Instead of the same old wine and cheese party, Big Cheese host Jason Sobocinski treats his guests to something a bit more fun - and gooey. "A grilled cheese and wine party is like a hearty cocktail party where guests leave full - not looking for a restaurant afterwards," says the Cooking Channel star. "Plus, people love grilled cheese because it's nostalgic. Now it's elevated to something truly special." With combinations ranging from a twist on the classic (Gruyère with sage and walnuts) to a dessert panini (banana, chocolate, Brie and Gouda), Sobocinski serves up a three-course menu complete with complementary wines (he suggests St. Francis) and a simple salad for an unforgettable dining experience. Says the cheese expert: "Great melted cheese and wine is an interactive and wonderful way to enjoy pairings with friends."


Makes 4 sandwiches

Paired with chardonnay

1 (8.5-oz.) baguette, cut in half lengthwise

¼ cup toasted walnuts, chopped

½ lb. Gruyère cheese, sliced

4 large fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped

Fresh coarsely ground pepper

2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

1. Place bread halves, cut sides down, on cutting board; cut crosswise to form 8 pieces. Trim tops of crusty sides of bread pieces, if necessary, to form a flat surface. Sprinkle walnuts evenly over crusty sides of 4 bread slices; top evenly with cheese and sage. Sprinkle with pepper; top with remaining bread slices, crust side down.

2. Cook sandwiches in melted butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cheese melts.


Makes 4 sandwiches

Paired with cabernet sauvignon

12 thick slices bacon

12 small fresh shitake mushroom caps

6 oz. Havarti cheese, coarsely shredded

4 Portuguese-style or hoagie rolls, split

1 tbsp. unsalted butter

1. Cook bacon slices in a large skillet over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes or until crisp; drain bacon on paper towels. Remove all but 1 tbsp. drippings. Cook mushrooms in hot drippings over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes or until crisp and golden; drain on paper towels. Discard any remaining pan drippings; wipe skillet with paper towels.

2. Layer cheese, bacon and mushrooms evenly over roll bottoms; top with remaining rolls. Cook sandwiches in melted butter in skillet over medium-low heat 4 to 5 minutes.


Makes 4 sandwiches

Paired with merlot

2 (4-oz.) 60% cacao semisweet chocolate bars

2 small bananas

1 (8-oz.) wheel Brie cheese, sliced

6 oz. goat Gouda cheese, sliced

4 croissants, split

1. Break chocolate bars into equal pieces. Peel bananas; slice lengthwise into 4 slices. Layer cheese slices, chocolate and bananas evenly over croissant bottoms; top with remaining croissant halves. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.

2. Grill croissants on a griddle or in a heavy skillet over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes or until cheese and chocolate melt. Let stand 5 minutes; cut in half crosswise.