Looking for more fun things to do in Wisconsin this summer? Here’s something fun you can do anywhere, any time: hold a wine and tapas party. This past weekend, friends gathered at the wine and tapas party held every few months in my neighborhood.

This Wisconsin wine and tapas party originated with someone who wanted a small, intimate party of friends who would gather to share different wines and seriously critique them. Each guest was asked to bring a bottle of a certain type of wine and some food. No kids invited! That was the rule. The conversation, wine, and food would be haute gourmet!

Well, free a bunch of adults from the demands of young children for an evening, set out bottles of wine and a tapas selection of gourmet food and any hopes of seriousness go flying with the pigs. The adults were having fun!

So much fun that as the wine and tapas party roamed through the neighborhood over the ensuing months, the party grew larger and larger. Neighbors invited more and more neighbors to join in the fun. The bottles on the kitchen counters got more numerous and the food went from ordinary potluck to gourmet food. Nowhere in site was a Cheerio, goldfish, chicken nugget, or even cheese pizza. Instead, this weekend we feasted on shrimp, freshly-caught, smoked and grilled lake-fish, crackers with melted goat cheese, bacon, and herbs, and of course, muchas comidas caliente-Mexicana! (I’ve not been the only chili-deprived parent.)

I also broughtt something my children would abhor. I brought broccoli and cauliflower salad. Keep reading for the recipe.

The worst potluck dinner I’ve ever been to occurred years ago when all my friends and I were dirt poor. And what grows in dirt? – Potatoes. Every contribution to that potluck dinner consisted of something potato, ranging from chips, to potato salad, to potato casserole.

The potato experience must have scarred me, for ever since then, my potluck contribution has always been some sort of vegetable dish. That’s why to this tapas party I brought a “Sunny Vegetable Salad”.

I got the recipe out of one of my favorite cookbooks. It’s a simple, spiral bound collection of Recipes for Sweetened Dried Cranberries. If you’ve read my blog more than twice, you’ll know that I’m a cranberry fanatic. And in truth, I’m now quite fussy about my cranberries. This cookbook was written by Linda Urban Hamm, of the Urban family who owns a Wisconsin cranberry processing company. Linda and her sister-in-law, Cheryl, put their heads together and came up with the best recipes in which to use their wonderfully-delicious cranberries. Here’s their recipe for Sunny Vegetable Salad:

  • 5 cups broccoli
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tablespoons cider or red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  •  5 cups cauliflowerets
  • 2/3 cup onion — chopped (I used red onion)
  • 1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 bacon strips — cooked and crumbled

“In a large salad bowl, toss broccoli, cauliflowerets, cheese, onion, and dried cranberries. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, sugar, and vinegar. Pour over salad; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Sprinkle with bacon and sunflower seeds.”

Well, our wine and tapas parties never turn out as the originator intended. This time she even brought 3″ x 4″ printed aids to guide us in our wine discussions. These lay on the counter, and were occasionally moved to make room for another bottle. The most serious critique I heard was, “I really like this one, – try this one!” So we did. More Wisconsin fun. (It’s not all about beer, you know.)