Charlotte Tastemakers Share Their Party Food Pairings (and Recipes)

Charlotte Tastemakers Share Their Party Food Pairings (and Recipes)

The time between October and December is the busiest party season of the year, and let’s be honest: Many of those drop-ins, potlucks, and holiday open houses are really just wine parties in disguise. You know you’ll need two things—party food, and wine to serve with said party food. 

Cheese with wine has become cliche—and not even a good one. (Of course, there are rare exceptions, like manchego and brie.) But cheese can actually fight the tannins and acidity in wine. What about classic party foods? Can you pair guacamole with wine? Or find a great match for something as simple as potato chips? We asked some local experts to share their favorite pairings. 

Amanda Britton of Lincoln Street Kitchen & Cocktails may be best known for her prowess with a cocktail shaker, but she knows her way around a wine bottle, too. Her go-to pairings for party foods are rosé with anything spicy, like buffalo wings; and a simple bottle of bubbly (she likes Simonet Blanc de Blancs Brut) for rich bites, like baked crab dip.

Andrew King, owner of The Butler’s Pantry, serves his Country Ham Puffs with a mix of tawny port and lemonade. Port pairs well with salty foods like ham, and the mixture combines lemonade’s acidity with the wine’s nutty sweetness. 

At The Goodyear House, chef and owner Chris Coleman tops his Devilish Toast with deviled eggs, diced pickles, and Calabrian chili peppers and serves it with a sparkling rosé. He says rosés can stand up to the creaminess of the toppings, and they’re free of tannins that clash with eggs. 

Certified Wine Educator Sara Guterbock loves potato chips with a dry sparkling wine, whether it’s an expensive Champagne or a more affordable prosecco or cava. Her favorite party wines are Spanish cava, which tends to be more elegant and a little drier than prosecco, and a juicy grenache-based red blend. 

Seven more foods to pair with party wines:

Deviled Eggs

If you add relish to this Southern classic, you boost the acidity, Guterbock says. Acid in wine can mitigate acidity in food, so she serves it with a bright New Zealand sauvignon blanc. For simpler, mustardy deviled eggs, a sparkling rosé can cut through the creamy richness. 

Baked Chicken Wings 

Sweetness and spice can be enemies, but spicy wings can handle a big red like malbec. Sweetness can shut it down, so for teriyaki wings, go with a sweeter white like a German Gewürztraminer or riesling.

Baked Crab Dip

A sparkling wine, like a Spanish cava or a sparkling rosé, will cut through the fat of the mayonnaise-and-cheese base. A buttery, oaky chardonnay can work with the browned top of a baked dip. Or reach for a classic with seafood, a bright albariño, to cleanse your palate. 

Grape Jelly Meatballs

These simple meatballs in a sweet-hot sauce deserve a comeback. Pair them with a grenache-based Côtes du Rhône. It’s affordable, and the juicy red flavor will love the sweet grape jelly. 

Charlotte, North Carolina, September 1st, 2023 Wine Pairings For Charlotte Magazine Photographed By Peter Taylor In Charlotte, North Carolina. September 1, 2023.

A grenache-based Côtes du Rhône (top left) brings out the sweetness in grape jelly meatballs. The acidity in a sparkling rosé (above) balances the richness of deviled eggs.


It’s both spicy and creamy, with the salty crunch of tortilla chips. Gewürztraminer is floral with a little acidity that can temper the heat with a soft texture to match the creaminess. It’s also aromatic enough to handle strong herbs like cilantro. 

Bacon-Wrapped, Almond-Stuffed Dates

Bacon always couples well with the spiciness of shiraz. But for this meaty Spanish appetizer, go with a classic Spanish tempranillo. It can handle the saltiness of the bacon and sweet chewiness of the dates. 

Pear and Almond Puff Pastry Tart 

Ashley Bivens-Boyd, pastry expert and owner of 300 East, serves this simple dish with a sweet dessert wine. Either a Sauternes or a white muscat will do magical things with the almond flavors.


Charlotte, North Carolina, September 1st, 2023 Wine Pairings For Charlotte Magazine Photographed By Peter Taylor In Charlotte, North Carolina. September 1, 2023.

Andrew King serves his Country Ham Puffs (at right, on serving stand) with a mix of tawny port and lemonade; classic Spanish tempranillo elevates bacon-wrapped, almond-stuffed dates (lower right).


Courtesy of Andrew King, The Butler’s Pantry

The sweet/salty/acidic filling goes perfectly with the crunchy puff pastry. The recipe can be doubled or tripled, depending on how many servings you need. The pastry expands, so the baked puffs are large enough to be a serving.


For 6 large puffs:

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed if frozen

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons pepper jelly

6 thin slices country ham

1½ cups shredded Asiago cheese

Thyme leaves


  1. Roll out puff pastry to ensure it has a smooth surface.
  2. Cut into 6 squares and place the squares on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  3. Place a slice of ham on each square, then spread the ham with Dijon and pepper jelly.
  4. Top with shredded cheese and a few thyme leaves.
  5. Bring the four corners of each square to the center and pinch them sealed, making a small pyramid shape. (If needed, lightly dampen the edges with water to make them stick.) Can be made ahead to this point and frozen until needed.
  6. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown.
  7. Cool 10 minutes, then serve warm or at room temperature.


Courtesy of Andrew King, The Butler’s Pantry


Tawny Port (it doesn’t need to be an expensive one)


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups water, divided
  • 1½ cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (6 to 9 lemons, depending on the size)


  1. Combine sugar and 1 cup water in a saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.
  3. Roll the lemons firmly on a work surface and squeeze out the juice.
  4. Add the simple syrup to the juice, then add about 1 cup water. Chill until ready to serve.
  5. To serve, fill a tall glass with ice, then top with 1 part Port and 2 parts lemonade, stirring to mix.


Courtesy of Chris Coleman, The Goodyear House

Coleman uses a couple of tricks to create an ultra-smooth and flavorful filling, topped with zippy garnish of diced pickle and red Calabrian peppers. For testing, we found Divina chopped Calabrian peppers at Publix.

12 eggs, hard-boiled and peeled (see note)

½ cup mayonnaise (Coleman recommends Kewpie, we like Duke’s)

2 tablespoons yellow mustard

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

Salt to taste

1 to 2 teaspoons water


  • 3 Calabrian chilis, chopped, or about 1 tablespoon Calabrian chili relish
  • About ¼ cup diced pickles
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill fronds


  1. Slice cooked eggs. Remove the yolks and place in the bowl of a food processor.
  2. Add mayonnaise, mustard, nutritional yeast, and vinegar. Process until smooth.
  3. Add a pinch of salt. With the motor running, splash a little water into the mix. The filling will lighten in color, becoming creamy and a little fluffy. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  4. Place in a piping bag fitted with a star tip (or a resealable plastic bag with one corner snipped off). Pipe into the whites.
  5. Mix the chopped chiles and diced pickle. Place a dab on the top of each egg, then top with a little fresh dill.

Note: Cover the eggs with cold water, bring to a boil, cover, and remove from heat. Let stand 17 to 18 minutes, then place in ice water to cool before peeling. Or place 1 cup water in an Instant Pot fitted with a trivet. Place the eggs in the pot, seal and cook 5 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes, then vent the steam and place the eggs in a bowl of ice water for 5 minutes before removing the shells.


Courtesy of Ashley Bivens Boyd, 300 East


1 package puff pastry, thawed but still refrigerator-cold

⅔ cup granulated sugar, plus 1/4 cup for finishing tart

10 tablespoons butter, softened

1¼ cups almond flour (Almond flour is available in most supermarkets. Bob’s Red Mill is a common brand.)

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

¼ teaspoon almond extract

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

⅓ cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

6 firm Bosc, D’Anjou or Bartlett pears

Juice from 2 lemons

¾ cup pear, apple or apricot jelly or preserves

¼ cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted


Almond cream:

  1. In a food processor, combine butter and ⅔ cup sugar and process until light. Add almond flour and process until thoroughly mixed.
  2. With the machine running, pour in egg and process until combined. Add almond extract, vanilla, flour and salt and process until smooth.
  3. Scrape into a jar or container with a lid and refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. Soften at least 1 hour at room temperature before finishing the tart.

Almond tart:

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine lemon juice and 2 cups water.
  2. Wash the pears, cut in half lengthwise, and use a melon baller to remove the seeds and core. Lay the pears cut-side down on a cutting board and slice crosswise into 1/8th thick slices, dropping the slices into the lemon water.

To assemble:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, or 400 degrees if using a convection oven.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each square of puff pastry into a 14-by-8-inch rectangle.
  3. Place each one on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
  4. Prick the pastry all over with a fork.
  5. Spread each pastry sheet with 1 cup of the almond cream.
  6. Remove the pear slices from the lemon water and pat dry.
  7. Arrange pear slices over the entire surface, lining them up in long rows and slightly overlapping. Sprinkle the pears with 2 tablespoons sugar per tart.
  8. Bake until pears begin to caramelize, almond cream is slightly puffy, and the bottom of the pastry is golden brown, between 25 and 35 minutes. (Lift the bottom of each tart gently with the tip of a knife and make sure it’s browned on the bottom.)
  9. Remove tarts from oven and slide onto cooling racks.
  10. Melt jelly or preserves in a small saucepan with a splash of water, then brush over the warm tarts to glaze.
  11. Cut into small squares, rectangles, or triangles with a long, sharp knife, then sprinkle with toasted almonds.
  12. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Courtesy of Kathleen Purvis


Nonstick cooking spray or butter for baking dish

¼ mayonnaise

1 teaspoon dry mustard

¾ teaspoon Old Bay

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon A-1 Steak Sauce

2 teaspoons half and half

Zest and juice of 1 large lemon (about 2 tablespoons juice)

¾ cup grated Parmesan, divided

8 ounces crabmeat, preferably lump

⅓ cup crushed Ritz crackers (about 10 crackers)

Crackers for serving


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 1-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray or coat it with a little butter and set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, dry mustard, Old Bay, Worcestershire, salt, A-1 sauce, half-and-half, and lemon juice and zest. Fold in the crab and ½ cup grated Parmesan.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together the crushed crackers and the remaining ¼ cup Parmesan. Sprinkle over the crab mixture.
  4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the top is browned and the dip is bubbly around the edges. Serve warm or at room temperature with crackers.


Adapted from

Typically served in a chafing dish or from a slow cooker, this one has become a party classic. When you first mix up the sauce, it won’t wow you. But let the meatballs simmer in the sauce for several hours and you’ll get it: As the sauce thickens, the flavors meld, becoming irresistibly sweet and rich. Use small cocktail-size frozen meatballs, not the large Italian-style ones.


1 (30- to 32-ounce) jar grape jelly

2 (12-ounce) bottles Heinz chili sauce

1 (5- to 6-pound) bag frozen cocktail-size meatballs


  1. Combine the jelly and chili sauce in a saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the jelly is melted, about 10 minutes.
  2. Place the frozen meatballs in a slow cooker and add the sauce. Cover and cook on low for 3 to 4 hours.
  3. Serve in a chafing dish or in the slow cooker, with cocktail picks on the side.

Alternate methods: Place the meatballs and sauce in a large Dutch oven and bake at 325 degrees for 3 hours. Remove the lid in the final hour to let the sauce thicken. Or you can simmer it all slowly in a large pot on the stove; leave the lid off and simmer slowly, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 hours, until thickened. Serve the meatballs and sauce in a chafing dish with cocktail picks.




1 (12-ounce) container pitted Medjool dates

2 to 3 cups salted roasted almonds

1 to 2 pounds regular bacon (not thick), each strip cut in half



  1. Stuff 1 or 2 almonds into each date.
  2. Wrap each date in a half-strip of bacon and secure with a toothpick.
  3. Place the wrapped dates in a single layer on a jellyroll pan.
  4. Refrigerate until shortly before serving.
  5. When ready to serve, bake in a 425-degree oven, turning the dates over halfway through, for 15 to 18 minutes, until the bacon is crisping up. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

18 − fourteen =