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How To Create A Gourmet Cheese Plate

A gourmet cheese plate is one of the most welcomed and versatile appetisers at every party. Yet how many times have you promised to bring one to a party and then found yourself wondering where to begin in putting it together?

A truly beautiful cheese plate is one where every single element is thoughtfully handpicked and presented from the cheeses to the accompaniments and even to the board and knives.

This quick guide will give you a head start to creating a cheese plate extraordinaire.


The Cheeses

Most cheeses belong to one of these four basic categories:
Aged – Aged Cheddar, Comte, Goat Gouda
Soft – Constant Bliss, Camembert, Brillat-Savarin
Firm – Manchego, Mimolette, Parmigiano-Reggiano
Blue – Gorgonzola Dolce, Valdeón, Stilton

Select one cheese from each group and serve at least one familiar cheese. Or choose your cheeses by the type of milk used so you have a range of different flavours on the platter.

Always choose quality over quantity and also think about using one really stunning cheese as a showpiece. Alternatively look for cheeses with a point of difference or that have an interesting fact or story attached to it.

If you are planning a Christmas cheese platter, remember that the summer heat will amplify the strong smell of the pungent, wash rind cheeses, which could be off-putting for your guests.

If cheese is your pièce de résistance, buy a little over 1kg for 8 people, 2.5kg for 16 or 4kg for 24. If cheese is playing a supporting role, then buy 100g per person.


The Accompaniments

A selection of sliced baguettes, bread sticks and crackers in different shapes and sizes will be a winner. Also vary the taste and texture of the breads.

Jarred condiments and vegetables are quick and fuss-free. Try sweet preserves or honey, tart chutneys, and spicy mustards. Caramelised onions, in particular, are an excellent accompaniment to most cheese platters.

Include other sweet and salty items like prosciutto, salami, candied nuts, pistachios as well as dried figs, cherries, apples, and pears.


The Knives

Long knife with forked tip: For softer cheeses like Brie and Camembert. Also doubles as a spreader.

Spade-shaped knife: Has a sharp edge for slicing hard cheeses.

Pointed fork: Good for cutting harder aged cheeses and transferring them from the board to individual plates.

Flat knife: Resembles a shovel and is good for cutting cheese into cubes or slices, or transferring them to a plate.

Small rounded knife: A spreader for soft cheeses.

We love:

Kent Twisted Teak Cheese Set by Oscar de la Renta

Juniper Cheese Knife Set by Laguiole en Aubrac


The Serving

Remove the cheese from the refrigerator at least an hour before serving as the cold will mute the flavours. Put the cheese on the platter, cover it with a damp tea towel and leave it until serving time. This will enable the cheese to come to room temperature without drying out.

A platter should be arranged and eaten from milder to stronger cheeses in a clockwise fashion.

Separate the strong smelling cheeses so they do not overpower milder, delicate ones.

Label each cheese to avoid having to recite the names all evening.

We love:

Palace Cheese Board with Knife by Michael Aram

Mullbrae Cheese Set by L’Objet


The Wine Pairings

Bold reds: A lovely match with intense cheeses that are firm and a tad salty like aged Gouda, Smoked Cheddar or Manchego. Try Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Zinfandel.

Light reds: Go well with delicately flavoured, wash rind cheeses and nutty medium-firm cheeses like Gruyere, Brie or Camembert. Try Pinot Noir and Beaujolais.

White wines: Typically paired with wider array of cheeses because they are devoid of the tannin found in reds.

Dessert wines: Goes exceptionally well with blue cheese. The softer tannins lessen the acidity and the sweeter tasting wine compliments and shapes strong-smelling cheeses. Try a vintage port.


Image credit: Sur La Table 

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