Your dinner party is tonight and you've got the entrée nailed down. A real jaw-dropper. But there's no reason the pre-game can't be just as wow-worthy.


Before reaching for chips, dip and salsa, consider upping your game with a picada. This Argentinian meat and cheese platter makes the perfect appetizer – especially for a gathering. The beauty of a picada is that it's a blank canvas with virtually limitless possibilities. There's no real right or wrong way to do it – as long as it tastes good (and goes well with Malbec, of course). The personality of Malbec lends itself nicely to aged cheeses (think manchego). It also goes well with cheeses spiked with a spice component. There are so many amazing artisanal cheeses available and your local cheesemonger, or even the gourmet section of your market, will have a selection to make your platter perfect.


Cured meats are a must, too. Go for pepperoni and salami and definitely add some chorizo. Any high-quality meat will work well here. When choosing your meats and cheeses, try to give a range so that something is likely to appeal to each diner's taste. But don’t worry, it would have to be one picky eater to resist this plate.


You can make your picada even more interesting. Mound some roasted almonds and some briny olives around the platter for another added dimension, and place ramekins of fruit preserves and chimichurri alongside to give your guests even more choices. Top it all off with some sweet grapes and nice crusty bread. Be sure to channel your inner Thomas Keller and artfully arrange all those carefully selected goodies. Serve, and then duck out of the way as your guests' forks go diving in.


Listen, there's nothing wrong with chips, dip and salsa. In fact, around here snacks have been known to occasionally get us through the day. But when you want your guests to talk about you (in a good way) after they leave, the picada is where it's at.

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