One thing that’s always a welcome sight at parties is a cheese tray — but I’m not talking about the kind you buy at the grocery store that usually has a few slices of summer sausage tossed in. I’m talking about a presentation of carefully selected cheeses with a variety that will satisfy even the pickiest palate.
Laying out the cheeses on a slate cheese board provides a means for you to label the cheese accordingly. You will be so glad you clued your guests in on what is what. Trust me, it will cut down on cocktail napkins concealing spit-out bites of unexpected cheese flavors. If you use a different kind of platter, you can still use labels. There are small porcelain placards made for such purposes, accompanied by write-on, wipe-off markers.
I have a few rules of thumb I employ when I make a cheese tray.
1. I always include at least one cheese everyone will be familiar with. It’s like finding an old friend in a crowd of strangers. It’s comforting. On this cheese board, the old friend was cheddar, cut into little chunks.
2. I use separate cheese knives and spreaders for each. Someone who despises blue cheese doesn’t want it contaminating whatever else they might be eating.
3. At least one smoked cheese is offered. Here, I went with smoked gouda. I also love smoked swiss. These thin slices are ready to grab and eat, no cracker required.
4. Stationing the cheese board next to your fruit display allows those of us who like to combine the two to easily do so.
5. Why go with brie, if you can find St. Andre? (I know, I know. The brie is out because you ate all the St. Andre yourself. It happens.) It is the most luxurious cheese I have ever experienced.
6. Go with a gorgonzola, a Stilton, or a bleu cheese. They have a large fan base.
7. Always include at least one aged Italian cheese, such as Asiago.
8. Throw in something perhaps not all of your guests have tried before, such as Manchego.
9. Don’t put it all on at once. Keep reserves of each type of cheese ready to replenish your platter, as needed.