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my least favorite room in the house became my fave (and how I hosted a wine + cheese party in it)

my least favorite room in the house became my fave (and how I hosted a wine + cheese party in it)

Our formal living room is the first thing you see when you walk in our house. Until about a week ago, it was also the room we didn’t really use and never really liked. Knowing it’s a room-in-transition and that we’ll be knocking down a wall or two eventually, we sort of let it be the room that went unfinished.

After we gave our family room fireplace a face-lift, Matt and I decided we’d go ahead and have the fireplace tiled in our front room as well because that part won’t change with the eventual remodel. This update not only freshened the room up, but inspired me to rearrange some furniture and throw pillows (I stole the ones below from my bed), and you know what? I actually love this room now.

Tile installation by the super talented Kerry at Unity Tile and Design.

The timing couldn’t have been better because last night I hosted the kindergarten moms from Sterling’s grade for a wine tasting party at our house. Each guest brought two bottles of wine: one for tasting, one for the bounty. The winner in each category (white, rose and red) got to take home the bottles!

Scarlet and I made this cheese and dessert board which basically included everything I’ve ever wanted to buy at Trader Joe’s. Oh yes I did get those chocolate treats that look like Pringles, and everything else I’ve never really had a reason to buy. Honestly, doing this spread has sort of opened up new ideas to me outside of my normal grocery checklist.

Check out the comprehensive list below, as well as some tips to host your own wine tasting party!

5 Tips to Make a Giant Cheese + Dessert Board

  1. I looked online for a giant cheese board and I didn’t find anything quite big enough. Plus, what I did find was more than $100. So instead, I went to Target and bought two of these $14.99 acacia trays and an acacia lazy susan, for $11.99 for the dessert.

  2. I had a number of little ramekins, but I grabbed some cute little acacia bowls ($12.99 for four) from Target. I added dips, dried fruit, lemon soaked olives and mini pickles to the little bowls and placed them on the cheese plate before adding anything else around them.

  3. I used two of Trader Joe’s baguettes and left the bread on the cutting board. Then I added fresh herbs and grapes and placed the cutting board on the table I was serving on before placing the other two cheese plates beside it. After all the boards were placed, I started filling in any holes in the presentation with a variety of crackers, apricot/cashew chews and other little treats.

  4. Since it’s February, I wanted to be sensitive that some people may be trying to hit their New Year’s goals. I made sure to put veggies for dipping on the tray as well: mini peppers, raw broccoli, as well as roasted squash and asparagus. I also wanted to round out the board with comfort foods: potato chips and french onion dip, truffle butter for the bread, dolma for a little flavor surprise. I really did just grab all of my very favorite Trader Joe’s goodies that wouldn’t normally go together and paired light colored food items with bright ones and laid crackers and herbs in between.

  5. OMG, the dessert board was so much fun to make. All of this was from Trader Joe’s as well. I love that so many of their chocolate treats come in a package with both milk and dark chocolate. It gave the board some color interest and hit everyone’s favorite taste buds. I did:

    • TJ’s peanut butter cups, both large and small

    • key lime tea cookies

    • blueberries

    • Belgian chocolate hearts

    • chocolate toffee

    • candied ginger

    • red licorice bites

    • shortbread cookies

    • shortbread cookies with belgian chocolate center

    • chocolate “chips” (they literally look like Pringles)

    • chocolate covered pretzels

Wine Tasting Party

This was my first time doing a double-blind wine tasting party and I was so grateful for my guests being so helpful. We all took turns pouring the wine (there were just over 15 bottles). Here’s how it works:

  • I used Sign Up Genius to allow guests to sign up to bring either a red, white, or rose. Each guest was to bring two bottles of whatever wine they chose and the wine was to be $15 or less.

  • We covered the bottles of wine with paper bags, separated them by white, rose and red, then numbered them. Each person tasted wine 1, ranked it from 1-5, then we poured wine number 2, etc. until we finally ranked each wine bottle.

  • Then we ( I saw we, but really my sweet neighbor) tallied up the results and we had a winner for each category (white, red, rose). The winners got to take home the unopened bottles in their category!

    • 1. If you want to throw your own wine tasting party, feel free to download and print these cards I made below!

    • 2. You’ll need helping hands. There’s no way I could have done this without such helpful guests. They were helping open bottles, pour bottles, hand out and collect cards, tally the numbers. It’s an all-hands-on-deck kind of party!

    • 3. Don’t forget you’ll need enough pens for your guests to write with! I forgot and brought my kids’ giant box of random crayons, which turned out to be adorable for a bunch of kindergarten moms. Totally meant to do that. Wink, wink.

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