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Be a Star With a Holiday Cheese Plate

Holiday parties are happening at work, family gatherings, school events, volunteer organizations and more — it’s that time of year! Some people dread volunteering to bring the cheese plate; a vegetable dip or dessert is easier and requires less thought. If you are the passionate foodie among your friends and family or if you would like to learn more or be known as “the person” for cheese, we are here to assist with a few helpful hints. Cheese rules of thumb:
  • Variety — mix it up, offer a selection of different styles of products, milks and looks
  • Keep it simple — three or four cheeses will work for any event
  • Trust your cheese monger — develop a relationship with your local cheese monger and they will help make you a star
  • Label the cheese — write down the names of the cheeses and put the names adjacent to the cheese
Cheese is seasonal so it is a good idea to understand the best cheese available for your event. Don’t buy the cheese too far in advance — cheese is alive, so purchasing a day or two prior to your event is essential for the success of your cheese plate. Don’t be afraid to try new things — it keeps it fun.  Here are a few examples of combinations that work every time. Promise! Easy Breezy Brie (creamy), Cheddar aged at least 12 months, Goat Gouda (trust me, almost everyone likes this cheese) and Fourme D’Ambert (creamy blue even your mother will love) The Classic Herve Mons Camembert (traditional aroma, Normandy vegetal flavors), Manchego Aged (sheep milk wonder from Spain — great with almost any wine), Kaltbach Cave Aged Emmentaler (intensely interesting from Switzerland), Gorgonzola Dolce (sweet and fruity from northern Italy) Dressed to Impress Triple Crème Brie (just like butter, Delice de Bourgogne, St. Andre, Explorateur or Metropolitain), Le Gruyere Reserve (aka “nuttilicious” cheese), Humboldt Fog (creamy goat from CA), Stilton (the classic holiday blue from the UK) Pushing the Limits Coach Farm Triple Crème (goat heaven from NY), Epoisse (washed rind delight), Cabot Clothbound Cheddar from the Cellars at Jasper Hill (sweet flavors with classic texture), Roquefort (the spicy blue, sheep’s milk heaven) American Artisan Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam (organic favorite from single source herd in Marin, CA), Roth Kase Gruyere Surchoix (Swiss descendants making the homeland and WI proud), Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery Bonne Bouche (aged goat cheese that is amazing!), Rogue Creamery Rogue River Blue (only the best for your friends from our Oregon friends!) Plan for 2 ounces per person and you will always have enough. Remember, you can eat the rind on brie, it adds to the complexity of the flavors! Accoutrements are key. Plain bread or crackers are best, so the taste of the cheese is featured. I like nuts, as do most people. The Marcona Almonds from Spain are awesome and will work for every cheese plate. Walnuts are super with blues. Also, fresh fruit with high acids are a natural (grapes, pineapple and apples). Locally produced preserves are simple and bring out the creaminess of the cheese or try our classic Organic Fig Spread from Croatia or Cranberry Chutney. Other pairings? If you like it, try it — make your own rules! For wine pairings, check our Top Ten Wine page, which includes suggested cheese matches. Be a cheese star and love your cheese! What are your favorite combinations?

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Bepkom says …

Julien, thank you SO much for that your comment. We really appreciate you taking the time to share your experience with us and our readers. And thank you for the wonderful suggestions! Happy Holidays!

Andrea says …

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! I've been searching for cheese pairings just like this. I can hardly wait to use these suggestions.

Michael Lester says …

One of the things I've loved about Whole Foods is the cheese department, in particular the folks working there. We had a party at our house years ago & I wanted a cheese assortment. I asked a young gentleman behind the counter for recommendations - he hooked me up with a beautiful cheese selection, crackers & condiments. It was a hit at the party & it began a renewed interest & enjoyment of cheese.

Erin says …

As for pairings, I love pomegranate seeds with the softer cheeses... adds a wonderful sweetness.

cynthia says …

Love, Love Love cheese! This is wonderful, also check out the book "CHEESE" by McCallmon and Gibbon. Happy Holidays!

Julien says …

Bonjour, I am visiting France, my homeland, for a couple of weeks and last saturday, my buddy calls and says " be ready in 5 we are going for a dinner " 5 Later I was ready to drawn into a new circle of people I never heard about before. Those 5 just let me the time to grab a bottle of red wine, not so well selected unfortunately. Once there, the usual human dog's but sniffing process goes on. I get a glass and purpose my help to set the table. We were about 20 including kids. We move the furniture and create a long table so everybody could seat. This is important. Le Filet mignon de Porc and its Pommes de terre nouvelles are being brought to the table by the Chef and its local complains in order to moderate guests growing appetite: -It's dry now... -I am not sure if there is enough for everybody -The quality might not be the best Well, it was a stunning dish, perfectly cooked, just the right amount of sauce and plenty of flavors. And then came... THE cheese plate. It was being brought by my left side table neighbor. There was about a dozen of different products with different colors and texture. Because I am a lucky person, my neighbor made a little pitch for all the cheeses. So, if you make the cheese plate, make a selection of the cheeses and remember them so you're able to generate an interesting conversation and brake the ice during the meal. Talking food is always a good way to get introduce to someone. And I have a couple of recs for my fellow north Americans: -When you cut some cheese, do it frankly, cut it all the way with the skin, and leave the skin aside your plate (as less as possible). Do not only dip your knife into the best part. This tech allows to keep the cheese in shape, and its appetite look for the next one. -Make a mix of more or less SMALL slices of the cheeses you like and the one you want to experiment. CHEESE IS ABOUT TASTE. Plus if there are some more at the end, you can take some more. ( and there you will be even more exiting to see a well cut cheese ) -Share your experience around the table. like " OMF(rench)G, this is sooooooo stinky and even tastier than all the rest " or " This one is good with a sip of this wine " -Have a diversify selection of good breads. Cause cheese goes with bread. At least this is how my do it on this side of the Atlantic. Now the list I wish there will be on the table: Parmigiano Reggiano Mascarpone with Gorgonzola Gouda with Cumin and Brie with Truffles (this one will be on the table!!!!!!) and 2 I don't kow. This looooong comment is a way to Thanks the persons that welcomed me to their table and all the other folks there. Merry Christmas Julien

Threemealsaday says …

Robusto and butterkese would have been great adds. Nice article

Kathie says …

I get most of my cheese at the farmers markets in San Diego County (Poway and Hillcrest) - here's to putting out a shout out for the Spring Hill Dairy. I've been impressed by WFs range of cheeses - but have yet to try them as I always have SHD cheeses at home!

Alessandro says …

I'd like to add a typical italian suggestion: we always say "al contadino non far sapere, quanto è buono il cacio con le pere!" ["don't let know at the farmer how delicious is the cheese with the pears!"]. So try to add some slice of fresh green or golden pears with any kind of cheese!