Bites of Bliss – Holiday Cheese Hors d’Oeuvres Recipes and Wine Pairings Make for Festive Evenings


Holiday eating usually means large meals and I love the occasional feast as much as the next wine writer. But I also appreciate meals that give me a break in the middle of banquet season and still deliver sparkle and flavour. Let’s organize an event with no main course and enjoy tasty morsels of deliciousness: hors d’oeuvres! They’re perfect for a supper party because they can be eaten over a long period of time, delight the senses and still leave room for wine and conversation! So let’s have a great evening of appetizers and cheeses paired with great wines.

I’ve assembled a menu of three hors d’oeuvres, Feta Christmas Balls, Beef and Blue Brochettes, and Mushroom-Gouda Melts; two cheeses, Tipsy Brie and Gouda All Ways, with Drinks; and one cheese accompaniment of Apples and Cranberries. They are delicious, easy to prepare, and allow you to spend more time with your guests. Feel free to add your own favourites; flexibility is yet another quality of this type of course.

 Feta Christmas Balls

4 oz (125 g) Canadian Feta
8 oz (250 g) Canadian Ricotta
1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped fresh chives
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) freshly ground pepper
Trimmings of your choice (ground almonds, toasted sesame seeds, ground oregano, dill, chopped parsley and ground walnuts)


Before making this recipe, let Feta stand in a bowl of water for an hour to remove salt and soften.

Strain Feta, crumble and combine with Ricotta, chives and pepper. Mix well. Freeze for 30 minutes to make mixture firmer.

Roll mixture in small balls, about the size of a marble. Roll balls in your choice of different trimmings. Arrange in a serving dish to create a Christmas-tree shape. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

 Beef and Blue Brochettes

32 mini-skewers
½ large red, green and yellow pepper, cut into 32 squares ¾˝ (2 cm)
½ large red onion, cut into 32 pieces
¾ lb (340 g) beef sirloin, cut into ¾˝ (2 cm) cubes
2 tbsp (30 ml) parsley, freshly chopped
2 tbsp (30 ml) canola oil
2 tbsp (30 ml) balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 oz (90 g) Canadian Blue, sliced or crumbled


Pre-soak mini-skewers in water.

In shallow container with lid, add parsley, oil and balsamic vinegar. Season generously.

Place peppers, onions and beef cubes in container, cover with lid and shake vigorously to thoroughly coat with marinade. Let marinate at least 30 minutes or until the next day.

Prepare brochettes by sliding a pepper square, a piece of onion and a beef cube onto each skewer.

Preheat oven to 450oF (230oC).

Place marinated brochettes on a parchment-covered cookie sheet.

Top with Blue and cook 7–8 minutes for medium done or as desired. Savour while they’re hot.

Mushroom-Gouda Melts

4 slices crusty Italian bread ½” (1 cm) thick
2 slices bacon, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 tbsp (15 ml) butter
8 oz (227 g) mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp (15 ml) lemon juice
1 cup (250 ml) grated Canadian Gouda
1 tsp (5 ml) thyme (optional)
Salt and ground pepper to taste


With the rack in middle position, preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Arrange bread slices in a single layer on a large wire rack. Place rack on a baking sheet and set aside.

In a skillet over medium heat, fry bacon until crisp along with shallots. Add butter and mushrooms and sauté over high heat until golden brown, 5-7 minutes. Season.

Deglaze with lemon juice. Adjust seasoning. Spread mushroom mixture on the bread slices. Sprinkle with cheese and bake 10 minutes. If needed, finish browning under the broiler.

Tipsy Brie

Prick Canadian Brie or Camembert deeply and fill the holes with cognac or sherry. Cover and chill for two days.

Garnish with candied fruit and / or nuts. Put everything in a pretty package.

Apples and Cranberries (Cheese Accompaniment)

 3 red apples (McIntosh) peeled and cubed
1 cup (250 mL) frozen cranberries
1/4 cup (60 mL) white wine
1/4 cup (60 mL) honey
1 tbsp (15 mL) crushed red pepper
1 sprig thyme
2 star anise


Place apples, cranberries, white wine, honey, thyme, star anise and a cinnamon stick in a casserole. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and add crushed pepper. Serve hot or cold with cheese.

A tray of Canadian Gouda or Medium Canadian Cheddar, Canadian Havarti or Canadian Emmental, cubes and wedges; toothpicks galore
Fruity white wine
Pinot noir
Black coffee
Orange pekoe tea
Herb tea
3 or 4 different breads, small slices, in a basket


On a serving platter, arrange cheese and grapes decoratively.

As for the wine, I would pair the feta balls and the brie with a medium red, such as a Campo Viejo Crianza or a Louis Bernard Côtes du Rhône-Villages, and the brochettes with a rich red, such as a Château de GaudouTradition Cahors 2008. Finally, treat yourself to a nice bottle of Pinot Noir, which will pair nicely with the mushroom melts, as well as the Gouda.

Happy Holidays!




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