happy hour for two

So it’s Thursday! We need a little respite from the work week. We need a little drink to sip on and a snack to nibble on. Happy Hour is on everyone’s mind usually by this time of the week. Does happy hour stress anyone else out? I could never seem to get out of work and to the bar before last HH call (who can actually make it to happy hour at 4pm anyways?)

Then there’s the ordering. Why do I have to make a decision in two seconds (and it’s always between a greasy burger or a boring overpriced side salad)? Not to mention driving home after downing two (because they are $3 off!) drinks and hardly eating a real meal.

No. No. No. I am reclaiming happy hour. Happy hour at home! It’s the way to go. 

Here’s why: 

  1. You get exponentially better food. Better for you, fresher, and likely faster.
  2. Alcohol is cheaper when you buy a bottle of your favorite liquor and mix your own cocktails. Plus you can a make it just the way you like it. 
  3. Bonus: You’re already home so you don’t have to worry about driving. 
  4. So, now that we’ve decided to go home and get comfortable with our cocktails, what do we make? 

Happy hour at home should be: 

  1. Easy
  2. Fast
  3. Make ahead if possible. You don’t want to put too much pressure on your self, or it’s not happy!
  4. Delicious! Hey, if you make it yourself, you can make it any which way you want, and usually the money you would have spent on going out can go towards upgrades in your ingredients! 

Which is exactly why we use the fancy fontina in this recipe. This is Fontina Val d’Aosta, an Italian semi-hard cheese that is fantastic for melting. It has medium flavor, meaning, it’s not a stinky cheese, but it’s not super mild either, it’s kinda pleasantly in the middle with a rich, melty texture and aroma. It’s a comforting and satisfying cheese, perfect for a weeknight happy hour or drinks with your friends. 

baked fontina

I mean…. just look at it: 

melted fontina

Here’s what you do for a lovely little happy hour at home (for two!)

Cube up some of this nutty Fontina Val d’Aosta. 

cubed up fontina

Chop some herbs and slice a little garlic (you can use a garlic press to make this even easier). 

Toast some bread or heat up a baguette in the oven. 

Put the cheese in a small cast iron skillet (4-6 inch or anything oven proof around 4-6 inches.)

baked fontina

Drizzle olive oil over the cheese and sprinkle with salt and fresh ground black pepper. I am betting that you could do this in the morning or the night before and cover with plastic wrap or keep in a container in the fridge until you are ready to bake it. 

Take your bread out of the oven and slice it. Put the cheese under the broiler. 

It only takes about 5 minutes, so don’t go too far away! Open the wine. We have a lovely 2013 Black Mountain Merlot. I picked this up at Trader Joe’s for $6.99. Guess what? It’s lovely with this cheese! If you can’t fine this wine, just ask the wine dude or lady for a wine that would pair well with a good fontina cheese. I also found this blog that offers other suggestions from Trader Joe’s. If wine isn’t your thing, try an American Pale Ale or a Doppelbock beer. If you don’t like wine OR beer, what are ya doin’ here? This is happy hour! (aka, have kombucha or some iced tea.)

trader joes black mountain merlot 2013

The cheese is ready! It’s best served warm right out of the pan you baked it in. I recommend melting the cheese right before you plan to serve it, trying to re-heat this doesn’t work. 

baked fontina

So why do we love this for happy hour at home? It’s easy! You could cut the cheese (hehe) and the herbs ahead of time, but even doing that doesn’t take too long. The drink here is simple, just a well chosen wine. And the fontina in this dish is seriously upgraded, so making it for two keeps it affordable. 

Slightly adapted from Ina Garten’s Make It Ahead. If you like this red cast iron skillet, you can find it in my Etsy shop (I only have one!). 

Baked Fontina and merlot for two
Recipe Type: Appetizer, Snack
Author: Sugar Pickles
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 2 servings
  • 1/2 pound (or close to it) Fontina Val d’Aosta cheese, rind cut off
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced or pressed through a garlic press
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/3 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • sprinkle of salt and fresh ground pepper
  • French baguette for serving
  1. Toast the bread or heat it up in the oven. Cube up the fontina into 1″ chunks. Remove the bread and slice. Preheat the broiler with the rack 5 or 6 inches from the heat.
  2. In a 5 or 6″ skillet or small baking dish, sprinkle the fontina evenly. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with the garlic, herbs and salt and pepper. Broil until melted, bubbly and slightly browned, about 5 or 6 minutes. Meanwhile, open the wine and pour.
  3. When the cheese is done, serve right out of the hot dish with the french bread. Cheers! It’s happy hour!