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Cheese is a great food to celebrate and party with – it can be used in so many ways, and there are so many unique flavors, it can be a great addition to almost any menu. Plus, a cheese board can be both delicious and a beautiful decorative piece, all in one!
If you’re having a party, you need to ask a few questions before starting to look for the best cheeses for your cheese plate and to feed your guests. First, how many people are you hosting? This can determine if you need one large cheese board or several small ones. Next, what is the occasion, and are you serving any particular main food for it? If it’s a barbecue, you may want very different cheeses than if you’re hosting a formal, sit-down dinner. Also, if you’re serving cheese as a larger buffet or as an appetizer, you’ll want to consider the wine choices you’re providing.
Finally, what are the tastes of your guests? Although ultimately the decision is up to you, knowing your guests can make your cheese choices more successful! If you’re hosting a party for children, for example, expanding their palates is great, but including nothing but blue cheeses, spicy cheeses, and strong flavors may leave you with lots of leftover cheese. On the other hand, guests who love wine and cheese pairings, or have adventurous palates, would probably be disappointed with a tray of American cheese slices and mild cheddar. Knowing your audience is key!
These may sound like complicated questions, but with a little planning, it’s both fun and easy to select cheese for your special occasion. Here are some guidelines and ideas to make your job easier and make sure your time at the cheese counter is an enjoyable one!
- Think about cheese in the scheme of the larger meal – if you’re serving cheese as a dessert course, you don’t want to serve onion and garlic goat cheese! Think about the flavors you already have planned to narrow down your cheese selections.
- To make selecting cheese for your special occasion even easier, try a themed cheese board! Cheese from a particular country, like the United States or France, or even a region like Wisconsin or Vermont or Normandy, can still have huge variety, but can make your choices more linear.
- Choose cheeses with different textures. You wouldn’t serve a dinner filled with foods that all have the same texture, and cheese courses or boards shouldn’t be any different! A soft cheese like Brie could go next to a cheddar, and both play well with a hard cheese like a Parmigiano-Reggiano.
- Don’t pick too many cheeses! You want to provide plenty of options, but you don’t want to overwhelm your guests, and you definitely don’t want to crowd your cheeses. Leave space between them, label each cheese, provide a different knife for each, and don’t forget to serve crackers, bread, or fruit with the cheese (learn more about cheese and fruit pairings).
- Take your party budget into account. Most people won’t tell a difference between a super-expensive cheese and a mid-range cheese, so don’t break the bank with your cheese selections! With a creative cheese platter presentation, even simple everyday cheeses will look mouthwatering!
Making a cheese board for your special occasion can be a fun and educational activity for you, and a great culinary experience for your guests. It can seem overwhelming, but your occasion and audience, as well as these simple guidelines, can make selecting cheese for your party a wonderful experience! For the exact formula I use to create a perfect cheese board, check out my cheese platter presentation ideas.