Mastering the Cheese Plate

Yesterday I shared some of my go-to entertaining tips for cocktail parties over on SMP Living, and I had a few people ask for some suggestions on mastering the cheese plate. Well, lovelies, ask and you shall receive. With the help of Erin McGinn's gorgeous images, here is a easy peasy guide to becoming a cheese plate expert...

1. CHOOSE YOUR PLATE: There are so many to choose from - wood, marble, slate - and really you can't go wrong as long as the cheese is delicious. This is actually a marble pasty slab from Crate & Barrel, but I love to use it for cheese because it's large and in charge. Meaning more cheese. It's also easy to clean, which is a big bonus for me. Oh and it's marble, and that's kind of an automatic win. 

2. PICK YOUR CHEESES: This is the part you really have to pay attention to. The rest you can scroll over (kidding, but you do you). I am by no means a cheese expert other than the fact that I consume a lot of cheese, but I have found a few that really seem to work for a crowd. 

  • La Tur: My all time favorite. Like by a landslide. It's a creamy blend of goat, sheep and cow, and Murray's (my disneyland) describes it as "ice cream served from a warm scoop; decadant and melting from the outside in..." Sold? 
  • Cremont If you can't find La Tur, Cremont is my next go to. It's  goey and delicious and made in Vermont, which always sells me. My mom and I eat this like it's our job. 
  • Wensleydale: This one might not be the fanciest, but it is always a crowd pleaser. La Tur and Cremont can be a little smelly and goey for non-cheese lovers, but Wensleydale (usually with cranberries) just sits pretty and welcoming. It's always gone by the end of the night. 
  • Cambozola Black Label Blue Cheese: If you are a blue cheese lover, this one is dynamite. Also Roquefort is a complete blue cheese dream come true. If you can't find these at a local shop (my only cheese source normally is Whole Foods), you can usually just pick up the standard Cambozola and be totally fine. 
  • Manchego: If you can't tell, I adore soft cheeses, so I have to remind myself to throw in some firmer ones as well. That's when I usually reach for a Manchego. 
  • Cabot Select Cheddar: Just typing the word cheddar makes my mouth water. No lie. It's 6AM, and if there was some in the fridge right now, I'd probably be eating it. No shame. It's also one that anyone will eat, because who doesn't love cheddar?

Above all of these recommendations, my biggest tip is to talk to your cheese monger. Let them help you out, and don't be afraid to try something new. I swear I come out with a new cheese I've never tried every.single.time I go to an amazing cheese shop. That's how you'll find the diamonds in the rough.

3. LABEL THE CHEESE: This is important, because people want to know what they are eating. If you have room, add a little description too. The more people know, the more they'll be willing to dig in. 

Most people will say to place the cheese in order of mildest to strongest, and that's awesome if you have space, but I may or may not be guilty of arranging cheese the way it looks the prettiest. (shhhh....) 

4. CHOOSE YOUR VEHICLES: The vehicle in which the cheese enters your mouth is oh so important. To me, nothing beats a fresh baguette for those creamy cheeses, but I love to have options. I usually have 2-4 different options in the cracker variety for folks. Bland is typically the way to go - this isn't the place for loads of flavor, but texture is always good. 

5. CHOOSE YOUR PAIRINGS: You know that moment when you have the perfect blend of tastes in your mouth and you feel like you're in heaven? You want to provide that opportunity for your guests. Apples, pears, dried fruits are often forgotten, but always delicious. 

6. SERVE UP SOME SWEET: Speaking of pairings, I usually make sure I have some fig spread or honey out for guests. Chocolate is another good option. They usually pair well with cheese (or after cheese in chocolate's case), and bring your cheese experience to another level. 

7. SERVE UP SOME SAVORY: I'm savory girl all the way. Chocolate cake does nothing for me. But give me a cheese plate with marcona almonds and prosciutto, and I'll probably be drooling. 

8. SEPARATE SERVING UTENSILS: Make sure you have separate knives or spreaders for each cheese. This just helps keep tastes where they need to be. Crate and Barrel has some good options that don't break the bank. 

9. PROVIDE PLATES: This may seem like a no brainer, but cheese is just easier to eat when you actually have a plate. And that way, guests can make their own little cheese plate to sit and experience. Appetizer plates are a good investment. 

10. DON'T FORGET THE WINE: Wine and cheese just go to together like, well, wine and cheese. There is no better combo in my book. Try to pick wines that will compliment your picks. 

OK, what did I miss? I want to hear your favorite cheeses too - so I can have an excuse to make a purchase or two over the weekend...xoxo.