How to Create a Cheese Platter
Much like wine, navigating the world of cheese can be intimidating—especially when it comes to entertaining. So you’ll have to trust us when we tell you creating a palatable platter (and throwing a casual get together to boot) is as simple as the cheese-making process itself. All it takes is a bit of know-how and a group of eager tasters (a friendly cheesemonger doesn’t hurt, either). Below is a list of cheese platter ideas to make you look like a pro.
Lay the Groundwork:
First, write your guest list for your party. This gathering is as much about learning as it is enjoying old standbys, so invite a small-ish group—we recommend 10-15 food-loving friends.
Cheese Plate 101:
Variety is the spice of life. This means your cheese platter should include at least one each of soft (brie), blue (gorgonzola), aged, and firm/hard (Parmesan). When it comes to cheese origin, shoot for the trifecta: sheep, cow and goat. Remember: Your goal is to delight and, hopefully, introduce people to something new—not to alienate—so always serve one familiar crowd-pleaser such as chevre, manchego or aged cheddar. Choose between four and five varieties total. When purchasing the supplies for your plates, a good rule of thumb is 3 to 4 ounces of cheese per person.
Contrary to popular belief, the cheese should not stand alone. Stock up on an array of palate cleansers and snacks that will make your cheese platter sing: membrillo (quince paste), dried and fresh fruit (sweet-tart apples, sturdier pears, fresh or dried figs), seedy crackers, crusty bread (choose a dense variety with a sturdy crumb), nuts (think: Marcona almonds), olives, charcuterie, spicy mustard, a pot of creamed honey. When in doubt, ask your cheesemonger for pairing suggestions.
Bubbles love cheese; they cut the richness and cleanse the palate. Some suggestions: champagne, prosecco, cava, and pét-nat.
Servingware and Setup:
The number of cheeses you serve—and how strongly they’re scented—affect how many cheese plates/boards you’ll need. Keep stronger-scented varieties separate from milder ones. Play with materials (marble, slate, and wood) and shapes to maintain visual interest, and guide guests by placing accompaniments in close proximity to their cheese counterparts.
Each cheese requires a different knife: soft knives and wire cutters for soft cheese; hard knives for hard cheese; wedges or fork cheese knives for crumbly varieties.
For protection—and a splash of color—line your board with cheese papers. And stock up on cheese markers so guests can see what they’re eating. You’ll also want a stack of cloth napkins and serving plates so guests are free to mingle. Lastly, don’t forget your bar and water glasses.
Remove cheese from your refrigerator an hour before serving (colder temperatures mute flavors). On a long table, set up your cheese boards and snacks. Fill a few glasses of bubbly 10 minutes or so before arrival time—it’s festive and encourages guests to sip. Don’t forget to photograph the occasion; saying cheese has never been so apropos. Use our cheese platter ideas as a starter guide for your party. The more fetes you throw, the more confident you’ll feel.
For more cheese plate ideas, check out the Crate and Barrel “Wine & Cheese Party” Pinterest board.
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