As we move into colder weather, many of us are busy thinking of ways to entertain indoors. I love the opportunity to share food moments with friends and family and this is a perfect time of year. Cheese is meant for sharing. What I love about food and especially cheese, it that it is a universal language, similar to music. Having a cheese plate at the center of a gathering provides a way for all participants to join in the tasting — and the conversation.
These tips for building a cheese plate are easy to recreate in countless different ways and will make you the cheese expert in your circle of friends.
Color: Cheese is made from milk, and many cheeses look the same. Pick cheeses that vary in shape, sizes, and color! Most of the cheeses that look different taste different, so you are already a step in the right direction. I recommend a selection of four cheeses for any event, but do not feel limited if the event is large and your friends are cheese lovers!
Love It: Pick a cheese you know you love. If this is a Cheddar, Gouda, blue, or Brie, make sure you have a selection that you are comfortable directing everyone to because you know you love it! I love new cheeses every week; check with your cheesemonger to identify the best-tasting at that time.
Timing: Heard this before? Timing is a big part of any food event. Is your cheese tray an appetizer selection or dessert following a five-course meal? Are you serving immediately following work or at a casual gathering to watch a sporting event? A good rule of thumb is to provide 2 ounces per person per cheese selected. If it is the start of the evening, your friends may consume 2 ounces per selection; at the end of a dinner… not so much. Reminder: The cheese should be at room temperature when being served (30 minutes out of the refrigerator is a good time to shoot for).
Know Your Audience: If I am going to a friend's supper club and I know all of the participants are "foodies," I am going to select an amazing cheese plate with my Certified Cheese Professional Cheesemonger at my local store. It will include cheeses that my friends have not heard about, are only seasonally available, focused on some local and some exotic. If I am going to a board meeting or a neighborhood party, I want a selection of quality cheeses that meet a broad spectrum of attendees' tastes. Check in with the cheesemonger to make sure to meet your needs. Label every cheese so your friends know what they are eating!
— Cathy Strange, global cheese buyer for Whole Foods Market