Think of cheese as falling into 5 basic types: Blue, semifirm, super-aged, pungent and mild. For the best balance of tastes and textures, serve one from each category on your cheese platter. For each type of cheese, plan on 1 ounce per person.
1. Blue cheese has intense flavor. Choose Gorgonzola, Cashel Blue, Fourme d’Ambert or Stilton
2. Semifirm has subtle but rich flavor. Manchego, cave-aged Cheddar, fontina, Garrotxa or Saint-Nectaire are good choices.
3. Super-aged cheeses are sharp and nutty. Add Parmigiano-Reggiano, Asiago, Comte’, aged Gouda or aged Gruyere.
4. Pungent is a nice word for stinky! Choose Taleggio, Epoisses, Langres, Livarot, or Pont l’Eveque
5. Mild cheeses are soft and creamy. Select fresh chevre, Brie, Camembert, Chaource or Robiola.
The Cheese (does not!) Stand Alone Add these accoutrements for a really great cheese experience:
1. Crackers and breads. A variety of crackers and sliced baguette will do. You can also brush the rounds with olive oil and toast lightly, or add a dense fruit bread like raisin walnut.
2. Grapes. Add clusters to your cheese tray. Other options? Sliced apples, pears or figs. Dried peaches and nectarines are nice, too.
3. Pastes, chutneys, honeys. From a tangy fruit chutney like sour cherry or apple-cranberry, to a sweet-tart quince paste to a simply sweet drizzle of honey, each element takes cheese to a whole new level.
4. Sun-dried tomatoes or roasted bell or piquillo peppers. These taste great with the mild cheeses on the tray.
5. It’s nice to have something hearty in the mix and sausages like sopresatta or saucusson sec are perfect. Add Dijon mustard and cornichons and you have created an amazing epicurean delight!
Offer these pairing suggestions to your guests, and then discover how adventurous they become!
1. Sea salt cracker with pear and aged Gouda
2. Parmigiano and sopresatta
3. Dried nectarine and cave aged Cheddar
4. Baguette, manchego and quince paste
5. Oatcake cracker, Roquefort and a drizzle of honey
Wine-d it up with the perfect wines: You’ll want to offer both reds and whites. For 12 people, plan on 4 bottles of each.