Not sure what to bring to those holiday parties? Swamped by main courses and side dishes and not up to preparing appetizers? The perfect, easy, and always loved solution is the cheese plate! As a lover of all things cheese and cheese related, I always delight in bringing a cheese plate to the party, and watching as people savor (and usually devour) my selections!
The Cheese: We’ll start with the basics: what kind of cheese?! The key here is variety. While we all love a good cheddar, 3 or 4 different cheddars is going to feel (and taste) a little repetitive. Start with Something well aged and a bit sharp, like Domina Dairy’s 12 month aged farm cheese. Add something soft, like chèvre (fresh goat cheese), or Marin French’s young brie. Something recognizable is always appreciated for the more timid cheese eaters in the crowd, like Kerrygold’s two year reserve cheddar or Beecher’s flagship cheddar. Something different, like Tunawerth’s nettle gouda or Golden Glen’s lavender cheese, can be fun! Add something with a kick, like Rogue’s Oregon Blue. Other easy crowd pleasers (no cutting required) include Beecher’s Cheese Curds or local Willapa Hills Blue Cheese Spreads.
The Vessel: Variety is key here too! Offer a variety of simple crackers, my suggestions are Late July Crackers and Edward & Sons Brown Rice crackers (gluten free!). Offer a crusty bread, like a cut up baguette.
The Accompaniments: This is a great chance to get creative. Sweet items, like dates, fruit chutney, and even honey, go well with strong or bold cheese like blue or a tangy goat. Blue Cheese with a dab of honey is a revelation! Roasted nuts offer a nice texture contrast. Artisan salami and prosciutto are guaranteed crowd pleasers that pair nicely with the aged cheeses on your platter.
The Presentation: I have a couple of decorative cutting boards I like to use, but you have tons of options! A slab of slate is fun because you can label the cheese with chalk. You can also place a piece of butcher paper over a cutting or carving board and label the cheeses and even offer pairing suggestions. Provide a different knife for each cheese (No blue on the chèvre, please). And always, always serve cheese at room temperature. And yes, you can eat the rind. Happy Holidays!