Uber-versatile, a bountiful Cheese Plate, is an ideal choice for an after school snack or light supper. Added bonus, it can help you minimize the number of dishes piling that need to be tended to when your schedule is jam-packed, or you have other things you'd prefer to do (which if you're anything like me, anything but doing the dishes is what you'd prefer to do!). So, here's how to pick the best cheeses and serve them to create Cheese Plate Perfection.
Pair three to five kinds of cheese, the basics like cheddar or goat cheese, and one or two seasonal options like a fruited Welsdayle, with crusty bread or crackers, fruit, nuts, a savory component, and something sweet.
Cheese tastes best at room temperature, so don't worry about leaving out while running errands or picking up the kids from school.
Our Favorite Cheeses
Soft cheeses are going to be the hard hitters in the funky category. Frequently with bloomy or washed rinds, the short aging process of soft cheese brings out myriad flavors. But, there are many that are mild in flavor and have a sweetness to them. I like to include goat cheese and some burrata or fresh mozzarella to my after school cheese plate and a more adventurous option like any of the following.
Creamy ash-ripened Humboldt Fog has a striking blue line of vegetable ash running through the center of the wedge. I love it for it's creamy and mild flavor, and it's exquisite appearance.
Another delightful goat cheese is Rivers Edge Up in Smoke, which is smoked over alder and hickory chips and wrapped in smoked maple leaves -- it's just the thing for fall or winter platters.
Blue cheese has its place on every cheese platter, but it's not my favorite. But, I do like the Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue. The Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue is crumblier and cold-smoked over hazelnut shells, so it's less pungent to my palate.
Jasper Hill Creamery's Harbison cheese is so creamy that it's basically a dip. To eat the Harbison, slice off the top of the cheese and dip away.
Aged cheddar, such as Tickler Cheddar, is a safe yet super flavorful choice. Boasting a sophisticated flavor and a crystallized texture that my kids refer to as the pop-rocks of cheese!
Manchego, which is made from sheep's milk, is another fantastic option. Paired with a sweet quince paste or jam, it's like a protein-packed jelly sandwich that no kid will turn down.
Oliver and Pippa will eat a baguette in less than a minute if I'm not watching, so as long as there is some cheese on it, I'm ok...I guess. I try to keep the handmade Raincoast Crisps on hand; the Fig and Olive variety is a favorite. For a gluten-free option, I like Mary's Gone Crackers or simple rice crackers.
Cured meats like prosciutto or Jamon serrano are also a must. Or Dried sausages such as Olli.
Fresh seasonal fruit, from ripe pears and apples to grapes and persimmons -- don't forget stone fruits in the summer! If you want to go the dried fruit route, Turkish figs and apricots are lovely choices.
Next, add almonds, cashews, or pistachios. It's nice to have some crunch on the cheese plate. And some olives. For an easy upgrade, toss your olives with strips of citrus zest, fresh woody herbs such as thyme or rosemary, a bay leaf, a chile, and lots of olive oil, then let them sit overnight.
Finally, add a sweet component like fruit jam, quince paste, and honey.
And there you have it, Perfect for Every Occasion. I bring cheese platters to events such as:
- Holiday parties.
- Birthday parties! Anyone else rather have a hunk of cheese than birthday cake? Just me? Ok, moving on.
- Book club.
- Girls night—gotta have something to soak up the champagne.
- Playdates. Goldfish are fine for the under-5 set, but grown-ups deserve a grown-up snack, right?
Basically, the long and the short of it is that a cheese plate is always a welcome addition to your gathering large or small.