Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tuesday Tables Revisited

So the last couple of weeks have been very manic and I haven't even had time to think about a post, let alone write one. Shameful procrastination I know and I can only be glad that Thursday's Tips kept me publishing something!

I have also come to the conclusion that I set myself too tall an order taking photos of a table set-up every week just so that I could post a Tuesday Tables' suggestion--and I didn't want to just post a random selection of other people's tables that I liked.

So going forward, I will instead look to post stories on the Tuesdays about a festival somewhere in the world, detail ideas for decorations and give you some menu suggestions to help you put together a table of your own with savoir vivre (knowing just how to live)!

This week's choice is close to home with the Whit Weekend in celebration of the upcoming public holiday which since 1971 in the UK has been known as Spring Bank Holiday. The public holiday sees many country fairs held (such as that of BakewellBurghleyDoncasterEndonMalvern or Hampstead Heath to name just a few locations), and, most unusual, a cheese rolling competition at Cooper's Hill next to Brockworth, Gloucestershire.

Unfortunately the 2013 event looks to be a more discreet affair than previous years' due to the escalating number of injuries (1998's event was cancelled due to the number of afflicted in 1997) and a revolt by locals about the plans and fees for the event to be commercialized.  So instead of encouraging you to head to the Cotswolds, I wanted to suggest that you held your own cheese event, albeit not perhaps with the same (pagan) aim of encouraging fertility in the fields for the 2013 harvest!

If you have a steep hill nearby you could of course stage your own cheese rolling event.  Instead of a large cheese, use a small wooden barrel as the original organizers did during World War II due to rationing. One friend suggested holding a cheese and spoon race with mini baby bells instead of eggs.  Or you can host a simple cheese and wine party and show the 2012 video as a prequel to the 2013 event, a video of which is bound to be available quickly on the internet for later on in the day.  

The main event is the cheese and I like to ensure there's a good range of four to six cheeses (British of course).  A readily-available selection from most supermarkets would be:
This will give you a nice choice of soft and harder cheeses without going over-the-top.  But make sure that you buy the original from its proper location: M&S was recently noted by my brother as selling a Wensleydale that had never been anywhere near Yorkshire.  Another couple of great British cheeses are Cornish Yarg and Stinking Bishop (which does live up to its name).

I like serving big chunks of cheeses on wooden platters (such as this selection from Jamie Oliver) as you can pass them easily around your guests, each with their own knife for cutting an individual's portion.  The blocks are better than pre-cut slices which tend to quickly look unappetizing (as they curl up and harden) and make it easy to freeze any surplus cheese for use at a later date at the end of your party.

You can hold a competition at your event in which case you number your cheeses....

...and give guests a piece of paper with the numbers and a blank space next to them for them to write their guesses.

Tally up the scores after a suitable period and announce a winner who gets a small prize e.g. a cheese inspired door wedge or blank cheese labels for their own event.

Or you can choose to label your cheese, printing out the below images onto some thin card, cutting them out neatly and glueing a cork onto the back of each piece of card at the bottom so they stand upright.

Serve your cheese alongside sticks of celery (trimmed and stuck upright in a glass); bowls of dried apricots (sliced), olives and nuts, piles of (seedless) grapes and a basket of crackers and crostini (small slices of toasted bread).   Condiments traditionally include fig or quince jam, but a good rhubarb compote works well, as does a dab of mustard.

Resist the temptation to serve cheese straws or cheese-flavored biscuits/crackers at the event as they will clash with your chosen cheeses, as do other cheese bits such as mozzarella bites and halloumi.  And why make cheese bites when the original product is much quicker, simpler and often tastier?  If you want something meatier, cold/cured cuts, honey-glazed sausages and a ham to carve work much better.

For wine, help your guests by pairing up the right wine with the cheese.  Innes Log and Wigmore/Somerset Brie both go well with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, Wensleydale with Chardonnay (un-oaked), the Double Gloucester (& Cornish Yarg) with Pinot Noir/Burgundy and the Stilton (& Stinking Bishop) with a full bodied Shiraz (better during the day than the Port).

To decorate your table, this party is best as a buffet so people can come and graze as and when they like over the course of an afternoon.  Keep the theme fresh to complement the cheese.  Use lots of green with bright paper napkins and fresh herb plants in small terra cotta pots to encourage guests to snip at the basil/dill/tarragon leaves to try with their chosen cheese.  Wine corks (doh!) and wicker mats also work well.

I also make up a radish mouse or two for the platters, courtesy of Martha Stewart, which kids find cute and suit the cheese theme given mouse decorations will obviously work well.

Or if you're feeling flush, these platters and bowl from the traditional mouse furniture man, Robert Thompson, are really lovely.

This suggestion for a set-up from Rock UR Party is very cute and a bit cheaper than bespoke wood boards.  Here in the UK, you can by a roll of the chalkboard paper from Amazon.

Meanwhile, Pottery Barn provides a nice overview of a party set-up, although it is one that focuses on the wine rather than the cheese.

And I also like the suggestions from Real Simple for their cheese party which include these take-home cards that you can print and cut out, and then pop in a tumbler with a few short pencils so people can make a note of any cheese/wine that they particularly liked.

And years ago, I used their invite template, which I can no longer find it on their site but which are still v. cool.

I hope you've liked my revisited Tuesday's Tables' post and stay tuned for more ideas.

And my reason for being so busy is that I have a new job!  Still in the City, but one with career progression that should help me work more easily towards my end dream of a job in the country working from home.


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