Hosting the Spontaneous Guest (and mastering the art of a cheese board)

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I love planning gatherings well in advance but some of my favorite time spent with friends are often those that happen spontaneously. I’ve tried to build a home where friends feel welcome to send a text saying their passing by and would love to drop in. Or when I find myself on the rare occasion with a block of free time with the kids and invite a family over for a last minute playdate. It’s for these occasions that I try to keep our house stocked with “the essentials,” food that can easily be put out, with very little effort, and that would satisfy our friends and the kids. A cheese board is something that can be thrown together in less than 15 minutes, minus of course the time it takes to tidy your house which in our case is usually the bigger deterrent to hosting.

The Art of a Cheese Board:

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It was a friend of mine that clued be into the thousands of YouTube videos and blogs dedicated to teaching the Art of the Cheese board. Here’s a few to start you off: Real SimpleBon Appetit (when you only have one cheese) and Food52.

Basically, any combination of a hard, soft and medium cheese (mild, semi stinky and more stinky), a combination of fresh and dried fruits of sorts (don’t be afraid to mix it up depending on whatever is in season), nuts and crackers pulled from the cupboard or even days old bread sliced and toasted with a little olive oil.  Other additions include  olives (which I always try to keep stocked in my fridge because they last forever) fruit spreads, and a dip like hummus.

Trader Joe’s and the beloved neighborhood Sahadis’s  are my favorite local places to stock up accoutrements for a good cheese board. The cheese is reasonably priced and you can’t beat the selection of olives and dried fruit at Sahadi’s. Most of the food will keep in your pantry or fridge for weeks. I’ll just pick up extras, especially interesting looking crackers whenever I’m at the store to pull out for last minute hosting. Whole colorful carrots, celery and radishes will keep in the fridge for a long time and just keeping them cleaned, trimmed and chopped always helps to be pulled out for a last minute guest. It goes without saying we always keep our fridge stocked with some kind of craft beer and a chilled bottle of wine or two (or three) as we always seem to find an excuse for both. Keeping these tips in mind as you take your next trip to the grocery shopping will help prepare you when a spontaneous guest arrives and even fool them into thinking you’re way more on top of things than you might feel. I promise the little extra effort it takes will never go unappreciated!

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