Many consider a spread of cheese to be the ultimate party snack offering. It’s fancier than chips and salsa, but about just as easy to assemble. With thousands of cheeses out there, it’s hard to repeat the same thing. And with additions like jams, crackers, fruit, and more, it’s easy to mix old favorites with something a bit more extreme or unusual. But when facing a wall of cheeses, be it at the market or cheese shop, knowing what to get and then how to serve it can leave many befuddled.
When it comes to cheese, “There is no right or wrong,” says Chester Hastings, a trained chef and cheese monger at Joan’s on Third in LA, and the author of The Cheesemonger’s Kitchen. It's his first book and it explores the world of cheese, opening the eyes of even the most experienced cheese lover to new ways of enjoying old favorites.
When planning for a party, your perfect cheese plate might not be the same as the next person’s. “I love a cheese plate that simply the very best ingredients and does as little to them as possible,” says Hastings. So whether you’re looking for an upgrade from your market-bought Cheddar and Boursin, or are a cheese aficionado looking to jazz up your traditional selection with a theme or other exotic accoutrements, Hastings has shared his must-read tips for creating a perfect cheeseboard — from what to look for to how to serve the cheese, and of course, some additional treats (like a beehive-shaped terrine of creamy goat cheese and sweet roasted garlic) to personalize the spread.
While some say you can never have too much food or drink when throwing a party, Hastings voices caution when it comes to cheese. “Like a good bartender, I often cut people off when they’ve bought enough.” It’s much better to buy small amounts and return when you need more rather than have too much go to waste. And should you have too much? Never let it go to waste. Whether it's by putting the last of the fontina on a pizza, brie in an omelette, or the Parmesan rind in the soup, there is a way for even the last bits of cheese to be enjoyed.