Okay, so maybe showing you how to compose a cheese plate isn’t the most fundamental of fundamentals, but there are some fundamental rules if you want to serve a balanced cheese plate or cheese course.
Here are my rules. None are necessarily hard and fast, so consider them guidelines.
- Serve an odd number of cheeses. Our eyes like to look at odd numbers of things because odd groupings are more dynamic. I vote go with three or five cheeses, although the cheese police will not come and take you away if you choose to serve two or four. Six might be pushing it, though. You don’t want to overwhelm folks by Sheer Force of Numbers.
- Choose cheeses that differ from each other in various ways:
- type of milk
- style of cheese
- texture/firmnessAs long as you are an equal opportunity cheese lover, try to have at least one blue-veined cheese, maybe a triple creme and/or washed rind (stinky) cheese such as Brie or Taleggio, mild, soft cheese like Havarti or Gouda and a non-cow’s milk cheese or two (goat’s milk, sheep’s milk). Cheddar and Swiss (Gruyère, Emmentaler) are almost universally approachable, so adding one or both of these to your board will make everyone happy.
- Now is not the time for cheese with mix-ins or for cheese spreads. If the star is the cheese, keep it simple and serve an array of condiments to complement the star.
- Like wine, the flavor of cheese can be very complex and layered. It’s best to serve cheese at cool room temperature so that the aromas and flavors are not deadened by the cold of the refrigerator. Allow your cheese to sit out, covered so it doesn’t dry out, for a good 45 minutes to an hour before serving.
- Serve an array of condiments that will either contrast with or complement the flavors and/or textures of the cheese. Some ideas to consider:
- cornichons (wee pickled cucumbers)
- other pickled vegetables
- fresh, juicy fruit such as apple slices, pear slices or grapes
- drier fruits such as dates, figs and even plump raisins
- chutneys, jams, honey
- grainy mustard
- roasted and/or spiced nuts
- Marcona almonds (I am listing these separately because they are The Best)
- Serve a fairly neutral-flavored cracker or crostini so it does not compete with the flavor of the cheese and condiments. As much as I like bread and crackers, they take a back seat on a cheese plate.
- Place your condiments separately from the cheese–or if they’re all on the same plate, don’t let the runnier ones touch the cheese. You want to give folks the opportunity to taste both the cheese and the condiment separately if they want. Plus, when you pour wet stuff on cheese, the cheese can get soggy and doesn’t look as appealing on the tray.
- And speaking of looking appealing on the tray, slice the cheese in portions–small wedges, chunks, slices, rectangles–however you want. Just don’t put a big honking wheel of cheese out and let your guests hack at it with cute little spreaders. In that scenario, nobody wins the the cheese definitely loses.
- Consider serving the cheese in order from mildest to most…fragrant. Or vice versa. Consider pairing the cheeses with wine, sure, but these days, you could also consider a beer and cheese pairing or be really hip and do a cheese and cider pairing.
And there it is. No go forth and put together a beautiful cheese course for your next get together. To drink, serve wine–whatever you like is what you should serve, and consider that bolder cheeses pair well with bolder wines and more delicate cheese goes well with lighter wine–or something bubbly like a prosecco. I’ve also had hard cider paired with cheese, and that’s a delicious combination. You could also consider offering a few different lagers and ales if your crowd likes beer more than wine.
Watch me put a cheese plate together, and check out the comedy stylings of The Beloved.
And now, let me take you shopping.
The following are some of my favorite cheeses and cheese Accoutrements I either own or wish I owned. These links are affiliate links. Thanks.
Some of my favorite cheese in the universe
Gorgeous Cheese Accoutrements
Thank you so much for spending time with me today. Did you learn anything new about cheese? When you compose your next cheese plate, please come and show me a photo. Email me or upload it to the fan page. I’d love to see!
Take care, and have a lovely day.