Seven tips to Build a Perfect Cheese Platter or “Something old; something new. Something stinky and something blue.”:
1. When buying your cheese, ask for samples, especially if you aren’t familiar with a cheese your cheesemonger is suggesting. All respectable cheese shops will gladly let you sample before buying. If not, find a new cheese shop.
2. Offer an odd number of cheeses on your platter – 3 to 5 is the perfect number, depending on the size of your party. An odd number of cheeses on the platter is more visually pleasing. Calculate about 2-3 ounces of cheese per guest.
3. Offer a variety of textures and milk-types; one goat or sheep and cow with different firmness from softer to harder.
4. Cheese on a platter should be arranged from mildest to strongest. Start with your fresh goat or brie and proceed in degrees of “sharpness”. The last cheese on a platter should always be the blue.
5. Cheese should be served at room temperature; all cheese tastes best when it is has been sitting out of the fridge for an hour. Wrap your cheese in wax paper and store in a zipper bag with about an inch of the zipper left open (at home). Blue cheese does best when stored in foil. Also, always store blue cheeses and bries/triple creams separately from other cheeses.
6. Presentation and slicing: If the cheese is a block, cut in rectangular, single serving pieces. If the cheese is a wedge, cut in a single serving wedge size. Why? Simple, it’s prettier than cubes. (Also, it’s easier for the blues to retain shape.)
7. Remember to include appropriate pairings such as fruits, preserves, bread, crackers, nuts.
Blues: Dark Chocolate, Honey
Brie/Triple Cream: Dark Chocolate, Oregon Growers and Shippers Strawberry Preserves, Ficoco Spread
Washed Rinds: Sicilian Herbed Green Olives, Dried Apricots
Cheddars: 34° Sesame Crackers, Bonne Maman Cherry Preserves
Gruyere: Cippoline Onions (tastes like French Onion Soup)
Manchego: Marcona Almonds, Quince Paste
Sheep Milk Cheeses: Dalmatian Fig Spread