When it comes to celebrating any occasion, Food Network star Tyler Florence raises his glass to the perfect party combo. “A wine and cheese party is a simple concept that everyone will love,” says the chef, 40, who enjoys toasting with friends at the Mill Valley, Calif., home he shares with his wife, Tolan, 38, and three kids—Miles, 15, Hayden, 4, and Dorothy, 3. “It’s easy to put together and looks impressive.” After choosing the star attractions (see next page), Florence fills out the spread with breads, small bites (his pumpkin bread with walnut honey is a must) and fresh or dried fruit. As for studying up on which wine complements which cheese? Don’t sweat it. “Just find the wine and the cheese you like,” says Florence. “They go together naturally. That’s why you can never go wrong.”
YOUR 3-STEP PARTY PLAN
1. Pick a Region
For your evening, “choose a theme like California, France, Italy or Spain,” says Florence. “They all produce fantastic cheeses and wines and provide a simple guideline for what you should buy.”
2. Choose 3 Cheeses
Pick up about ¼ lb. per guest. “You should offer at least three types,” says Florence, who suggests one soft, one hard, and “you get a lot for your buck with a nice ricotta.” (Try it with a bit of olive oil and sea salt.)
3. Buy a Variety of Wine
Florence likes to pour a red, a white and a sparkling wine at his parties. “I figure most people will drink about two glasses,” says Florence, who suggests getting at least seven bottles for a party of 10 to be on the safe side.
Makes 2½ cups
¾ cup walnuts
2 cups orange blossom honey
Preheat oven to 325°. Roughly chop walnuts and spread evenly onto baking sheet. Toast walnuts in the oven, stirring often, until golden brown all over, about 7 to 8 minutes. While they’re still warm, fold toasted walnuts into honey in a large mixing bowl and stir well. Transfer into an airtight glass jar, cover loosely and allow to cool completely so the walnuts infuse the honey. Cover tightly. Honey can be stored at room temperature for 1 week and in refrigerator for up to a month.
TYLER’S CALIFORNIA PICKS
Wine 2008 Saintsbury Carneros Pinot Noir ($29.99); NV Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley ($27.99); Florence’s own wine TF Sauvignon Blanc ($19.99)
Cheese Humboldt Fog goat cheese ($25 per lb.); Mt. Tam Cowgirl Creamery ($15.50 for 8-10 oz.); Bellwether Farms Ricotta ($8-10 for 12 oz.)