Ah, the charcuterie and cheese plate. At my home, we’ve comfortably slipped into this ether of constantly celebrating with sharp, strong cheeses, cured meats, red wine and fresh baguette. But it wasn’t always like this. Before the concept of this crowd-pleasing appetizer was just that; an idea that I randomly constructed with blocks of cheese, grapes, pepperettes and soda crackers I had on hand from the grocery store.
Now that I consider myself a connoisseur, I’m here to walk you through the art of dressing your first cheese plate.
Road Trip to the Market!
Luckily, popular cheese platter fixings are available at your local market. While what you serve is completely up to you and the palate of your guests, I do suggest the following pairs.
- Figs: Flashy and colourful, figs are a gorgeous fruit that are perfect for indulgent occasions. When in season, these soft and sweet treats pair perfectly with a tangy goat cheese or a creamy Roquefort.
Other fruit favourites: grapes, peaches, pears, melons… anything in season, really!
- Nuts: Pairing nuts with cheese is also a wonderful idea as there are so many salty and sweet varieties! Buttery and bitter nuts pair well with a rich cheese such as Brie. Candied walnuts are a wonderful addition as well, and are a delicious pairing with Cabernet!
Other nut favourites: salted pecans, pistachios and walnuts drizzled in honey
- Wine: Thepièce de résistance is, of course, the wine. Make sure you have a few bottles on hand, as everyone will want to try a little sip! Keep things simple by having versatile wines like Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc, that can easily pair with more than one cheese. For bigger parties, consider having unique bottles on hand, such as Champagne, Riesling or Sherry.
Other wine favourites: Merlot, Chianti, Bardolino, Sparkling Wine and Port
- Prosciutto: It’s always on my cheese plates! The rich, concentrated flavours found in this tender cured meat need little to no preparation. Yay! Find a robust cheese that can stand against the salty meat: a smoky Gouda or Piave will do the trick.
Other meat favourites: Spanish-style chorizo, hard, dried spicy salami and pâté.
- Fresh Crusty Bread: The big secret, which makes total sense when you hear it, is to pick up your bread on the day of your event… and if you’re a real good host, you’ll pick up two! Crusty bread works perfectly with all of those melt-in-your-mouth crowd-pleasing cheeses like Brie and Camembert.
Other bread favourites: olive focaccia, baguette, sourdough, melba toast and specialty crackers.
Make Friends with Your Local Cheese Shop
The best part of a cheese plate is exploring new flavours. Not every cheese will be a hit, as every palate is different. I know some who love soft, light flavoured Brie but dislike goat cheese! Head to your local cheese shop and lay it on the table: you’re building the ultimate cheese board, and you need their help. Chances are they are more than happy to help and will let you try before you buy. This way you’ll be able to expand your knowledge and find new favourites.
Set up Your Presentation Wisely
No matter what kind of wonderful delicacies you’ve found, it won’t wow your guests without the perfect presentation. Be sure not to crowd your board, you don’t need to pile everything on there as things will mix. You can always restock throughout the evening.
I like going with a rustic presentation that my guests can cut on without being terrified it will break or scratch. Make sure to have a quality platter and several cheese knives that correspond with the cheeses you are serving. With these little touches, you offer the best experience for your guests! My advice is to insert the names of the cheeses somewhere on the board so everyone can find a favourite throughout the evening.
Rule of thumb: Remember to take your cheeses out of the fridge an hour before serving so they are served at room temperature once your guests arrive.