{Food & Entertaining}

The Art of the Cheese Plate

Hello Socialites! Summer dinners al-fresco, July sunsets over wine…the season is made for elegant entertaining!

When you think of elegant entertaining, is there anything more elegant, decadent, and thoroughly indulgent than a well crafted cheese plate? If you’re a cheese lover like me (see cheese platemy bio), there can’t possibly be. Always picture perfect at catered affairs, at restaurant dinners, at wine bars in bite size portions for boat sized dollars, there’s something intimidating about recreating the magic at home. Yes? NO!

Socialite, get your notepad and throw away that Velveeta. Your next cocktail/dinner event just got FANCY! We’re going to master the art of the cheese plate! And it’s easier than you think…

Selection

It’s all about the cheese! However, you don’t have to serve ten types of cheese to have an amazing cheese plate.

Easy Elegance: Select three cheeses of varied textures (soft, semi-soft, hard). My favorite go-to cheeses: herbed goat, brie, manchego or an aged cheddar. You can find them all in most supermarkets, usually in an “international cheese” or “gourmet” section.

Fancy Fab: Stop into your local gourmet shop for some Mimolette and the Roquefort of your choice. Most gourmet shops will let you sample before you commit, so definitely do some exploring! With your guestlist in mind, find flavors you like and try cheeses from multiple countries!

The Tools

Kitchen knives will NOT do for your elegant cheese plate, Socialite. You need proper cheese knives and a serving board. I’m partial to a marble serving board, but a ceramic or china tray will do the trick. For large groups, I like to cut everything before setting it out. But for smaller service, feel free to set out whole portions and allow guests to cut their own. One knife per cheese is ideal, but it’s not required.

Easy Elegance: Two knives will easily have your needs covered. For the soft cheeses, such as goat, use a spreader. For firmer cheeses, you’ll want a classic multi-tasking cheese knife, with holes in the middle of the blade (to keep cheese from sticking to it) and prongs at the end for picking up what you’ve just cut. You can find both at any chain home store for under $10: think Marshall’s, HomeGoods, and Target.
cheese knivesFancy Fab: A friend gave me this wonderful set of four knives, which includes the two types above, as well as a wide slicer and an angled knife for hard cheeses. The slicer is great for difficult cheeses like mimolette. Google it. How does one cut a cantelope shaped cheese? Verrry thinly! The angled knife lets you exert pressure needed to get through a harder cheese like manchego with ease and uniform slices.

“What’s This?”

porcelain markersLabel your cheeses. Consider adding the type of milk its made from (sheep/goat/cow) or the country of origin under the name. Take your guests around the world on a cheese plate!

Easy Elegance: Affix a label to a toothpick and place one on each cheese you serve. Place setting cards in front of your serving tray work well, too. Just use stiff cardstock paper, write your cheese name, fold it over like a tent, et voila!

Fancy Fab: These porcelain markers were a steal, on clearance, at Murray’s Cheese in Grand Central Station. The set of 6 came with a gold marker, but you can use any dry-erase marker in any shade. Wash and store carefully after each use.

Bonus Yum

Garnish your cheese plate with edible goodies that compliment your cheese selection. Forgo the corporate parsley decor and think tasty tidbits!

Easy Elegance: On the same board, add a small amount of assorted berries, a handful of almonds or walnuts, and a small portion of apricot preserves to your presentation. Not only can you find all these in the supermarket aisles, but they lend themselves to almost ANY cheese selection. Encourage your guests to experiment with the pairings.

Fancy Fab: Drop back into the gourmet shop for some fig and orange jam (my personal pick to pair with manchego!), a bar of 80+% cocoa chocolate, and some oil cured olives.

Cap the entire presentation off with a tray of assorted flavor water crackers, pita crackers and/or crusty baguette slices.

And just like that, your cheese plate is dressed to impress! Serve with your fave wine and enjoy! But don’t reserve your new skills as a cheese master JUST for entertaining. I’ve been known to make a small cheese plate as dinner. And why not? Every Budget Socialite deserves a little elegant indulgence.

Image Sources: Evasaidit.com and Jordan Johnson

But don’t stop there! Have some Master-of-the-Cheesyverse tips to share? Leave a comment below and share the knowledge!

See you next month!

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Contributor | Eva Said It
Eva is a mother, writer, entertaining doyenne, and snark expert based in New York City. Money can’t buy happiness, but it buys her lots of wine and stinky cheese…which is close enough. Catch more of her stiletto clad sarcasm at www.evasaidit.com.

 

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