Selecting the Cheese
- Try to include a variety of textures and flavors. Most cheese belongs to one of three basic categories: soft, firm (hard), and pungent. For a good variety, choose at least one from each group. Some examples:
- Soft: Constant Bliss, Camembert, Brillat-Savarin, Triple Cream Brie
- Firm: Manchego, Mimolette, Parmigiano-Reggiano, White Cheddar
- Pungent : Gorgonzola Dolce, Valdeón, Stilton
- You can also try selecting cheeses by the type of milk used (cow, goat, sheep). This will ensure a range of different flavors on the plate.
- Serve at least one familiar cheese.
- Offer a selection of breads, including sliced baguette, bread sticks, and crackers in all different shapes and sizes.
- Add condiments such as sweet preserves or honey, tart chutneys, and spicy mustards. You can also add artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, and caponata. Or try adding a fresh sweet pepper tapenade or a flavorful olive tepenade.
- Various other sweet and salty items can work as well. Try cured meats such as prosciutto and salami, or candied nuts and pistachios. Assorted seasonal and dried fruits can include figs, cherries, apples, and pears. Alternatively, add seasonal fresh fruits such as tangerine segments or fresh berries.
- Separate strong-smelling cheeses.
- Set out a separate knife for each cheese, especially the soft varieties. Soft cheese spreads well with a butter knife; firm cheese might require a paring knife; and aged cheese often requires a cheese plane.
- Remove the cheese from the refrigerator an hour before serving―cold mutes flavor.
- Spread out the spread. Place the cheese platters and the other nibbles on several tables to avoid guest gridlock.
- Label each cheese so you won’t need to recite the names all evening. If you like, also jot down a few poetic adjectives describing its flavor.