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Building the Perfect Cheese Platter

Serving the perfect cheese selection is a challenge, much like pairing the perfect wine with dinner. Complicating things is the fact that most grocery stores nowadays offer many more options than you actually need. So here are a few simple tips and rules to keep in mind that make building a beautiful cheese platter much easier.

Start with the accompaniments:

  • Serve bread, toast points or crackers. Just keep in mind that cheese is the star here. So avoid crackers that carry extra spices or flavors that could mask the flavor of the cheese.
  • Cheese, like wine, comes to life on the palate with other flavors. Think sweet honey, figs and chutneys. Salty items such as nuts and prosciutto are other great additions.
  • Olives and pickles also make a nice accompaniment.
  • Fresh fruit also pairs well — think grapes, cherries and peaches.

The cheese:

  • If cheese is being served as an appetizer, get two to three ounces per guest. If you are serving a cheese course after dinner, this amount can be cut in half.
  • Three to four kinds of cheese makes for a good platter.
  • Mix up the cheeses by animal (cow, goat, sheep), as each will carry a different flavor and texture.
  • Cheese typically falls into four categories — aged (cheddar), soft (brie), blue (stilton), firm (gruyère). Try to get one of each for your platter.

Lay out the platter:

  • Cheese is best served at room temperature. Set your platter out one hour before guests arrive.
  • Label your cheese so guests know what they are eating. Most will recognize a blue veined cheese, but might not know what Taleggio looks like.
  • Serve at least one cheese that's familiar. Some people are just not adventurous, so a nice block of good orange cheddar will satisfy them.
  • Each cheese should have its own knife.

After the party:

  • Cheese needs to breath, so do not place leftover cheese in containers or plastic bags.
  • Cheese should be wrapped loosely in cheese cloth, wax or parchment paper to store.

Keep in mind the simple rules above, and you should pull off a pretty impressive starter or last course.

Do you have a favorite cheese to serve? Tell us about it below.

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