9.19.2019

Create an Elegant, but Easy Cheese and Meat Board in Minutes

updated September 2019

My neighbor loves Halloween so much that she coordinated a progressive fall-inspired dinner party for our street. I volunteered to host appetizers. My goal was to keep it simple and look to Italy and Spain for inspiration on an elegant, but easy cheese and meat board that could be put together in minutes. 

In 2015, I went on a press trip to a winery in the Marche region of Italy. The event set-up was simple, elegant, and perfect for tapas before a meal. I decided to do something similar with my own spin for this neighborhood get-together. 


Italian appetizer spread at Marche Winery


Liza loves Disney's Descendants movies.  Last year, she knew she wanted to be the character, Mal, for Halloween. In my house, the song, "Ways to Be Wicked" is continuously played.  I decided to have a little fun with a "Ways to be Wicked" song. The lyrics say, 
                                  

"Apple, apple dip, dip
Wanna try it?

Tick, tick

Take a bite, c'mon, be bold
Change the way the story's told."


Descendants. Apples. Villians. Evil Queen. It all fell into place.




Evil Queen Costume with apples as the star of the party.


I used fresh apples for my centerpiece decorations, and the fall fruit is in season right now. An apple, from tart to sweet, goes wonderfully with an Italian-inspired meat and cheese board.


Put together meat and cheese boards within minutes



I ordered apples from my Papa Spud's produce box delivery service. Apples were in abundance and cost-effective. I purchased everything else from Trader Joe's in less than an hour. 

Here's what I bought at Trader Joe's for my "Ways to Be Wicked" Inspired Party
Sparkling Apple Cider (non-alcoholic)
Draft Apple Cider
White wine
Bread Sticks
Several types of crackers
Goat Cheese with Herbs
A Spanish Cheese sampler with Manchego, Iberico, and Cabra Al Vino
Sliced Aged Cheddar Cheese
Two varieties of pears (One sweet and one standard pear)
Several cartons of the store's seasonal Greek Yogurt called, "Trader Joe's Apple-Caramel Whole Milk Greek Yogurt." 
Dried Apricots
Organic Trek Mix with Cashews, Almonds and dried Cranberries
Italian Hard Salami 
Two appetizer snack packs with Genoa salami cut like apple shapes and provolone slices. 
Red Grapes

I have two cheese boards that are simple and look like cutting boards. I also used three small glass dishes to hold olives, nuts in trek mix, and dried apricots. 


Add sweet and salty to your cheese boards


I placed the four kinds of cheese on the cheese first. I used the goat cheese on another platter separately with crackers, pears, and apples. For my hard cheese platter, I placed my nut bowl and my dried apricot bowl on the board. I put a few sliced apples on the tray, crackers, and red grapes for garnish. Presto. The cheese board was filled in no-time. 

On a round cheese board, I placed olives in a bowl in the middle. I then surrounded the olives with crackers, cheese, genoa salami, and hard salami slices. 

For my third platter, I took the olive oil appetizer breadsticks and wrapped Prosciutto around each one. I used apples and grapes for garnish. 


Italian prosciutto wrapped around breadsticks can be put together within minutes for party


I was amazed at how quickly I was able to create these elegant but a simple cheese and meat tray for this party in minutes. I think the total time may have been 15 minutes for all the three trays. 

I used the Apple-Caramel Grek yogurt dip with and apple slices. 

I really thought this was a no-fuss party idea and I will do it again. It did not take a lot of work, but yet, it looked like it did.  The hit of the night was the yogurt dip and the soft goat cheese. It all worked well because I had meat-eaters and vegetarians in attendance. 

Another neighbor served lasagna after my get-together, and my other neighbor served a homemade limoncello cake. It was a great night.



Quick and Easy Meat and Cheese appetizer trays that can be put together within minutes. #Appetizers #Easy #Cheese #Antipasti

Pin for a future Halloween Party Idea 

Ways to be Wicked Inspired Halloween Party with apples as the star. Evil Queen is the host. #Halloween #apples #Easy #Appetizers

9.04.2019

A Traveler’s Look at Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square in Toronto

First published 2013/Updated September 2019





I’ve got one word for you: staff.

The staff at Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square in the heart of downtown Toronto makes a stay there extra special.  As soon as you check-in, you feel as if you are staying with family.  

And they are even known for leaving familiar family photos on the nightstand for regular guests when they check-in.




Yeah. They are that good at their jobs.  But they are genuine in how they do it, and that is what sticks with you after your stay at Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square, the Germain Hotels’ newest 167-room boutique property.

Now that I’m back in Raleigh, I miss Omar, Susan, and Mike. It’s simple for me to remember their names a month after my stay because they made an effort to make me feel welcome in a big city.  Everyone I came into contact with did.




I fell in love with this modern yet inviting and cozy boutique property.  I certainly call it a HinesSight favorite now.

And let’s talk about décor.  Hands down, it is probably the most contemporary-styled hotel I’ve stayed in thus far in my travels.  It’s the total opposite of my personal space, but yet I liked it.

It’s minimalist chic with a loft-style space.




Sexy athletes over the bed.




Chairs that resemble hockey pucks.




Yes, there is a theme you see here, and it works well for the hotel.  It’s all in the details.




Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square is adjacent to the Air Canada Center, the sports arena for Toronto’s professional hockey and basketball sports teams.  The sexy photos over the bed are professional Toronto athletes. The bar is called “Play,” but let me tell you … this hotel is no gym, but rather it is a GEM.  This is a luxury hotel with great beds, rainfall showers, and luxurious Molton Brown bath products.




My absolute favorite detail is the Ovopur water filtration system, which is available on every floor.  It keeps water fresh, and at turndown, your carafe is filled and placed on your bedside table.  The first year of implementation, the hotel saved 15,000 plastic water bottles.





The rooms at Hotel Le Germain are designed really well for the use of space.  A lot of that can be credited to the owner, Christiane Germain.  She makes sure that she doesn’t have things in her hotels that bug her when she travels.  As a result, all lights can be turned off at one switch. Closets are plentiful, and there is a great space for luggage.   You can also turn on all the lights in the room with your key card.  I loved that amenity.




I, of course, took this trip solo, but Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square welcomes families.  Again, it’s all in the details.  If you have a potty-training child, they’ll put this little guy in the bathroom. Little touches like Angry Bird pillows make the room inviting for children.  They supply children’s robes, pack and plays, and baby monitors.




European continental breakfast is also included in your room rate.   Nothing says good morning like a great muffin and a cappuccino.




And if you need a snack during the day, just grab an apple. These green apples are scattered around the hotel. They imitate art, but it’s edible art.




The “Play” Lounge serves food starting at 4 p.m.  If Mike is working, ask for a margarita.  It’s his best drink.  He says he loves to make it because it tastes like the ocean.   Mike, your margaritas are much better than the ocean.




Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square is located in a complex with condominiums, a few restaurants, and even a grocery store.  One of the nights I stayed, there was a small kitchen fire in the grocery store in the complex, so the fire alarms in the hotel went off at 5:30 a.m. Safety first. Those things happen, and it was taken care of very quickly, but I must admit that I had to have looked like a fool as I made my way to the street.   I grabbed my rings, my passport, and put on pants under my gown, and then put on the comfy hotel robe on top of it all. I exited quickly and didn’t even brush my teeth.



Half the crowd was fully dressed, and the other half were like me.  Some were even sans pants.  Those of us who looked as if we rolled out of bed in an emergency will be better prepared from this point forward.  Hopefully, there will NEVER be a next time, but it was certainly a learning experience.




My best coffee came at breakfast in the lounge, though, and it is indeed complimentary, as is the complimentary cappuccino machine in the second-level lounge.

Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square is an urban, sophisticated, peaceful retreat in the bustling city.  After a long day at the TBEX conference, I was happy to walk through the doors of my home away from home.

In HinesSight on my Stay



The Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square offers great Toronto location.



I would definitely stay at Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square if traveling to Toronto again.
I loved the idea of fresh carafes by the bedside table and the Ovopur water system in the common areas.

I loved the modern elements of the hotel. Getting in bed and hitting one button to turn off the lights was cool.

I like the idea of the Nespresso machine in the room, but not sure I love the idea of paying to have coffee in my room.   A lot of luxury properties I have visited lately have had a Keurig in the room to brew tea and coffee, complimentary.

I loved the complimentary wi-fi and the fact that a continental breakfast is included in your stay. That scored big points.

They also had an umbrella in the room. I should have used it. I got drenched one night leaving a party.

I had neither with me on this trip, but the staff spoils your children and your dog.  It is a pet-friendly establishment, but coming from a person who does not have a pet, there is no evidence whatsoever that a dog has been a guest in your room.  This is an immaculate, luxurious hotel. They deep clean after every visit.




Want to Stay:
Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square
75 Bremner Blvd
Toronto (Ontario), Canada

Disclosure: Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square helped sponsor my trip to TBEX by providing both a comp rate and a media rate for my duration in Toronto.  As always, opinions are my own, and I did have my personal expenses.



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