If you tuned into The Food Network’s Facebook Live this morning, you might have seen me make one of my favorite things in the world – a super gorgeous, out of control cheese plate! As I promised, I wanted to follow up and share my favorite tips and tricks on how to make the prettiest, yummiest, and easiest cheese plate possible.
So let’s get to it!
First things, first:
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.
Now What? Time to Focus on Pairings:
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.
Serving Style 101
Slate or Cutting Boards: When you’re dealing with slate, these sleek yet rugged looking slabs 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. If you’re more into the rustic appearance, which I typically am, go for a cutting board! Different grains of wood make the colors of the cheese pop without distracting too much from the good stuff.
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. As you might have seen on the FN Live, I am not that person but I wish I was!
Styling & Layout: Start by spacing the cheese equally apart and arranging them in a clockwise pattern so that they go mild to strong. Putt your condiments (preserves, honey, mustards) around the cheeses that they should be paired with. Use mismatched ramekins and sauce dishes to create an eclectic look that matches the uniqueness of your creation. 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, herbs and meat. And if you want to get extra fancy with it, you can even put little signs next to the cheese that can correspond with drink pairings.
How Much is Enough: 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 always seems to be the big question when you’re putting together these boards of goodness. So to be safe, 2 ounces per person is my personal recommendion 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.
When to Build it: 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.
Creating the Perfect Bite: If you’re hosting the cheese party, it’s fun to create some “perfect bites” to help your guests feel comfortable digging into your creation. You can either show them and hand out samples, or draw up a little diagram to display what your favorite pairings are. My boyfriend, Jeremy, absolutely loves to try to out-perfect-bite-me and he totally slays at it. TBH, it’s my favorite way to start a conversation and to bring some creativity to the party!
Want some examples of my favorite bites from today’s shoot?
–starting from top to bottom, left to right–
- Salami, Sharp cheddar, and a Cornichon
- Baguette, Brie, and Sallie’s Greatest Peach, Pepper, Ginger Jam
- Manchego, Honey, and Ground Coffee
- Gorgonzola, Dried Papaya, and Fruit Cracker
- Baguette, Sharp Cheddar, Pickled Okra, Mustard, and Pork Rind
- Goat Cheese, Basil, Red Peppers, and Bread Stick
- Gorgonzola, Pistachio, Blackberry and Graham Cracker
- Salami, Manchego, Dill and Mustard
Want more inspiration for cheese plate styling? Check out these beauties that I made on my instgram at @grilledcheesesocial!
Spent all morning cruising the piazza farmers markets to create the perfect ✨raw✨ italian cheese plate with my love… Bc a trip isn’t complete without sitting on a strangers stoop, plating like a lunatic, and stuffing your face with illegal cheeses! ???? (burrata, bara, toma mansueta, cacio al tartufo + the only not raw one – giallina!)
When you’ve been on your feet for the last three exhausting days catering the most posh wedding at @blackdolphininn and you forget to Instagram… ?… then flip through your phone and see the 5 foot cheese + charcuterie platter of love that you and your new cheese babe @haley_carr made + all the stress seems so far, far away ???? ?
Thanks for tuning in! And be sure to tag me in all of your cheesy creations! <3