There is one thing that is a necessity at my family's gatherings, a cheese plate. We love them. If you have ever been to the cheese section at Whole Foods or Fresh Market the selection can be overwhelming. Sometimes it is hard to know where to start and what all goes together. Cheese is like wine in my opinion, you like what you like and it does not have to be expensive to be good. One of the beautiful things about shopping at Wholefoods is that they are happy to let you sample the cheeses before you buy them! When curating a cheese plate I always make sure I fulfill these categories: something old, something new, something goat, and something blue. After that, I just pick whatever looks good to me.
For my something old, I typically go for an aged cheddar. This time I went with a 6 year old cheddar and it was fantastic. Your aged cheeses are typically more expensive so if you are budget conscious you should plan to spend a chunk of your budget on your something old.
Your something new can be any variety of cheeses. They typically don't advertise if it is a new cheese so don't be thrown off if it doesn't give the age of the cheese. I love the Bella Vitano cheeses, this one is super creamy and it was the first one to be finished on this cheese plate. The something new is a perfect place to try an interesting cheese. I have done “drunken” cheeses in my something new. The Bella Vitano brand has a really yummy Merlot cheese. Wine and cheese in one package, you can't go wrong.
Goat cheese is a fan favorite at my house. There are so many varieties and I like to mix it up. This time I went with an herb goat cheese. I have tried other varieties from this brand and have always been pleased.
You either love blue cheese or you hate it. I personally love a good blue, so even if you aren't a fan, don't shy away from including it in your offerings. This Moody Blue is very smoky and intense. If you are a true blue fan then I would recommend it, but if you are new to the blue scene (I feel like everything in that sentence is rhyming) I would go for a more mellow option. One thing to know is that a little bit of blue cheese goes a long way. I always purchase a smaller quantity of the blue than anything else.
This may go without saying, but you should have other things on your plate besides cheese so you can lighten the dairy load. I always have some type of nut to give a little crunch. These lightly salted almonds are great because they do not compete with the saltiness of the cheeses.
One of my favorite additions is caramelized onions. This time I did balsamic caramelized onions and they were the perfect compliment.
The final item I always add is a jam or preserve of some type. The most popular one I have found is this organic adriatic fig spread. I believe I got it at Wholefoods.
There are so many ways and fun ways to serve cheese plates. Here are a few of my go to for serving dishes.
The Slate State of GA
This one was given to me at one of my wedding showers and I love it, particularly because I can write on it with chalk to label my cheeses.
The Perfect Cracker Board
I love this option when I have several types of crackers because they are displayed so nicely around the edges.
Wooden Cutting Board
This wooden cutting board is so versatile and works perfectly for cheese plates. The moral of the story is that you do not have to have special serving dishes to display your cheese. It can go on just about any serving dish and still be great.
One last thing, it's important to label your cheese so people know what they are eating. Here are a few of my favorite descriptors. All are from Williams Sonoma.
These are great because they are the serving knives as well as labels!