10 Tips To Make You A Cheese-Serving Expert
Here's how to present the perfect cheese plate
Nobody likes a cheese stickler, nobody, but now that the indoor entertaining season is upon us, there are some basic guidelines to follow when making a cheese plate. Show respect for the milk that has been aging for months or even years just for your enjoyment (slow clap for cheese curds) and follow these guidelines to avoid coming off as a cheese novice.
Never Serve Cold CheeseThe cold temperature hinders the natural flavors and fragrance of the cheese. Plan ahead by taking your cheese out of the fridge at least an hour before serving.
Leave The Rind OnRemember: most cheese rinds are technically edible — whether or not they are palatable is entirely up to the individual. *Exception: some hard and semi-hard cheeses (Gouda, Emmentaler and the like) can have an additional coat of wax, plastic or paraffin. This additional coating should be peeled away and discarded to expose the edible rind.
Know Your KnivesDo you like goat cheese that tastes like gorgonzola with a hint of camembert? No? Ididn’t think so. One knife for every portion of cheese is the standard. Bonus points if you have a hard and soft cheese knife, plus a plane. Why not invest in a set of cheese knives like these?
Space Your Cheese ProperlyThere is no reason to try and fit as many different cheeses as you possibly can onyour spread, it just becomes awkward to cut. Then it's an awkward cheese-cutting party. Four is probably the ceiling, even for a large serving platter. Instead, try serving two smaller cheese plates.
Trick Out Your Cheese Plate
Fine cheeses should be able to hold their own with minimal accompaniments, but the right one can also make or break the entire cheese-tasting experience by amplifying flavors in all the right places. Bread, butter (yup, butter on cheese) crackers, raw vegetables, cured meats, nuts, fruit and jams can all make great cheese companions. Discover your very own "signature pairing," and watch everyone eagerly try a bite of brie topped with half a cherry chased by a a hunk of salty buttered bread.
Buy Fresh Cut CheeseExposure to air diminishes flavors by diffusing the aromas in a surprisingly short amount of time. But if you're serving leftovers anyway (which is fine), carefully trim away the outermost 1/4-1/2 inch to expose a fresher center.
Never Store More Than One Cheese In A Container/Baggie/WrapConsider buying a roll of cheese paper to re-wrap unfinished cheese — it helps it breathe without spoiling as quickly or tainting the other cheeses around it. If you're going to finish it in the next day or two, a plastic zip-top bag or or even plastic wrap for each kind will suffice, though cheese paper is ideal for keeping cheese fresh longer.
Do Not Freeze CheeseI’ve been told that in France breaking this rule is punishable by starvation. Okay fine, I made that up, but still, do yourself a favor by not breaking this commandment. Without diving into the science of it, freezing cheese just obliterates the flavor, smell and texture until you have a gross, mealy, dry version of the hot young diva cheese you once had.
- Don't Take Pairing Advice Too Seriously
What beverage pairs well for the “cheese professional” may not pair well for you or just seem, well, boring. Wine and cheese are a classic, beer and cheese too. If you want to do Cheddar, jerky and Scotch, we're right there with you. Trial and error (and a hint of creativity) is key.
- Processed, Discount Or Otherwise Sub-par Cheese Has No Place On Your Platter
No exceptions: keep it high-end or why even make a cheese platter?
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