Upgrade from your basic cheddar and Ritz with these quick and easy suggestions.
Its time to upgrade your cheese plate. When you’ve got friends coming over for dinner, or a pre-date glass of wine at your place lined up, a cheese plate is the ideal choice for a quick easy appetizer. With just a little more thought and planning, you can elevate your usual spread from homely cheddar and Ritz to seriously impressive.
When planning your spread, consider a few things. You can organize your cheese plate around a region (French, Spanish, American, etc.) or do a selection of all goat, cow, or sheep’s milk cheeses- all good possibilities. Though usually, I think a selection across the board yields the best results. Try and compose a balanced selection with one cheese from each of the categories listed below.
To assemble your plate, just pick one cheese from each of the four categories, then pick two choices from the crackers & bread section, and three from the extras section. If you’ve got a bigger group or want to host a get-together with cheese at the main event, just add more choices from each category.
- Hard Cheese – Manchego, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Asiago, Mahon Sec, Gruyere
- Soft Cheese – Brie, Camembert, Taleggio, Snøfrisk, Mozzarella, Goat Cheese, Mascarpone
- Blue Cheese – Stilton, Maytag Blue, Gorgonzola Dolce , Danish Blue, Roquefort
- Aged Cheese – Aged Cheddar, Comte, Västerbotten, Gouda, Goat Gouda
CRACKERS & BREAD
- Baguette, thinly sliced
- Water crackers
- Wheat-style crackers
- Black pepper water crackers
- Butter-style crackers
- Rosemary-olive oil style crackers
- Toast points, toasted
- Dalmatian Fig Spread
- Quince paste
- Marcona almonds (Spanish style almonds, super buttery)
- Spiced nuts mixture
- Sliced apple
- Bowl of cherries
- Figs (fresh or dried)
- Assorted charcuterie meats (prosciutto, salami, bresaola, speck)
A few final points to keep in mind:
- Allow your cheeses to come to room temperature before serving (about an hour should suffice). Cold inhibits the flavor of cheese.
- Serve each cheese with its own knife, or at least have one knife for the hard cheeses and another for the soft spreadable ones.
- Don’t get ahead of yourself and serve all obscure cheeses at once. Mix in a few familiar ones so your guests feel comfortable and you don’t look like a pretentious try-hard.
- Don’t stress about serving the right wine with your cheese. Drink what you like, and keep in mind that craft beers go well with cheese too.
- To showcase your hard work in a fresh way, buy a slab of slate (your hardware store should carry it) and arrange your cheeses on it, using chalk to label each one.
*Photo Credit: Brooklyn Slate Company (You can order their slate boards on their website too!)