Selecting the Cheese
- Try to include a variety of textures and flavors. Most cheese belongs to one of four basic categories: aged, soft, firm, or blue. For a good variety, choose at least one from each group. Some examples:
Aged: Aged Cheddar, Comte, Goat Gouda
Soft: Constant Bliss, Camembert, Brillat-Savarin
Firm: Manchego, Mimolette, Parmigiano-Reggiano
Blue: Gorgonzola Dolce, Valdeón, Stilton
- You can also try selecting cheeses by the type of milk used (cow, goat, sheep). This will ensure a range of different flavors on the plate.
- Serve at least one familiar cheese.
How Much Is Enough?
- For a party such as a potluck, and your serving the cheese plate as a hors d’oeuvre, plan on 1 to 2 ounces of each cheese per person.
- Offer a selection of breads, including sliced baguette, bread sticks, and crackers in all different shapes and sizes. It’s a good idea to vary taste and texture among the breads as well as the cheeses.
- Fuss-free condiments and vegetables. Try sweet preserves or honey, tart chutneys, and spicy mustards. You can also add artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, and caponata.
- Various other sweet and salty items can work as well. Try cured meats such as prosciutto and salami, or candied nuts and pistachios. Assorted seasonal and dried fruits can include figs, cherries, apples, and pears.
- Separate strong-smelling cheeses. If you want to serve a pungent, stinky-socks cheese, place it on a separate plate so it doesn’t overpower more delicate ones. four or five choices are enough.
- Cut your cheese before you put it on the cutting board.
- Try not to crowd your cheese platter. Serve slices of crackers of baguette in a separate basket or bowl. Choose sourdough bread or bread containing olives or walnuts. Or neutral crackers.
- Set out a separate knife for each cheese, especially the soft varieties. Soft cheese spreads well with a butter knife; firm cheese might require a paring knife; and aged cheese often requires a cheese plane.
- Remove the cheese from the refrigerator an hour before serving―cold mutes flavor.
- Spread out the spread. Place the cheese platters and the other nibbles on several tables to avoid guest gridlock.
- Label each cheese so you won’t need to recite the names all evening. If you like, also jot down a few poetic adjectives describing its flavor.
Adapted from realsimple.com. Photo source: Drew.edu.