Balsamic Chicken Watermelon Salad
Two Years Ago: Ravioli with Peas, Bacon and Lemon Oil
Every wine bar or brewery has some sort of a platter listed under appetizers that typically includes cheese, meat, nuts and fruits. It's an ideal way of entertaining - people basically love to snack - and essential if you're having a wine or beer tasting party (or football party!). I actually love them so much that it's one of my first choices for dinner (not just appetizers) at a wine bar. They're easy to assemble at home if you follow a few simple rules, and it's easy to scale up or down depending on the number of people; just add more of everything, or add a few more choices.
Here are the basics of any good platter:
1. A wood platter, preferably not round. The more rustic the better.
2. Two or three different types of cheese. Textural differences (one soft and one hard, for example) are great.
3. Crackers and/or toasted French bread
4. One or more types of cured meats such as prosciutto, salami, sopressatta, etc.
5. One or more types of whole roasted nuts (walnuts, pistachios, cashews, etc.)
6. One or more types of olives
7. Vegetables: pickled or fresh or both
8. Fruit: dried or fresh or both
9. A couple of little forks and knives for spearing and spreading
Arrange everything artistically with complementary colors next to each other. Prosciutto looks best if you sort of drape it rather than if it's lying flat, and nuts look great if they're casually tossed on rather than in a bowl. Everything should be in bite-sized pieces except cheeses, which can be served in wedges with a small knife for cutting/spreading.
Your grocer's olive bar is a great source of not only olives but also various marinated vegetables such as the mushrooms, peppers and artichoke/sun-dried tomato mix that I used. I would call the platter that I created more of a wine bar platter than a typical brewery platter because breweries often emphasize charcuterie (cured meats) since they go so well with beer. Here are some variations on the basic theme.
Wine Platter: add more cheeses and less meats (sometime none at all)
Brewery Platter: add several types of cured meats, an interesting mustard, and some dense thinly-sliced rye toasts
Mediterranean Platter: substitute pita bread for French bread, eliminate the meats, and add hummus and baba ghanoush. Almonds, dried apricots and feta cheese are very appropriate.
Have fun creating your own signature platters!