National Wine and Cheese Day is July 25. Yes, there is such a thing and we have a list of places to help you celebrate the special day whether you are braving the outdoor patios of reopened restaurants and wine bars or cuddling at home with your cat watching the world fall to pieces on cable news. In these uncertain times, we need some moments when we are just nibbling a chunk of cheese, sipping a complementary glass of wine and setting aside our cares for a brief hour or two. And if a loaf of locally made sourdough or a hunk of a French baguette helps to wash away the stress, we won't judge. This year, we'll call it National Wine and Cheese and Bread Day. Maybe we'll throw in a few slices of salumi, too. We deserve it.
The folks living in the River Oaks/Westheimer area are lucky to have the only Central Market in Houston. The gourmet grocery store is owned by San Antonio-based H-E-B Grocery with ten locations throughout Texas. It also features a cooking school which is temporarily closed due to pandemic restrictions.
Wandering the aisles of Central Market is a foodie dream but most of us aren't that comfortable lingering in a grocery store nowadays. Central Market offers online ordering for curbside pick-up and delivery, making it easy to get all the cheese and wine you need to celebrate National Wine and Cheese Day. It's not as exciting as staring into the giant displays of milky goodness, trying to decide between a French Emmantal or an English Stilton. However, it's still kind of fun to scroll through the dozen plus pages of cheeses online and pick from Gopi Paneer, Bel Port Salut, Cotija, Somerdale Stilton, Vermont goat cheese and so on. Then there's the vast selection of wine. It's easy to add to the cart but the total at checkout might be kind of scary.
This cheese and specialty foods shop has been at its location on Airline since it opened in 2012. Founder Lindsey Schecter helped to bring quality cheeses, many of them local, to Houston, first with her wholesale business then with the retail shop. With more than 150 different cheeses, cheese connoisseurs are bound to find more than a few delicious examples. The selection is mostly American and Texan with a few imported cheeses. There are wines, beers and cheese-friendly accompaniments like olives, honey and American salami. The shop offers gift packages, cheese trays and more. Right now, it also has a To Go Bag of five different cheeses for $45 that can be ordered online for pick-up or delivery. The rotating cheese selection for the bag includes two soft cheeses, two firm cheeses and a blue, though selections may vary. The shop provides a tasting sheet for the bag.
Some of the Texas vendors include Blue Heron Farm, Pure Luck Dairy, Lucky Layla Farms and Veldhuizen Family Farm.
This New England-style seafood restaurant offers an artisanal cheese and charcuterie board in Petit ($16) or Grand ($26) with meats and cheeses sourced from Houston Dairymaids. Guests can also try the Burrata Salad ($16) with arugula pesto and heirloom tomatoes. The wine list is on the pricey side, though a few bottles can be found in the $50 region. If you're splurging, the seafood towers are a big draw as well as the raw bar.
Max's Wine Dive
Founder Jerry Lasco opened Max's in 2006 as one of the first wine restaurants offering a curated wine list with food. Customers can opt to dine-in or order online for pick-up or delivery through UberEats, DoorDash and Favor. There's a seasonal cheese board that can be paired with one of the vast array of vino choices. National Wine and Cheese Day doesn't have to be limited to just cheeseboards, however. The Max 'N Cheese is a comforting, cheesy dish made with cavatappi pasta, truffle bechamel, provolone, gruyere, parmigiano-reggiano and white cheddar, topped with breadcrumbs. It also makes an appearance on Max's HRW menus for brunch ($20) and dinner ($35).
Montrose Cheese and Wine
The patio is now open at this Montrose wine and cheese shop from Goodnight Hospitality. It's next to Rosie Cannonball so you could make a day and evening of wine and cheese. The snacks menu includes an option of three cheeses of the day or three meats for $18. The Cheese and Meat Board ($32) will give you a nice selection of both.
The shop also has an online ordering option for to-go and pick-up. There are cheeses like Lira Rossa's fresh mozzarella from Jersey cow's milk or its fresh ricotta. Each are $10 and come from the dairy located in Moulton, Texas. Other cheeses include burrata, Buttermilk Blue and Caciovallo di Bufula.
Master Sommelier and partner at Goodnight Hospitality, June Rodil, is in charge of the wine offerings. There's a section for ordering retail wines that includes favorites under $30 and quite a few are under $20. Try Rodil's own blend, June's Rose, a sparkling wine for $19.99.
Postino Wine Cafe
Postino has expanded its menu of bruschetta, snacks and panini to include Food for the Crew, larger packages for take-out that can feed the small crowd with whom you are quarantining. Its Artisanal Cheese Trio is good for two with cheese, nuts, quince jam and toasted bread for $15.50. For a larger group, the Artisanal Cheese Board ($37) serves four to six. There's also the Classic Antipasto ($38) which has cheese, charcuterie, dried fruit and nuts. There's also a prosciutto and Brie panini ($11)or a mozzarella and tomato panini ($10).
Postino's wine prices are reasonable and even more so for guests who take advantage of the $5 wines before 5 p.m. daily. There's also the Lucky 7 wines, a rotating line-up for $15 a bottle. The patio is open for wining and cheesing.
Shanon Scott's Italian restaurant in Rice Village has been offering special family meals and packages to-go but is also open for dine-in service as well. The covered, shaded patio makes a romantic spot to enjoy a glass of wine and one of the pasta dishes from chef Angelo Cuppone. For National Wine and Cheese Day, Scott will be pairing red Pugliese wines with the burrata, a popular starter at the restaurant. The special pairing will be $19 for the cheese and a glass of wine. Burrata cheese comes from Puglia and is a creamy mozzarella stuffed with cream and bits of mozzarella which results in a decadent texture.
There's also a delicious mozzarella in carrozza that takes fried cheese to a higher level. To continue the cheese fest, guests can choose between a number of pastas, two that feature pecorino-romano, the salty sheep's milk cheese that is an important element in the simple dishes of cacio e pepe and spaghetti carbonara. To get the balance right requires the best quality ingredients and the master touch of a chef like Cuppone, a native of Italy.
Roma's cacio e pepe ($19) is cocoa-infused fettucine tossed with pecorino while the spaghetti carbonara ($15) is a creation of pecorino, egg and guanciale. Both dishes are available for curbside pick up and delivery within a limited area. However, to get the most of the dishes, you might want to have a seat on the patio.
Sonoma Wine Bar
This California-inspired wine bar from owner Farrah Cauley has been in Houston for 14 years. Cauley and her team are offering a special deal this Saturday. Order online for curbside pick up or free delivery and use code NATIONALWINEDAY at checkout to get 10 percent off wine and cheese plates.
Sonoma offers curated cheese and charcuterie boards or customers can BYOB : build your own board. The wine cafe is open for dine-in as well. Seating is limited so reservations are strongly recommended. Guests can reserve through the website or on OpenTable.
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This popular wine bar and retail shop is currently open for to-go only due to the pandemic restrictions. Bargain seekers will appreciate that the shop is currently offering all of its wines and beers for 35 percent off retail. That means a number of great wines are priced under $30 with a few even coming in under $20. Of course, for the fat wallet folks out there, deals can be had on bottles of vintage champagne if so desired. Customers can order by phone, text or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The shop also has a number of cheeses available from 1/8 pound to a full pound. Some are also available whole. Soft cheeses include a triple cream brie, Texas goat cheese from Pure Luck Dairy, and feta from Meredith Dairy out of Australia. Other cheeses include Spanish manchego, Italian buffalo mozzarella and a gouda from California. For those who like a little meat with their cheese, there's a selection of charcuterie such as American salami, Spanish chorizo and Italian bresaola. Customers can also order specialty accompaniments like olives, mustard, Marcona almonds, Parma butter and baguettes.
To keep its clientele in touch with the staff, 13 Celsius is hosting Sippin' Sundays via Zoom from 2:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. with at least two bartenders or team members talking about wine, life and maybe a few embarrassing things about themselves. It's all in good fun, but be forewarned, it might get a little naughty. To register, contact Adele at adele@13celsius.