I threw a small dinner party for friends last weekend, and along with sipping our red wine, I served one dish that everybody loved, (and the best part? It needed NO cooking, yay!) When it comes to appetizers and cocktail party snacks, a good cheese plate is hard to beat. It’s easy to throw together, and always a hit – everyone loves a nibble. If you’re planning on hosting a holiday shindig, take note: here are some things you need to know about building a beautiful and tasty cheese plate.
Entertaining tip 1: Pick a variety of cheeses. A good guide to follow is the rule of “something old, something new, something goat, something blue.” “Old” and “new” in this case refers to the age of a cheese. Gouda, Cheddar, Gruyère, Brie and Camembert are great aged cheeses, and I love fresh Burrata, Ricotta or Mozarella to satisfy the “new” requirement. “Goat” is quite self-explanatory, as is “Blue.” If you’re new to cheeses like these, don’t be scared! The ones that look the scariest are often the most delicious!
Entertaining tip 2: Pick the right plate. There are all kinds of gorgeous cheese trays out there — wooden boards, marble slabs, pretty plates, and (my favorite) slate tablets. Slate is particularly fun for cheese plates both because it’s so textural and cool, but also because you can write on it with chalk! If you have a big group of guests, labeling your cheese by writing the name next to the block is a cute way to introduce each type.
Entertaining tip 3: Pick tasty crackers. Your friends will need a delicious delivery system to transport your selection of cheeses to their mouths, and there’s a number of choices for this. I love a good, light cracker with a hint of flavor like rosemary. A soft bread, like a sliced French baguette, is a great choice as well.
Entertaining tip 4: Add those tasty extras! A great cheese plate isn’t made up of just cheese. It’s all about choosing extras the compliment your choices. I always add a bit of honey for sweetness, arranged with a spoon so your guests can drizzle it on a slice. A bit of fruit, be it a fig or a cluster of grapes, is refreshing, as is a bit of quince paste (shown here cubed) to balance your more savory cheeses.