The cheese plate is a hostess’s best friend: After all, assembly involves nothing in the way of cooking (or dirtying of dishes), yet it’s pretty to look at, and is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. And if you’re more ambitious, and experimental snacks turn out somewhere south of delicious, well, let ‘em eat cheese.
For how to put together the perfect platter of dairy delights for a holiday gathering, I talked to Kathryn Graham, owner of C’est Cheese. Here are some of her tips:
• If you’re serving other items in addition to the cheese at a meal-time cocktail party, figure 2 ounces of cheese per person. If you’re only serving cheese, bump it up to 2.5 ounces. And if you’re serving a large dinner afterward, 1.5 ounces per person should be plenty.
• Use at least three cheeses in order to offer some variety; if the headcount is above 25, Graham recommends serving five cheeses.
• You don’t want a platter that deals exclusively in funk. Aim for a good mix: Try to cover various flavors, textures, milks, and countries.
• Add flair with accoutrements: Graham suggests dried fruit such as cherries, peaches, or pears; nuts; chutneys, fruit pastes, or jams.
• Always have good, sharp cheese knives out! Nothing is more frustrating than a bad knife.
• Take the cheeses out 30 minutes to an hour before your guests arrive; this lets the cheese come up to room temperature, where flavor is at its full potential.
• Some of Graham’s holiday favorites currently on the shelves (or in the case) at C’est Cheese include a line of roasted almonds in truffle salt; a cranberry, apple, and pear chutney from Girl & The Fig; quince and pear pastes from Spain; and two runny, flavorful cow’s milk cheeses: Epoisses and Rush Creek Reserve. Epoisses is a rich, intense cheese from France that’s washed in marc de bourgogne during aging, while Rush Creek Reserve, an American artisan version of Vacherin Mont d’Or from France and Switzerland, boasts a creamy texture and rich, milky flavor.