We know the situation all too well, you are having guests over and don’t know what to feed them. The cheese plate is a great solution to either serve alone for guests to graze or served as a supplement to other starters. If you want to put together a beautiful platter filled with the perfect assortment of cheeses you can’t just slap a processed block of cheese on a plate and call it a day. Well, technically you could but it definitely wouldn’t impress guests. Next time you are entertaining, put out a cheese board using our helpful guidelines to arrange a presentation that is both visually and gastronomically pleasing.
Choose the cheeses:
There is such a variety of cheeses from around the world it is difficult to pick just a few. An odd number or cheeses looks best visually on a board, plan on buying 3 or 5 cheeses. Instead of choosing cheeses that are all similar, try to branch out and choose an assortment of cheeses with different flavors, consistencies and cheeses made from different types of milk. Since people have different tastes when it comes to cheeses, picking a variety will keep everyone’s palate happy.
Below is a basic guide listing cheeses that can be found at the cheese section of most grocery stores. While you do not have to go to a gourmet cheese shop to cultivate your selection it can be a good learning experience as the salesperson is most likely very knowledgeable. The cheeses listed are merely recommendations; feel free to explore other combinations.
Something sharp, such as Sharp Cheddar
Cheddar is a firm cheese made from whole cow’s milk. It has a rich flavor and is always a crowd favorite and pairs well with almost everything.
Something creamy, such as Brie
Brie is a soft, rind-ripened cheese that is made from cow’s milk or goat’s milk depending on the brand. It is Buttery and smooth and easy to spread on bread or crackers. It is best to by a wedge of brie for a cheese plate instead of a wheel. By the way, the rind is edible- just in case you were questioning it.
Something nutty, such as Gouda
Gouda is a firm cheese made from whole cow’s milk. It usually has a mild and slightly nutty flavor and is sometimes smoked.
Something fresh, such as Chèvre
Chèvre is a fresh cheese made from goat’s milk. It is soft and crumbly with a mild flavoring and is sometimes flavored with herbs.
Something funky, such as Blue Cheese
Blue cheese gets its blue-veined color from mold that usually carries a distinct smell. It is usually creamy and crumbly with a full rich flavor.
Choose the vehicles:
How are people going to get the cheese from the tray to their mouths? Serve your cheeses with some crackers and some slices of a fresh French baguette. Plain crackers are best since any added seasoning tends to overwhelm the flavor of the cheeses. If you are using a small platter to serve the cheese then opt to serve the bread and crackers in a bowl or plate to the side. That way no one ends up knuckles deep in the cheese.
Any supplements should be chosen to compliment the flavors of the cheeses. Fill in your cheese board with an array of charcuterie such as prosciutto or salami, a fruit spread, some fresh fruit and some nuts. All of the accompaniments can be easily grazed on by guests and add extra flavor and color to the spread. If your board is crowded play with some different heights, put nuts and frit in bowls and maybe serve the meats on a plate. For this spread we filled in our selection of cheeses with prosciutto, salami, almonds, fig spread and grapes.
When you are ready to serve your cheeses, spread them out around the board you are using. It is best to arrange the cheese first and then fill in with your additional items. Don’t forget to serve the cheeses with knives so people can cut the cheeses instead of just looking at what a beautiful job you did. You can choose to serve the cheese with toothpicks for those who want to skip anything standing between them and the cheese!