The cheese plate. The perfect go-to for just about anything. An easy app, the main event, you can bring it to a party, you can motivate people to come to your apartment with promises of cheese + wine. Really. Endless possibilities.
But also, the real reason the world loves a good cheese plate is because there is literally something for everyone. Most people love cheese, so that part is easy. [side note: did you see that article/study about how cheese is actually addictive? I can believe it.] But ok, not everyone loves cheese or even eats cheese, a la vegan or lactose intolerant. But that’s the beauty of the plate: there are almost more cheese accoutrements than cheese itself. A stellar cheese plate hits all the taste ranges – sweet, salty, crunchy, tangy, wet, dry… giving your palette a huge variety of flavor. So, let’s get into the breakdown.
Step 1: Cheese. Of course cheese is the main event of the plate, even with everything else going on. I always get at least three to four types of cheese but it depends on how many people you’re feeding. If you get ONLY two, you need one soft and one hard cheese. For example, good basics would be brie and gouda. I think four cheeses is a better option, because then you can branch out into some more fun varieties. I recommend adding a goat cheese, maybe mozzarella, something like truffle infused cheese, bleu cheese [i.e. gorgonzola], or something fruity [i.e. Trader Joe’s blueberry crusted goat cheese]. You could also add another soft cheese that’s tangier, like camembert. Really, I think you should just go to the cheese counter/fridge at your grocer, check it out, and pick a few that sound good – a couple traditional basics and a couple interesting ones. You probably can’t go wrong. The only thing I would say to avoid are the super hard cheeses, like pecorino romano or parmesan. Absolutely delicious, forsure, but better for grating.
Step 2: Carbs. Now, you need a vessel to eat the cheese. First logical choices are bread and crackers. I think slicing up a baguette is perfect. Baguettes are cheap, fresh, and have small circumferences. They’re one, two bite morsels. You can also toast up the baguette slices if you want a more crostini feel, but I prefer the bread fresh. I also get a couple style of crackers, for variety. I’m a huge Trader Joe’s fan in general, but their gorgonzola baked crackers are really really really good. I highly recommend. And then I’d say go for a classic, round cracker. You know, maybe one with cracker pepper or something of the like. Or those stone ground wheat ones, my personal fave. For my most recent cheese plate, I also bought pretzel bread which I sliced up, and everyone seemed to enjoy that as well. Another solid option could be olive bread.
Step 3: Accoutrements. You have the cheese, you have the bread, now you need to fill in the plate. I love tangy, salty things like olives and pickles. So, I always add cornichons, green olives, and sometimes kalamata olives. Or mixed marinated olives. If you’re a fan of pickling, you could go for a bit of pickled onion, maybe sauerkraut, or pickled vegetables. You need something of this flavor to break up the rich cheese. Then, you need something sweet. Fruit. I recommend dried and fresh fruit. I think dried cranberries and apricots are perfect. Slice up an apple so people can easily add it to their bread + cheese stack. Definitely throw in some grapes. Sliced pear, mandarins, a lot of people like figs [but not me, ew], and strawberries are all great options too. Next, you need crunchy. Almonds, cashews, pistachio, sliced cucumber, carrots. The cornichons also kinda provide crunch.
Step 4: Spreads. So, you have a pretty solid cheese plate going right now. You could probably call it a day at that. But I think spreads/sauces/drizzles can really add a lot to a plate. Hot pepper jelly, apricot jam, honey, truffle infused honey, tapenade, sundried tomato spread, pesto, hummus, stone ground mustard, maybe balsamic vinegar. I would place a few of those around the plate for people to spread and dip at their will.
And, voila! You’ve made an absolutely delicious, crowd pleasing, hearty cheese plate that meets everyone’s needs and tastes.
As an optional Step 5, you could add more ‘substance’ to the plate. This could be in the form of charcuterie of course, or other meat. Smoked fishes. Or it could be roasted vegetables, like asparagus, eggplant, cauliflower. I think just the cheese plate is plenty filling on it’s own, but adding one or two of these options could turn the plate into a verifiable meal for a group of people.
If you’re looking for some visual inspiration, because we all know that how it looks is half the fun of making the plate, my favorite Instagram to peruse is @thatcheeseplate. Also, feel free to call yourself a turophile, aka a cheese lover.