Cheese is one of those products that virtually everyone loves. It’s creamy and salty and it amazes me how many variations there are given that all cheeses come from one source, milk. Great on its own as a casual snack or in your favorite recipes, cheese can also be an elegant and easy to prepare appetizer especially presented together as a cheese plate. All you need is an attractive plate or board, a couple small knives for serving, and an interesting selection of cheeses. Instant entertaining!
When selecting your cheese you want to aim for variety. It’s visually more interesting on a plate and on your palate to serve cheeses that look, taste, and have a different mouth feel than each other. You want to create contrasts between types; some will be hard and some soft, some will have mild flavors while others are strong, Colors will range from white to bright oranges and blues. Mixing up milk sources can add pop to your plate, try mixing a goat cheese, a sheep’s milk cheese, and a cow’s milk cheese.
An alternative to this is a plate with only one type of cheese from various regions or producers. This showcases the variations in textures and flavors of one type of cheese produced from various producers around the globe. Try a blue cheese plate with various blues. Maybe try a Societe Bee Roquefort from France, a Point Reyes Blue from Wisconsin, a Dolce Gorganzola from Italy, a Colston Bassett Stilton from England, and a Roaring 40’s Blue from Australia. Serve with a delicious Port, a baguette, walnuts, and flame seedless grapes.
Having an odd number of cheeses on the plate is visually more interesting than an even number. I usually recommend 3-5 types per cheese plate. When estimating the amount of cheese to buy ½-1 ounce of each type of cheese per person is a good number. If you’re serving 10 people that would mean you would need 5-10 ounces, or 1/3-2/3 of a pound of each type. When you plate the cheese arrange them from mild to strong in a clockwise pattern, with the rinds facing the edge of the plate.
In addition to the cheese it is also nice to serve a few items that compliment the cheese on the plate, or in small ramekins beside the plate. A few of my favorites are roasted marcona almonds, quince paste, fig jams. picholine olives, sliced granny smith apples, and flame seedless grapes. Sliced baguette or crackers with interesting flavors and textures like our Rustic Bakery products also pair well with cheese.
What follows are three suggestions for cheese plates including wines to pair with each plate. I’ve broken them into 3 types: Value Conscious, Local Artisanal, and Crème de la Crème. Bon Appetit!
Value Conscious Plate
Cheeses to Plate
Tour de Marze Brie - This creamy cow’s milk brie is from the Ille de France. Soft, white bloomy rind with a buttery golden
paste with a touch of garlic
Kerrygold Dubliner Cheddar - Cows milk cheddar comes from Ireland. Aged for 12months, this cheese has a mature rounded flavor with a hint of sweetness.
Roth Kase Buttermilk Blue - award winning blue is made in Wisconsin. Produced from raw homogenized milk mostly
from Jersey cows. Great blue cheese tang.
Wines To Serve
Acrobat Pinot Gris - This Pinot Gris from Oregon opens with a mild pear and floral bouquet. On the palate, this wine shows some zesty acidity with an intriguing blend of green apple and Clementine.
Laurel Glen Lodi Reds - This wine shows fresh raspberry and dark plum. Primarily Zinfandel blended with some Carignane and Petite Sirah. Fruit forward with nice acidity and a touch of mocha, black pepper, and earth.
Acme French Baguette
Sliced Granny Smith apples
Local Artisanal Plate
Cheeses To Plate
North Valley Chevre - This handcrafted farmstead goat cheese is produced from pasture fed goats in Cottonwood California. Fresh and creamy.
Cypress Grove Truffle Tremor - This ripened goat cheese is laced with specks of black truffle. Earthy and Smokey with a bloomy white rind.
Cowgirl Creamery Triple Hawk - This triple cream cheese is produced from organic cow’s milk from Strauss family dairy. It’s a washed rind full flavored cheese that has been aged for 6 weeks.
Pedrozo Northern Gold - Produced in Orland California this raw milk cheese is produced from pasture grazed cows. Semi-hard with a smooth buttery and nutty flavor, this cheese is aged for 3-6 months.
Point Reyes Blue - Produced from raw cow’s milk this farmstead blue is aged for 6 months. Nice firm crumble tastes both creamy and tangy.
Wines To Serve
2007 Boeger El Dorado Sauvignon Blanc - This zesty wine has aromas of fresh cantoloupe and honeysuckle followed by crisp flavors of grapefruit, orange, and a hint of lemon.
Poppy Mendocino County Pinot Noir - Bright red ruby with aromas of raspberry and plum with whiffs of pie spice and gravelly earth. On the palate, cherry, pomegranate and plum flavors combine with light clove, tea and citrus rind accents that echo nicely in the dry finish.
Rustic Bakery from Marin Sweet Onion and Crème Fraiche
Crème de la Crème
Cheeses to Plate
Chevre Enrobe Cranberry - This creamy fresh goat cheese is from the Poitou region of France. It has a festive layer of chopped cranberries on top.
Morbier - This cows milk cheese from France has two layers of glossy ivory paste separated by a thin layer of vegetable ash. Compelling fresh fruit and nut flavors, with a fresh hay aroma.
Berthaut Epoisse - This washed rind cow’s milk cheese from the Burgundy region of France has a smooth reddish brown rind with rich, huge flavor and a delightful barnyardy aroma.
Gruyere - This semi hard cow’s milk cheese from Switzerland has a rich nutty caramel flavor with complex musty mushroomy notes. Finishes with a long full aftertaste of tart milk.
Societe Bee Roquefort - Produced from raw ewe’s milk ripened in the caves of Mount Combalou in France. This cheese is crumbly and moist with profuse green-blue veining. It has intense, complex, and spicy flavors.
Wines To Serve
Allimant-Laugner Cremant D’Alsace - Made in the traditional methode (Champenoise) from 100% pinot noir. Wonderful strawberry fruit and a crisp, flowery tang. Elegant, pink, and delicious!
Robert Sinsky Los Carneros Napa Valley Merlot - Produced from organically grown grapes this wine shows ripe plum and cherry with notes of violets, bay leaf, and vanilla. Has a lush long finish.
Mitica Marcona Olives in sunflower oil and sea salt
Corazon del Sol Membrillo Quince Paste
Village Bakery Artisan French Baguette
— Julie Edelstein, Wine, Beer, and Cheese Manager