What makes the perfect cheese plate? I believe it is one that is well-balanced and creates an intense and memorable experience. There are numerous ways one can plan a cheese platter. There are no “wrongs” and you will not be committing any social “faux pas”. Perhaps you may select a cheese that didn’t go over too well, but like anything else, it is an experience to be appreciated and learn from. Chances are good that you will have the opportunity to introduce your guests to a couple of new and fabulous cheeses that they have never had the opportunity to sample before, while at the same time providing some old favorites. Here are some guidelines to get you started:
If you are serving cheese as hors d’oeuvres pre-dinner, plan on 4-5 ounces of cheese per person. As hors d’oeuvres at a cocktail party 5-6 ounces per person. As an appetizer course, prepare 3-4 ounces per guest. When serving cheese as a main course, 5-6 ounces per guest should be prepared. And finally, should you choose to serve an after dinner cheese plate, expect 2-3 ounces per person (depending on the size of the meal beforehand).
Personally I prefer an odd number of cheeses for my cheese plates. Aesthetically, the plate is balanced and pleasing to the eye. I like to choose 3 or 5 cheeses for my platter. To keep them visually enticing they should vary in size, texture, shape and color. For your first experience I recommend selecting a cheese that is soft, gooey and runny, one that is crumbly, and one that is firm. A ripe Camembert, cheddar and a blue are the perfect example. The textural differences contrast nicely as would the flavors.
To add some zest to your plate you may want to choose your cheeses based on a theme. Present cheeses from the same region, the same milk type, or made by the same cheesemaker or dairy. If you are a fan of goat’s milk, try a tasting based around all goat’s milk cheeses from various regions. Divine!
The most favorable surface to present your cheeses on would be a rustic board, marble, or stone. Should you want to keep it basic though, a simple wooden cutting board is perfect!
When in the mood for something more elaborate, there’s a variety of accompaniments that pair well with cheese. Membrillo paste, fig jam, chutney, fresh or dried fruit, nuts, olives, tomatoes, dried fig cake, or crusty artisan bread all enhance the natural beauty of your cheese selections.
Remember to let your cheese selections adjust to room temperature before serving—approximately one hour. Be sure to keep the cheeses wrapped until ready to serve. Label your cheeses so your guests will know what they are being served and assemble them in order from the mildest to the strongest in flavor. Lastly, if you have any questions your friendly cheese leads at the Vineyard Market at Bottle King are always there to guide you!