OK, I LOVE cheese! and one of my favorite things to serve up for friends and family is a beautiful cheese tray or cheese board. Around the holidays, a few bottles of different wines with a great plate of cheeses is an easy, elegant way to entertain. My favorite “cheese wine” is Champagne, which, thanks to its high acidity and palate-cleansing bubbles, is tremendously versatile. As for the cheese plate itself, here are a few tips.
- It’s about quality, not quantity. Your cheese plate should have 3 to 5 excellent cheeses, not 15 mediocre ones.
- Choose a variety of cheese styles, from creamy soft to hard, or different milk types — goat, sheep, and cow’s milk. Soft cheeses include brie, camembert, fresh mozzarella, fresh goat. Medium density cheeses include cheddar, Swiss, bleu, manchego, gouda (aged is fantastic!), feta…. Hard cheeses are parmesan, Romano.
- Remove cheese from the refrigerator 30 minutes to an hour before serving so it can come to room temperature.
- Drizzle a little honey on pungent cheeses for a dash of sweetness. Truffle honey adds another depth of decadence!
- Include: small bowls of marinated mushrooms, olives, cornichons, caviar, dried cranberries and apricots, candied nuts, quince paste, rainbow carrots, tiny tomatoes, cucumbers, assorted breads and crackers.
- Garnish with bunches of fresh herbs and pomegranate halves, figs, strawberries, apples, grapes….
Want more ideas for cheese? How about a make-ahead cheese ball? And, it can also be a great gift! Double wrap, tie the end with a bow, and dazzle your host or hostess with a home-made goody!