For whatever reason, New Year’s is not as big of a cheese holiday as Christmas. Granted, I grew up eating fried finger foods and black-eyed peas on New Year’s Eve–with the ubiquitous glass of champagne, of course—but nothing screams “cheese plate!” to me more than a night specifically designated for drinking, partying, and staying up late.
In order to ensure that your first encounter with 2017 is 100 percent cheesier, I have compiled a list of 17 things your New Year’s Eve needs, all of them involving cheese. Try one, try them all; no matter how you do it, you’ll have a ball!
- Cheese ball. Whether you buy one or make your own, and whether you make it from a pub cheese spread out of a jar or by shredding your own cheddar, mixing it with cream cheese, and rolling it in nuts, a cheese ball is always a crowd pleaser.
- Cheese plate. I’m pretty sure this goes without saying, but I would not ever recommend you have people over or attend a function unless there is a cheese plate present. It could be a paper plate with a hunk of Tillamook and some Wheat Thins on it for all I care; just please, show some proper love for your cheese and put it on a pedestal (aka cheese plate) for proper appreciation and enjoyment. Need help putting something together? Check out the post I did before Thanksgiving on the topic. Or ask your monger to help guide you to cheese plate success.
- Arancini bites. Here I’m about to pay some serious homage to Trader Joe’s.* It has been well-documented that the chain’s cheese section, although made up of cut-and-wrapped morsels with no lofty cheesemonger to guide you, is pretty legit. Well, their frozen, cheesy finger foods are up there, too. Sure, you can make your own arancini bites by cooking rice, mixing it with fontina, and breading them and frying them; or you could get a box or two from your local TJ’s and let the oven do the work.
- Greek spiral. Another Trader Joe’s goodie here: when you don’t have time to make your own spanakopita for the NYE party, pop this bad boy in the oven and then dig in. Technically labeled a “Five-Cheese Greek Spiral,” or alternately as “Mini Greek Spirals” if you get the finger food version, this product is what it sounds like: cheese and dough. No, there’s no spinach, so it’s not technically spanakopita—but you can always make up for it with an extra dose of spinach on January 1 when you start that “diet.”
- Camembert phyllo rolls. Did I mention that Trader Joe’s has the best finger foods selection? In case you missed the memo, it’s true. If you’re already heating up some arancini bites and Greek spirals, you might as well include these cranberry and camembert-filled phyllo (or fillo, as the box would have it) bites. It’s like a holiday-themed egg roll, but with 100 percent more cheese.
- Quiche. Bake that Quiche Lorraine, three-cheese quiche, bacon quiche, whatever you like. Quiche is a great party food. And, to be totally shameless, if you’re already buying finger foods at Trader Joe’s, I’ll have you know that they also have mini quiche bites. As I said above, I grew up eating all manner of finger foods on New Year’s Eve every year. I cannot stress the importance enough: fill that platter with cheesy finger foods!
- Jalapeño poppers. Obviously, if you’re going to serve finger foods, you can’t miss out on the king-daddy of all fried, frozen, and delicious finger foods: jalapeño poppers. We usually go for an industrial-sized box of the jalapeño and cream cheese-filled nuggets from Costco. Heat ‘em and eat ‘em, my friends. And don’t forget the ranch for dipping!
- Sweet chili cream cheese. Get a block of cream cheese (or Neufchatel if you can’t help but be pretentious like me) and unwrap it onto a plate. Pour sweet chili sauce all over it. Use Wheat Thins as spoons to scoop up the goods. Enjoy, and repeat.
- Baked brie. Whether you call it Brie en Croûte, Brie en Brioche, or baked brie, get thee one (or make your own, you slave to the kitchen!) and prepare it for the munching. Whether the brie is stuffed before it’s baked, or you serve it with jams and jellies fit for a queen, there is nothing better than a hot, gooey, pastry dough-wrapped wheel of brie.
- Fondue. Hey, it’s a party. Why not melt some gooey, Swiss-style cheeses (or buy a pre-made mix if you’re feeling lazy), cut up some bread, veggies, and sausages, and dip the night away. Make it a real party game: if you lose your dipper in the cheese bath, you have to kiss everyone at the table.
- Grated Parmesan. Just have a bowl of the goods on the table so that people can sprinkle extra cheese on their finger foods, their salads, their Nuts and Bolts mix, and anything and everything else you have at the table. Please, just use a spoon. Hygiene first, people!
- Cheesecake. You have to follow your savory with your sweet, of course. Either buy a nice, pre-made cake or bake your own. Serve it up with berry jam, chocolate, or both. Let the end of 2016 be sweet enough to eat!
- Cheesy games. Ok, the next few suggestions are stretch, but they are important! Don’t just sit around and talk until the year ends. Play charades, Scattergories, two truths and a lie, would you rather. Get people going on a creative bent, and you’ll laugh enough to forget all of the woes of the last few months.
- Cheesy music. Party like it’s 1999, or 1989, and turn on the oldies. Go for the 90s, the 80s, the 70s—anything but contemporary music. Force people to think of years long past as they kick the current one to the curb in favor of the next year.
- Cheesy hats. Yeah, yeah. Pointy, sparkly, foofy party hats. They’re necessary for New Year’s, as are those stupid whistle things that children should never be allowed to get their grimy mitts on.
- Cheese books. If you’re hosting the shindig, be sure to provide the illusion, at least, that you’re a well-educated cheese snob. What better way to do that than by scattering a few tastefully chosen cheese books on your coffee table. And hey, why not resolve to read them in the new year while you’re at it?
- Cheesemongers. There ain’t no party like a cheesemonger party, so you had better invite at least one. Not only do we bring the best cheese, but we also party the hardest, the longest, and the loudest. Do yourself a favor and invite your favorite cheesemonger to your NYE shindig. So, uh, when and where should I show up?
*I was in no way paid or sponsored by Trader Joe’s. I just really like shopping there, and eating their food. And telling others to eat it, too.