What else Should be on a Cheese Plate?

When it comes to putting together a cheese plate, it’s not just about slapping some cheese onto a platter and calling it a day. A truly exceptional cheese plate requires careful consideration and a thoughtfully curated selection of cheeses, accompaniments, and presentation. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the world of cheese plates and explore what else should be included to elevate your cheese tasting experience to new heights.

Choosing the Right Cheeses
The key to a successful cheese plate lies in the selection of cheeses. To create a balanced and diverse offering, it’s essential to choose a variety of cheeses with different textures, flavors, and origins. Here are some popular types of cheeses to consider incorporating:

1. Soft Cheeses:

Soft cheeses like brie, camembert, and goat cheese are creamy, mild, and spreadable. They provide a luxurious and delicate element to the cheese plate, and their mild flavors pair well with a wide range of accompaniments.

2. Semi-Soft Cheeses:

Cheeses like Gouda, Fontina, and Havarti fall into the semi-soft category. These cheeses offer a bit more complexity in terms of flavor and texture, with a smooth and supple interior. They are versatile and crowd-pleasing, making them a staple on many cheese plates.

3. Hard Cheeses:

Cheddar, Parmesan, and Gruyère are examples of hard cheeses. These cheeses are aged for an extended period, resulting in a firm texture and concentrated flavors. Their presence adds robustness to the cheese plate and provides an opportunity for guests to explore the complexity of aged cheeses.

4. Blue Cheeses:

Blue cheeses like Roquefort, Stilton, and Gorgonzola have distinct veins of blue mold running through them. They have a pungent flavor profile and a creamy texture that crumbles easily. Including a blue cheese on your cheese plate adds a bold and tangy dimension to the overall taste experience.

5. Specialty Cheeses:

In addition to the classic cheese types mentioned above, it’s always fun to include some unique and lesser-known specialty cheeses. Artisanal goat cheeses, washed-rind cheeses, and cheeses made from different types of milk such as sheep or buffalo milk can offer intriguing flavors and textures that intrigue and delight cheese enthusiasts.

Consider Accompaniments
While cheeses are undeniably the stars of the show, thoughtfully chosen accompaniments can enhance their flavors and provide an array of complementary tastes and textures. Here are some accompaniments that you should consider including on your cheese plate:

1. Fresh and Dried Fruits:

Fruits like grapes, sliced pears, and crisp apple wedges add a refreshing and natural sweetness to the cheese plate. Dried fruits like figs, apricots, and dates offer a chewy and concentrated sweetness that pairs wonderfully with many types of cheeses.

2. Nuts:

Offering a variety of nuts adds crunch and earthy flavors to the cheese plate. Almonds, walnuts, and pecans are popular choices that provide a pleasant contrast to the creamy textures of the cheeses.

3. Crackers and Bread:

A diverse selection of crackers and bread allows guests to experiment with different textures and flavors. Choose crisp and neutral crackers, as well as bread with varying grains and levels of crustiness. Consider including baguettes, whole-grain bread, water crackers, and even a few slices of bagels for a unique twist.

4. Spreads and Condiments:

Spreads and condiments provide an exciting opportunity to elevate the taste experience of the cheeses. Accompaniments like honey, fruit preserves, chutneys, and spicy mustards bring additional layers of sweetness, tanginess, or spice that can complement or contrast with the flavors of the cheeses.

5. Charcuterie and Cured Meats:

If you want to add a savory touch to your cheese plate, consider including a selection of charcuterie and cured meats. Prosciutto, salami, and chorizo are popular choices that provide a salty and savory element that pairs exceptionally well with many types of cheeses.

The Art of Presentation
While the taste and selection of cheeses and accompaniments are of utmost importance, the visual presentation of your cheese plate also plays a significant role in creating an enticing and visually appealing spread. Here are some tips for creating an artful cheese plate presentation:

1. Plate Selection:

Choose a large, sturdy platter or wooden cheese board as the canvas for your cheese plate. The platter should have ample space to showcase all the cheese and accompaniments while still allowing for easy access for guests.

2. Compositional Balance:

Arrange your cheeses in a visually appealing manner, considering their shapes, sizes, and colors. Play with different heights and angles to create an interesting visual display. Avoid overcrowding the platter and leave enough space for guests to easily access each cheese.

3. Color Coordination:

Incorporating a variety of colors creates an aesthetically pleasing cheese plate. Mix cheeses with different hues, fruits with vibrant colors, and charcuterie with varying shades. Aim for a balanced and visually appealing color palette.

4. Garnishing:

Sprinkle fresh herbs like thyme leaves or rosemary sprigs around the platter to add a touch of greenery and fragrance. Edible flowers such as nasturtiums or pansies can provide a beautiful pop of color and elegance.

5. Labeling:

To help guests navigate the cheese plate, consider using small cards or labels to identify each cheese. Include the name of the cheese, its country of origin, and a brief description of its flavor profile. This small detail adds a touch of sophistication and makes the cheese tasting experience more informative.

The Cheese Plate Experience
Now that you have curated an exceptional cheese plate, it’s essential to set the stage for the ultimate cheese tasting experience. Consider the following tips to create an enjoyable and memorable atmosphere:

1. Cheese Temperature:

Allow your cheeses to come to room temperature before serving. Cold temperatures can dull the flavors and aromas of the cheese, so take them out of the fridge at least one hour before guests arrive. This will allow the flavors to fully develop and provide a more enjoyable tasting experience.

2. Wine Pairings:

A well-paired wine can elevate the flavors and complexities of both the cheese and the wine itself. Provide a few wine options that complement the cheese selection, including a mix of reds, whites, and even a sparkling wine. Offer guests suggestions for pairings or encourage them to explore their own preferences.

3. Cheese Tasting Sequence:

Consider the progression of flavors when arranging your cheese plate. Start with milder and softer cheeses, gradually moving towards stronger and more robust options. This allows guests to appreciate the nuances of each cheese without overpowering their palates.

4. Educate and Engage:

Encourage guests to explore the flavors and textures of the cheeses. Provide them with a brief introduction to each cheese, sharing information about the origin, production process, and unique characteristics. This creates an interactive and educational experience that heightens their enjoyment.

5. Take Your Time:

Cheese tasting is intended to be savored and enjoyed at a leisurely pace. Remind guests to take their time, savor each bite, and engage in conversation about the flavors and pairings. Encourage them to cleanse their palates between cheeses with sips of water or bites of plain bread.

Now that you have all the knowledge and tips to create a remarkable cheese plate, it’s time to unleash your creativity and experiment with different combinations. Remember, the key is to have fun, explore different flavors, and find your own personal cheese plate masterpiece. Whether you’re hosting a casual gathering or a formal event, a well-crafted cheese plate is sure to impress your guests and leave them delighted the complex flavors and sensory experience it offers.