If you're having a wine tasting or a party where wine will be the focus, putting together a good cheese tray is key. Good cheeses can complement any wine, but they have the ability to make the best wines even better. Take some time to put a good cheese tray together -- your guests will thank you!
Choose a platter or board. If you have over 10 people on the guest list, consider putting together at least two platters. A good rule of thumb is one heaping platter for 10 people. You will also need some small bowls for a variety of nuts, some smart cocktail napkins (preferably cloth, although paper will work), some picks, some small plates, and some spreaders. Don't forget to include a tray or basket for bread and crackers as well as an olive boat. While cheese is the focus, you're actually creating an array of cheeses, toasts and breads, olives, and nuts.
Shop for cheeses at a cheese market, gourmet market, or wine shop. You should have an assortment of both hard and semi-soft cheeses. If you wish, you can also include soft cheeses such as Boursin or Brie spread. Make sure you have both yellow cheese and white cheese on each tray. A good variety will include some of both. Label the cheeses with picks or labels; if you like, give the country of origin for each cheese as well.
Plate other items. In addition to cheese, make a bread and cracker basket consisting of a cracker assortment. Include water crackers and mini toasts, as they often provide the cleanest flavors when pairing cheese with wine. Include a variety of artisan breads as well, including pumpernickel or marble rye. Include a few green olives (with pits) in a boat; if you like, include Greek olives on a tray (and add kasseri cheese to your platter). Small bowls should be filled with rice crackers, whole cashews, shelled pistachios, flavored roasted almonds, and Marcona almonds. A few small plates next to a carafe of good green olive oil with some fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano is also nice for dipping breads. Include some cracked pepper on the side.
Tips & Warnings
- If you're planning on a long night, place a few cheeses under a cheese dome. The dome will help keep your cheese from hardening prematurely or sweating too much.
- Some good cheese choices include
- Brie (wedge or baked in phyllo dough with jam)
- Gouda, cheddar, or Edam
- Muenster, Monterey Jack, or Havarti
- Gruyere or Emmentaler
- Photo Credit Zedcor Wholly Owned/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images
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