6 Steps to Make a Flaweless Cheese Plate
Your Guide to Sculpting with Food
Follow these 6 easy steps to WOW your guests!
A cheese plate is on my menu in any level of entertaining. Whether I’m hosting a few Mama’s for sunset rosé or catering a corporate event with 500 “suits,” a cheese plate is a sure way to “wow” my guests. In restaurants, we often put the cheese plate at the end of the meal (a beautiful French tradition) and many times, it is the Pastry chef creating it with things like candied nuts, honey comb and liquor soaked fruit. Wherever it shows up, and whenever you’re creating it, think of it as a food painting and make some unexpected strokes!
1. Remember that nothing short of food porn is acceptable here.
2. Go Shopping (online or in-person) and get your collection of colors and textures.
Specifically, this is what enters my shopping cart:
4-6 cheeses that range in gooeyness to firmness. Be sure at least one cheese is as stinky as they come. It is amazing how conversation over “have you tried the stinky one” breaks the ice at a party. I have witnessed people become BFF over their love or hate for this polarizing bite. And don’t worry, there won’t be left overs of this one!
Fruits for every soft cheese. I like berries or grapes.
Nuts or olives for every hard cheese.
Dried fruit. I like figs, apricots, or cherries.
1 or 2 veggies. I like yellow bell pepper, sugar snap peas, radishes, or fennel.
A handful of fresh herbs. I like rosemary, basil, thyme, sage.
1 or 2 types of charcuterie. I like Prosciutto de Parma or a hard salami with truffle.
2 types of crackers and a FRESH baguette. I like to keep par-baked frozen ones in my freezer so that “fresh” can be created in 12 minutes!
And if you don’t already have it in your pantry / liquor cabinet grab 2 or 3 from this list:
Apricot or fig jam.
3. Start Painting!
I like to complete the cheese plate 30 minutes before anyone arrives so that the cheese has time to come to room temperature.
Set your cheese out on one or a few platters (slate, wood, ceramic, or a mix of all types) and make sure there is 4” - 6” between them. If you have a fresh “wet” cheese like burrata, give it its own bowl.
Decide what “garnish” you are going to pair or neighbor with each cheese. Its like food dating and you’re the matchmaker! Here are some of my favorite combos:
Poke several holes in a Brie wheel with a toothpick and gently pour a tablespoon of Grand Marnier on top. Cover surface with a mixture of dried cherries and chopped sage.
Cana De Cabre topped with honey and cashews.
Chevre topped with poppy seeds.
Reggiano Parmigiano neighboring Prosciutto di Parma. Squeeze fresh lemon juice across the prosciutto.
Roquefort adjacent to a bowl of cultured butter. I know this sounds strange but smear a thin layer of butter on a piece of baguette and top it with pungent Roquefort and your life will forever be changed.
Piave Vecchio (an Italian cow’s milk mountain cheese) with honeycomb and rosemary.
Boursin with slices of spring radish and sweet yellow peppers.
Manchego with wild strawberries and drizzled aged balsamic OR marcona almonds.
Burrata (in its own bowl) smothered in olive oil, truffle salt and fresh chunks of tomato.
4. Add bread, crackers, and a few “soloists.”
Think about some stars like…
Mini bowl of jam.
Bunches of herbs tucked under a cheese or around the perimeter.
Lemon or other citrus wedges
5. Place little knives, forks or spoons in all the parts.
I like to use a proper cheese knife with a good blade for the hard cheeses, forks for charcuterie and spoons for the jam, etc.
6. Taste it!
Every restaurant Chef tastes EVERYTHING that exits their kitchen plus, it is important to disturb your work of art so that it is approachable to dive into. And if your guests don’t dive in right away, take a bite and watch them follow.