The spread doesn't have to be fancy-- in fact, better if it's not. And normally I'd advocate for a small salad, some nice bread, or something that's warm, but you don't really need these things. There's somehow more fulfillment that comes from a meal of two items that could ostensibly stand alone than from a plate of one starch, one vegetable, and one protein that's been thrown together just for the sake of some notion of completeness.
Having wine and cheese for dinner may offer an excuse to spend just a few more dollars on each item. Or not. What's most important is to go for a toothsome cheese with some heft, like a bold washed-rind cheese or something aged and sharp, like the Piave that inspired this post, a cheese, incidentally, that runs on the cheaper side of the fine cheese spectrum. Wine-wise, some reds drink like a meal, so while whites (very generally speaking) make better pairing partners with cheese, go for a bold red if it's making up 50% of your dinner.
When pleasure comes in such simple form, it's easy to overlook its validity as something actually substantive. But after a long day, when all you can muster is a quick uncorking of a bottle, there's really nothing more profound, at least food-wise. And this is what's deep about the marriage of wine and cheese for dinner, if I may fathom a guess: it satisfies hunger by taking care of that snacky craving, which carving away at a hunk of cheese does so well, and which sometimes a more composed meal just can't do. Wine and cheese is hearty, elegant, and chic, and kind of makes you feel cool. Or maybe that's just the wine.
Nora Singley is an avid lover of cheese, and for some time she was a Cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City, where she continues to teach cheese classes for the public. She is currently an assistant chef on The Martha Stewart Show.
(Images: Nora Singley)