Grocery store: Trader Joe’s
Recommended Meal of Choice: Apps and Snacks
The Perfect Pair: Trader Joe’s Cheddar Gruyere Cheese and a Malbec
It is so exciting to roam around Houston looking for the best happy hours full of cheese and charcuterie boards, craft cocktails, appetizers, and bottles of wine to share amongst friends. Boy oh boy, how can you not love that!? Taking in the atmosphere of a new location or even something more familiar can be a sweet escape from the workplace. However, nothing beats hosting some pals (or just yourself) in your cozy home with a carefully curated (by you) drink menu and spread of yummies. Nothing beats this quality time where everything is focused on deepening friendships and there are few distractions other than refilling the crackers. This is why we’ve chosen to include some grocery store trips and tips for y’all here on Perfectly Paired.
If I’m in need of a one-stop shop before having friends over, I always run straight to Trader Joe’s. The quality is impeccable and the price on their cured meats, cheeses, and wines is surprising to me every time. Their freezer appetizer section is top notch and has my guests and I throwing elbows to get every last bite. No joke! Okay a stretch, but no one ever leaves the last Pastry Bite with Feta Cheese & Caramelized Onions uneaten for long. Trader Joe’s even has amazing prices on flowers. It’s like the whole store is screaming for you to have people over.
I’ve already mentioned the spectacular morsels that are the Pastry Bites, but let me walk through our go to basket of goodies for an oh so perfect happy hour at home.
One day when I was watching “The Kitchen” on Food Network, one of the hosts said when making a charcuterie board that, “Things pair well together that dwell together.” So when making a board, you’ll usually have good luck on meats and cheeses going well together if they’re from the same country or region. This rings true and is such a good tip when you’re not sure what you want or if you just want to narrow down the selection. On the other hand, if I’m buying and doing all the choosing for a crowd, then I want all my favorites no matter what region they are from! Nothing makes me happier than guests raving about the mix and playing with all the possible combinations.
A must have is the Cheddar Gruyere cheese. Of all the different kinds of cheeses I’ve put out, this is the one that always has people raving. It is the ultimate crowd-pleaser cheese and it is so easy to pair with any accompaniment. It tastes like a mild but aged Cheddar overall but still has enough Gruyere taste in it that I don’t mind putting it on my French Onion soup. As a sucker for Manchego, the Spanish Tapas cheese trio is a good addition to the board. It comes with three Spanish cheeses- Manchego, Cabra al Vino, and Iberico. They are pre-sliced and delicious. A perfect match for the Spanish Charcuterie mix of three that Trader Joe’s also offers. Although Trader Joe’s has a ton of wonderful cheeses you HAVE to try, I will recommend just one more. The Chevre Goat Cheese log. They have a herbed Goat Cheese and a cranberry one around the holidays and I love those both. However, when putting it on a board with this large of a variety, I suggest to just get the plain.
Fun combinations are made of more than just meat and cheese! You need other little bits for your guests to nibble on. Some things I recommend adding to the plate are candied pecans, sliced fruit, maybe some roasted veggies, and some sort of spread or dip. Trader Joe’s has the most wonderful candied pecans. They don’t have too much sugar on them, but they’re still sweet and crunchy! I add them to my charcuterie boards all the time as well as add them to salads and snacks. A spread I love is the Pepper Jelly. A little sweet and spicy, just put a spoon in the jar and put it on your board! Yum! You could also do the same for any other type of dip or mustard. You can’t forget the bread or crackers. The pita bite crackers are my go to (also good with hummus and just to snack on!). I love slicing up a baguette as well and sometimes bake it a bit with a drizzle of olive oil for color and crunch.
A bottle of wine (or two) is next on the list. Depending on how many people are coming you might need a couple of bottles. There is no need, I repeat- no need, to spend over $15 on a bottle when you’re hosting like this. When you’re hosting and a yo-pro, no one expects you to spend a fortune, and you don’t need to. I actually prefer to stay under $10 and you can always find tasty wines at Trader Joe’s in this price range. With all the things we’ve added to our board, I think a medium bodied Malbec, like the one in the picture, would be a great pair! Trader Joe’s wine selection is nice too because they describe all the wines right underneath the prices so you know exactly what you’re getting.
For all of the things that we have recommended, it will cost you about $41 and that includes a bottle of wine! This might seem like a lot, but we had this exact board with 4 friends over a game night and it was perfect. We even had leftovers of everything but the goat cheese and some of the meat! Another complete board could most definitely be made. We hope this guide to one of our favorite stores was helpful! We can’t wait to hear about all the perfectly paired boards that you make!
Peace & Pinot,
The Perfectly Paired Pals