Creating a cheese plate

Whenever we have guests, which is quite often during the warmer months of the year, I’ll set out a cheese plate for hors d’oeuvres. It’s incredibly simple to unwrap some cheese and crackers, so I’m able to spend more time with my guests instead of being stuck in the kitchen fixing something more elaborate. If I’m feeling fancy, I’ll add a spoonful fresh honey and fig jam, which takes just a minute more to prepare.

I’m a cheese person — I take cheese-making classes, I read a ridiculous amount of cheese news, I fantasize about working at Murray’s or becoming a cheese maker — and I love to put together a cheese plate with a theme for my guests. The plates might contain cheeses from France or all be soft cheeses or all pair nicely with a Riesling.

If you’ve never put together a cheese plate, but like the idea of a simple hors d’oeuvre, check out one of the following books for some inspiration:

I also strongly recommend checking out the section on cheese in Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking for a basic introduction to the science of cheese.

Post Script: The image at the beginning of the article is of Kerrygold Aged Cheddar with Irish Whiskey, a wonderfully sharp cheese I’ve already included on three cheese plates this spring (an Irish cheese plate, a cheddar plate, and an infused with alcohol plate).

3 comments posted

  1. Posted by Rae - 06/09/2011

    I am inordinately fond of cheese (must come from the French side of my family). When I make up a cheese plate, I like variety in flavours and textures. A chewy and pungent Oka next to a mild buttery St Alexandre (kind of like Brie only more delicious) or a crumbly Parmigiano Reggiano next to a semi-soft cambozola.

    Popular with my family is TĂȘte de Moine, a solid but still creamy, and very pungent cheese that comes with a special tool that scrapes thin layers off the top to make cheese pieces that look like flowers. When we want to get fancy we’ll put a special jelly (my favourites are tomato-strawberry and sweet red pepper) into the centre of the ‘flower’ for extra punch.

    My motto is “If the smell of s cheese isn’t enough to knock your socks off, it ain’t worth eating!”

  2. Posted by Sheila D - 06/10/2011

    I agree with Rae … I love to make up cheese selections with variety. And I tend to like cheeses with flavor … not bland ones so much, but I know some other folks like the more bland.
    I recently made up a cheese plate of Dubliner, an herbed brie, and Gorgonzola, along with crackers (of course) and slices of pear to spread the Gorgonzola on. This was for a very small group and everyone enjoyed!

  3. Posted by Keter - 06/10/2011

    When invited to potlucks, I almost always bring a big cheese plate with a lots of variety – stinky and sharp all the way to cream with several types of toppings, crackers/flatbreads, fruit slices, and a votive holder with picks. I have a giant bamboo plank (I think it used to be a table top in a past life?) that holds it all. I have yet to have to deal with leftovers.

    What amazes me is how few nice bistros and wine bars serve a decent cheese plate these days. Of the few that offer it at all, most are populated with bland Brie that is past its prime, a mediocre bleu, and a commercial grade of sharp cheddar, served with uninteresting crackers and maybe a pitiful cup of nuts and grapes or olives and a strawberry or two. You would think having an awesome cheese plate would be a no-brainer for such places, but they seem to have forgotten it.

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