Learn how to make the ultimate cheese platter. The experts at Boston's Formaggio Kitchen give their top tips on how to select the perfect cheeses for your cheese plate. Plus advice on how to pick great accompaniments and how to arrange everything beautifully.
Cheese is one of the world's most irresistible foods. Just the sight of a soft brie or camembert, melting out of its rind, inspires passion. With so many exotic flavors, textures and aromas on one plate, a fabulous cheese platter is one of the easiest, most exquisite things you can serve to guests.
This post will help you put together a superb cheese platter for your next dinner party or holiday gathering.
How To Pick The Best Cheeses For A Cheese Platter?
If you're like me, you've been overwhelmed at the cheese counter, a sea of cheeses, each one with an enticing description. It's enjoyable to read the charming little blurbs about the farms or the animals that the cheeses came from but I still don't know which ones to buy.
Year after year I end up sticking to the ones I'm familiar with, tried and true cheese like Robiola and La Tur. They are always great, but I've missed out on trying what's new or fresh or super exciting or perfectly ripe!
Finally I asked my favorite cheese experts at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge for some help putting together a great cheese platter. Then I took the cheeses they recommended and enlisted the help of two creative foodie friends for styling advice. Here's the scoop!
How To Make A Cheese Platter - Advice from the Experts
Boston's Formaggio Kitchen is a foodie's paradise with over 300 artisanal cheeses in their cases plus shelves packed with imported specialty foods, home baked breads and desserts, award-winning house made charcuterie, fine wines, organic produce and an awe-inspiring cheese cave in the basement of their Cambridge store.
They know cheese and here's what they say about how to put together a great cheese plate:
- Go with what you like! If you don't like tangy goat's milk cheeses or spicy blue cheeses, don't worry - you can still put together a remarkable cheese plate without these styles of cheese. In Europe, the cheese course is traditionally served after the entrée and before dessert, but we encourage you to eat cheese whenever you want: before dinner, after dinner or even as your main course! If you want to eat the rind, go ahead - if not, don't. Rinds can bring subtle flavors and textures to the cheese, which might add or detract from the flavor and texture of the interior (known as the paste) of the cheese."
- Choose quality over quantity. Your palate has a better chance of keeping up with your appetite if you have a smaller selection rather than a larger selection. We recommend constructing a cheese plate of at least three and no more than six cheeses.
- Know your audience. When building a cheese plate, we suggest that you consider what your guests might appreciate. If it is an adventurous crowd, pick cheeses with more pungency and flavor and perhaps some cheeses that you've never heard of. If your crowd is more conventional, choose familiar styles such as Brie, Cheddar, or Gouda, and throw in one more obscure cheese that push your audience's boundaries a bit.
7 Cheeses That Will Make A Perfect Cheese Platter
There are hundreds of great cheeses to choose from but maybe you don't have the time or inclination to linger at the cheese counter figuring out what to buy? If so, no worries. Here are seven cheeses - recommended by Formaggio Kitchen - that will make the ultimate cheese platter.
This selection includes a full range of flavors and textures: soft, hard, mild, pungent, cow, goat, young, and aged.
What To Serve with Cheese on a Cheese Platter
- Perfect Pairings: According to the pros at Formaggio, here are some pairings that are a home run every time: Cheddar and apples, Pyrénées Brebis and black cherry preserves, Twig Farm Goat Tomme and an herbal honey, Époisses and Gewürtztraminer.
- Be Creative: Formaggio advises that after you take note of suggested pairings you should then go on to your own process of discovery to find pairings that you love. Experimenting with pairings is one of the great joys of learning about cheeses and their many accompaniments.
- My three favorites: My go-to accompaniments when I make a cheese platter are: a hunk of honeycomb with honey oozing out, a bunch of red grapes and fig jam.
How To Make A Great Looking Cheese Platter!
Once you select the cheeses you want and accompaniments, it's time to arrange everything on on the platter.
The Rustic Cheese Platter - designed by my friend Pam - chef, artist and caterer. Cheeses are arranged on a weathered shallow wooden bowl. Pam chose four cheeses, distinct from each other in taste and looks.
Accompaniments are rustic and beautiful, just like the cheeses and the bowl: a hunk of glistening honeycomb, a heaping spoonful of rich fig jam, a ripe split pomegranate and a large spray of red grapes. I especially love the Castignino Cheese for this rustic presentation, wrapped in Chestnut leaves and tied with raffia.
The gold-flecked cheese was so striking that we decided that was the only embellishment the platter needed! It was simple and elegant and perfect with the gold leafed cheese as the centerpiece, and the gold rim of the dish to frame it.
The Mid Century Modern Cheese Platter. Pam and I went to our friend Carol's house to create the final platter. Carol is an artist, jewelry-designer and has an fantastic taste and design sense. She and her husband Clif are collectors of Mid Century furniture and dish ware. What you see here is the real deal.
Pam brought over the green retro cocktail picks. She selected the more geometric shaped cheeses and paired them with colorful olives and (who can resist?) a platter of mini sausages and saltines arranged on top of sliced genoa salami! (pigs in blankets would work well here too)
We all agreed that potato chips and cheddar dip were a "must" for this theme!
If you're serving cheese for one of your holiday gatherings, I highly recommend a visit to your local specialty store for help. It's a lot of fun to learn about the different cheeses, especially when the selection processes includes tastes!
Be creative! Pick and theme and have fun with it!!
Speaking of having fun, here's Formaggio Kitchen's most important rule for putting together a cheese plate: have fun! "All of us at Formaggio Kitchen believe that cheese is one of the most fascinating foods in the world. Assembling a cheese plate from our well-curated cheese selection should be as exciting for you as it is for us."
You don't have to be live in Boston or New York to enjoy cheeses and other specialty food items from Formaggio Kitchen. You can order many of them online.
And If you're still looking for a great holiday gift - one of the best selling cheese centric gifts from Formaggio Kitchen is their "Favorites Meat and Cheese Collection." Formaggio also has a cheese of the month club for hard-core cheese lovers who want a regular supply of incredible cheese.
Carol at Wild Goose Tea
I love this post. I love setting what I mundanely call 'setting a nice table'. Up the ante on the specialness of the meal. It amazes me how little it's done. The gold leaf on the cheese---I would have NEVER thought of that. The whole presentation was staged both dramatically and effectively.
Rachel (Rachel's Kitchen NZ)
Oh, I do love the idea of using gold leaf on a cheese - so pretty. Great post - thanks Lisa and have a Merry Christmas.
Thanks Rachel. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas too, and a happy new year! ~ Lisa