HOW MUCH THOUGH?! Good thing you asked - there's nothing worse than ending a party early because you ran out of cheese or having to throw away giant chunks of landaff while tears stream down your face as you say goodbye to that hacked lifeless wedge. This is always seems to be the big question when you're putting together these boards of goodness. So to be safe, 1-2 ounces per person is recommended but you should also take having other food options into consideration. Like is this a dessert cheese plate or something to prime their ravenous appetites? Or is it the only food you're having while you pour drinks down your girlfriends throats? This way, you can bet that the latter will result in having a little more cheese than necessary and that the former will probably be less than. Another vital thing to be aware of is that it's important to pull the cheese out of the fridge an hour ahead of your guest's planned arrival. Why? Well, cheese gets even more flavorful when it's not cold and the hour will let the cheese get to room temp so that it's absolutely perfect for you guests.
Picking the Right Cheeses
Texture: Don't be a dummy, make sure your cheese plate has a variety of textures. Not only will it be easier to remember the different types of cheese this way, but it will also make you seem super adventurous and smart. Terms to remember: aged, soft, firm, blue, bloomy, washed rind, and hard.
Location: Locavores rejoice! Make a cheese map by picking out quesos from your region OR switch it up and pick cheeses from different states. You could even focus on one local farm and learn a little bit about the company. How smart!
Milk Varieties: This is a fun one. Cow, sheep, goat, and water buffalo cheese are all easily found at most supermarkets - I think I even saw Walmart carrying a manchego the last time I was there. Oh! And If you're friends with Novak Djokovic, than maybe you can even ask him to bring some donkey cheese - which he apparently bought the entire world's supply. Anyways, by switching up the milk sources, you're guaranteed to have a selection of cheeses that are completely distinct from each other.
Booze: Ya gotta have liquids if you want to throw a fun cheese party; unless someone went to rehab and if that's the case, get them some awesome cordials like these from Belvoir. Ok so anyway, I could get into a detailed web of booze and cheese pairings but that would last forever and I'm sure you would get bored reading it. So let me introduce you to Wisconsin Cheese's Cheese Cupid. It's the perfect pairing website and there's even an app so you can pair on the run!
Condiments: People love sauce. It's a fact. Make sure to lay out a mustard or two, some honey, local preserves, zesty chutneys, and sweet, sweet jams to make a colorful and tasty array of condiments for your plate.
Vessels: We're talking crackers, sliced bread, and pieces of meat - basically anything that you can stack a piece of cheese on to make it taste better from when it leaves the cutting board to when it hits your drooling mouth. Like most things, variety proves to be the spice of life here. Try thin fruit specked crackers like the ones by Jan's Farmhouse Crisps with soft cheeses like brie or camembert. For heartier pieces of aged gouda or cheddar, serve on a slice of cured meat such as salami or wrap 'em in a piece of proscuitto. With milder cheeses, try thick and flavorful crackers like Castleton's cheddar crackers.
Fruits and Nuts: It's always important to have some sort of fresh fruit on your cheese plate. We all know what too much cheese can do to you, so it is extra nice when you can nibble on a grape or down a strawberry in the middle of your cheese bender. It not only tastes great with cheese, but it also tricks you into thinking that you're dong something healthy. For some extra excitement, I always add some dried apricots, figs, largueta almonds, and candied nuts.
Brooklyn Slate: These sleek yet rugged looking slabs of slate are perfect for serving cheese. With their unique soapstone chalk, you can write right on the slate to help you remember the details of each cheese.
Cheese flags: By cutting out a tiny piece of paper and wrapping each side around a tooth pick, you can easily create cute little tabs for each cheese. You'll probably want to ask one of your friends with good hand writing to do the deed here.
Styling & Layout: Start by putting your condiments (preserves, honey, mustards) in the middle of your platter. Use mismatched ramekins and sauce dishes to create an eclectic look that matches the uniqueness of your creation. Around the tiny bowls, space the cheese equally apart and arrange them in a clockwise pattern so that they go mild to strong. Make sure to give each piece of cheese its own knife or some sort of cutting utensil. Then surround everything with fresh fruit, crackers, nuts, dried fruit, and meat. And if you want to get extra fancy with it, you can purposely place the specific accompaniments next to the paired cheese.