I make my annual pilgrimage to the Smokies.

    • December 19, 2011 7:41 pm

      Honey,

      I’ve had Benton’s ham and bacon before. They serve it at Blackberry Farm. They’re really good! The only problem with Benton’s ham is that you have to order them so far in advance. I just can’t seem to get my timing right to order so I can get it before I need it. I believe they only allocate a certain amount to mail orders so they can be sure to have enough for their customers. :)

  7. December 22, 2011 5:51 pm

    You cant get anymore south than a ham biscuit. I love smithfield ham myself. I have a friend that recently got married at the Williamsburg winery. Here in Va it seems like we have a winery in every town. Thanks for sharing your wine and cheese party with us.

    • December 22, 2011 8:01 pm

      Veronica,

      We want to become more familiar with VA wineries. Y’all are making a name for yourself among winemakers! :)

  8. Chris Vinson permalink
    December 23, 2011 8:55 pm

    NOW I see it! There is my favorite San Sebastian wine and my beloved Biltmore Estate wines! (I once visited there and came home with a case) :o)
    Thanks for the lovely post!
    Chris

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