Entertaining with Cheese
Whether you’re inviting the neighbors over for a casual get-together, having the boss over for a formal dinner, or throwing the event of the century, there’s one thing to remember —always invite the life of the party—cheese!
To help you plan the perfect cheese course for your celebration, here are five things to consider: occasion, categories, flavor, accompaniments, and presentation.
Is it a sit-down dinner, a small gathering for appetizers, or a party/reception? When will the cheese be served, and with what other foods? For a sit-down dinner we recommend serving 1–3 cheeses; for a small gathering, 3–4 cheeses; and for a party/reception, 3–6 different cheeses. Don’t serve heavy or rich cheeses before a large dinner. Let the cheese work with your meal, not against it!
Select cheeses which are differentiated on the basis of taste, texture, and appearance so that you will have the opportunity to offer a range of characteristics to your guests. Choose from these categories: bloomy rind, hard, fresh, bleu, semi-hard, and washed rind.
Within each category (and relative to that category) there exists a range of tastes from mild to full-flavored. Make selections from the middle of the category’s range; for example, Martin Collet Brie (bloomy rind), Montelarreina Manchego (hard), DLM Marinated Fresh Mozzarella (fresh), Colston Bassett Stilton (bleu), Westcombe Cheddar (semi-hard), and Taleggio (washed rind).
Select food and wine that complement the cheese and work with your other food offerings. For food accompaniments, serve one sweet and one savory item. Include one in whole form (olives, nuts, cornichons, and fresh fruit) and one spread. Serve with cut bread or high-quality crackers. For wine accompaniments, match lighter, fruitier wines to the younger, milder cheeses and pair bold, assertive wines with fuller-flavored cheeses.
For gatherings where people are standing, holding drinks, etc., it is best to have the harder cheeses pre-cut and arranged with accompaniments and garnish on a large board. For smaller gatherings, you can let your guests serve themselves from larger pieces of cheese. After dinner, you can assemble cheese on individual plates with accompaniment/garnish. Also, remember to bring the cheese to room temperature before serving.