Similar to Paris, a cheese plate is always a good idea. But assembling a killer cheese plate is an art (and science), which can be overwhelming to get just right. So, whether you’re hosting Thanksgiving and want tips on perfecting your appetizer board, or whether you’re bringing over this cheese plate to your holiday host’s house – we put this guide together to help you win the cheese game.
Some ‘Gouda’ Tips to Help You Get Started
- Have an idea of how many people will be in attendance at the event. 1 to 2 ounces of cheese per person is a good rule of thumb when trying to plan out how much cheese to include on your platter.
- Think about variety when you’re picking out your cheeses. Choosing cheeses from different geographical regions, made with different types of milk, or with different textures ensures a balanced lineup that will surely have something for everyone to enjoy; but make sure there is at lease one familiar cheese present.
- Complement your cheese with thoughtful pairings: do you have a vehicle for the cheese, what about something sweet and savory to pair and enhance the flavor.
- Keep things organized. Have a knife for each cheese and serving utensil for each accompaniment. Make little flags or save the cheese labels to help your guests navigate the board.
Picking Out Your Cheeses
If you’re wondering what cheeses you should include on your board, we would recommend picking out one cheese from these four categories:
- Fresh Cheese is cheese in its youngest, purest form. Examples include: ricotta, goat cheese, mozzarella, crumbly feta. These cheeses do not have a rind, are not aged for a significant amount of time, and are mild in flavor (sometimes salty or tangy). Learn more here.
- Hard Cheese is firm and savory. Examples include: asiago, parmigiano-reggiano, pecorino romano, manchengo. These cheese have a little bit more of a bite to them, and less than 50% moisture content that lends a nutty flavor profile, because they are most likely aged for some time before being sold. More on hard cheese here, and aged cheese here.
- Soft Cheese generally has more water content than other types of cheese. This type of cheese is creamy and easy to spread. Brie is definitely a go-to soft cheese, but other examples include: camembert, humboldt fog, and many specialty sheep, cow, and goat cheeses. More on this type of cheese here.
- Funky Cheese – what we mean by this is to include a cheese that’s distinct to the palate. The go to cheese for a plate is usually a bleu cheese – we recommend a Danish blue, gorgonzola, or stilton. Learn more about blue cheese here.
Cheese Plate Accompaniments
- Vehicle for the cheese is important. You’ll probably want to slice a baguette or put out some crackers alongside your plate to pair with your cheeses.
- Something sweet to pair with your cheeses is a nice touche of freshness to the flavor profile. Our go-to picks are fig jam, dried apricots, and fresh green apples.
- Something savory for those that want a more decadent appetizer. Try including olives, pickles, mustard and/or prosciutto to add a punch of flavor and variety to the platter.
- Something crunchy – adding a bowl or nuts or pumpkin seeds, offers a salty and crunchy balance to break up the bites.
- Never serve a cheese board immediately from the fridge. For the truest flavors and optimal enjoyment, have the cheeses out for an hour or two before serving.
- Think about using your accompaniments to break up the cheeses and gain bonus points for presentation. The textures and colors of your pairings will make the platter more visually appealing to your guests.
- Consider creative ways to label the selections. This slate cheese board or gorgeous cheese picks are excellent ways to keep things organized while sharing more about the plate.