Build a Cheese Plate

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Whether a festive bash for hundreds or a quiet, fireside dinner for four, holiday parties are a chance to spend time with friends. And naturally we’ve got a few suggestions for cheese plates that are suitable for any holiday get-together.

Also see our Wine Pairings to find the perfect wine, champagne, sherry, or port for your holiday feast.

Selecting the Cheese

The right cheese course can turn a nice dinner into a memorable dining experience. For most occasions, three to five selections of cheese are appropriate for a cheese plate. When pairing cheese, select cheeses that are contrasting in taste and texture; balance the sweet with the pungent, the firm with the creamy. Fresh fruits such as grapes, sliced pears and figs complement cheeses, as do savories such as olives, roasted nuts and marinated vegetables.

Bread or Crackers?

Let personal preference decide. Try to match the character of the bread or crackers with the cheeses being served. By serving both bread and crackers, the difference in textures enhances the diversity of the cheeses. A few favorites include crostini crackers, water crackers, olive or walnut bread and the baguette. Select crackers that don't have trans fats, commonly known as hydrogenated oils.

Olives and Other Savories

Kalamata olives are a simple addition to a cheese course but bring a huge amount of flavor. Take a few extra minutes to "dress" or marinate the olives by draining them of brine and adding spices like chili flakes. Whole garlic cloves, pieces of sun-dried tomatoes and grilled or marinated vegetables marinated in balsamic vinegar can also be a welcomed addition.

Additional touches that go perfectly with wine and cheese:

  • Marcona Almonds: Smooth, tan almonds known for their sweetness and soft texture, this Spanish almond can be tossed with a bit of oil and salt.

  • Fresh Fruit: Create a spectacular and colorful fruit display with an array of organic apples, pears and grapes. Display them in a basket for a fresh-from-market look or in clear glass cylinders for a more modern look.

Serving Cheese

Unwrap cheese and arrange on a platter at least an hour before guests arrive. Leave enough room on the plate for the cheeses to settle and breathe. Brie should not be heated in the microwave because it becomes runny; rather, place it near the oven to achieve desired creaminess. In general, all rinds are edible, even the "brainy" rinds with spots of mold. Not all cheeses ripen simultaneously. Please ask a team member at your local Whole Foods Market which selections are ripe and ready to be served.

A cheese course can be served on a platter, wooden cutting board, or even marble floor tiles from a home improvement store. Scatter a few berries and nuts or add large caper berries and cornichon to the platter for a finishing touch. Note: It is best to let cheese "breathe" a little before serving as it enhances their delicate flavors. They should be served at room temperature.