What is the first thing you do when you get to a party? If you are anything like me (and I know you are a little bit because you’re reading my blog) YOU SNACK. Snacking is a party ESSENTIAL, and cheese platters are always a go to staple. They are easy to prepare, can be inexpensive depending upon how fancy you want to get, are extremely versatile, and your guests always eat the crap out of them. I’m serious. Anytime I put one of these babies out, there are crumbs all over my counters and floors, and no leftovers in sight.
Let me also mention, cheese platters are a great way to get your guests out of the kitchen while you finish prepping whatever else you need to. I usually set mine out near a tv and some bottles of wine to keep everyone out of my hair 🙂 . Different types of cheese accented with fruits, nuts, dips, meats, and other goodies are perfect for nibbling on while mingling, and HELLO, everything on this platter pairs well with wine. Just sayin.
You can serve your cheese platter on a wood cutting board, marble, slate, whatever you have that works as a flat and elegant surface. Or, if you have a nice rustic table, just throw it all on there like I did!
Perfect cheese platter essentials:
- Different types of cheeses – Soft, firm, aged, sharp, blue, the choices are endless and everyone has a different preference when it comes to cheese. Include a variety and either put labels by each one, or challenge your guests to try and guess them! A few of my staples are brie, Beemster aged gouda, manchego, Point Reyes blue, stilton blue, bucheron, and some sort of a sharp cheddar. I also like to include one whole cheese wheel like you see above – it makes for beautiful presentation when you cut out a single slice. (Budget tip: Trader Joe’s has a great selection of cheese for less $$$. Also, I love to go to Whole Foods and grab whatever they have in their $5 and under bins. They always have a large selection of cheese scraps from cutting their larger wheels).
- A selection of breads and crackers – The possibilities are endless here. Seriously. Every year that passes, about 100,938,357 new brands of crackers and crisps appear on grocery shelves. I like to always include Water Wheel wafer thin crackers original flavor, and then I mix and match other brands that I think look good. I also include some breadsticks and grilled bread, drizzled with olive oil. (Budget tip: Try Trader Joe’s and your local grocery brands for cheaper options).
- Cured Meats – Jazz your cheese platter up with cured meats like prosciutto, salami, pepperoni, and whatever else you see that looks yummy. There are no rules. (Budget tip: Costco has a nice selection of cured meats).
- Dried/Fresh Fruits – I love placing dried and fresh fruits like figs, apricots, grapes, and apples onto my platters. They add a beautiful contrast to the saltiness of the cheese and cured meats.
- Nuts & Olives – Cheese platters, wine, and all of the above pair so perfectly with nuts and olives. You really can’t have a cheese plate without this stuff. My favorite nuts are marcona almonds, and as far as olives go… I highly recommend castelvetrano olives (which pair really nice with fino sherry, which is super trendy right now). You can pretty much find both of these at any grocery store now.
- Jarred/Fresh Condiments – Honey, jams, pea pesto (like this unreal recipe from one of my favorite bloggers ful-filled, preserves, mustards, they all work. Combine both sweet and tart condiments for a nice contrast.
- Vegetables – Roasting some vegetables is a quick and easy way to fancy up your platter. I love roasting carrots in spices like cumin and fennel seed, it adds a nice break and palate cleanser from the cheese.
- A Sweet and Salty combination is always a bonus!
- Be as simple or as complex as you want – No matter what you do, it’s a cheese board. You already won.
- How much and what to buy – Plan 3 oz. cheese per person. Include a soft, semi-hard, and hard cheese as a solid base. Please don’t put pickles on your platter – they will ruin your palate and be all that you taste afterwards. I guess you can say the same for olives, but they don’t affect my tastebuds the same way that pickles do.
- Let the cheese sit out at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before guests arrive.
- Raid your kitchen. You probably have a quarter of these things laying around that will work perfectly for your cheese platter.
The great thing about a cheese platter is you can just sort of wing the whole thing. My best advice is to follow the staples that I listed above, browse your grocery store, and just buy whatever speaks to you! Have fun with it!
Oh…. and most importantly…. don’t forget to pair it with some super awesome wine :). That’s a MUST!