Help! I need to impress my friends and look like I know something about cheese! What should I put on a cheese plate?
Not to worry, my dear. Putting out a good cheese plate is easy. Let me be of service and help demystify at trip to the cheese counter, or (heaven forbid) a trip to the specialty cheese case in the grocery store.
First, shop around. Every cheese counter and grocery store will have a different selection of cheese. Some will be better than others. Locally owned stores might have a few more locally produced products. I always start looking there. Don't be shy about asking for help. See if the person in charge of the cheese counter is available. I love asking for help. I want to know what's in peak form today. If everything is in shrink wrap, I want to see what's freshly cut. Cheese is a living food! It begins to break down and lose flavor the moment it is cut. If it has been enveloped in plastic for a month, even breathable plastic, it won't be very tasty. When I prepare to serve a cheese, I like to take a knife or a cheese plane and scrape the cut surface of the cheese. This takes away the dead, plastic-y taste and gives you a fresh surface to enjoy.
See if the store will cut you a fresh piece of cheese. Or see it they’ll open a package so you can taste the cheese. Rainbow Grocery in
How much to serve? It depends. Is this an appetizer course? Are other dishes being served? I figure an ounce of each cheese per person. Two ounces if it is the only thing being served.
Always serve aged cheeses at room temperature and each cheese should have its own knife or cheese plane.
When selecting cheeses for a party, I usually go for three or four cheeses. As a general rule of thumb, vary the milks and mix up the texures. Sometimes I'll go with a theme, like all cow's milk cheeses, or cheeses from
For example, I might take a piece of Garrotxa, a Spanish goat cheese with a semi-soft, slightly chewy texture, match it with a buttery, French Triple Crème like Brillat-Savarin, and pick a sheep's milk cheese like Pecorino Foglie di Noce with walnut overtones. If I want to have the slam dunk crowd pleaser, I'd throw in a piece of Montgomery's Cheddar from
Photo: Ticklemore Goat, aging to perfection.
Other suggestions: A cheese plate of the
Photo: Sierra Mountain Tomme from La Clarine Farm, Somerset, CA.
American Artisan Plate sampler to die for:
Oregon Cheese Plate: Willamette Valley Cheese Company's Brindisi (cow), Rivers' Edge Chevre's St. Olga (washed rind goat), Ancient Heritage's
Photo: A cheese plate from the Cheese School of San Francisco
If you're wonderinig about the cheeses that I'd always bring home without hesitation, here are a few--
Sarah's Personal Cheeseplate for Today: Cypress Grove's Moon (Goat Gouda), Cowgirl Creamery's Sir Francis Drake (cow, washed rind, triple crème), Jasper Hill Farm's Constant Bliss (cow, bloomy rind), La Clarine Farm's Sierra Mountain Tomme (goat), Abbaye de Belloc (sheep, French-Basque), Cabot Clothbound Cheddar (cow).
My absolute favorites will change every day, depending on my mood and the condition of the cheese at my local cheese counter. I might go in with a list, but I'll make substitutions if I have to.
There are no hard and fast rules, if you like one cheese, serve a big piece of it on a nice cheeseboard, and have a big knife next to it so that others can enjoy, too.
Now you will make friends at every party if you just grab a few well selected cheeses and a fresh baguette and share with your friends.