Light Bite Summer Dining: How to Serve the Perfect Cheese Plate

How to make the perfect cheese board by southern blogger Stephanie Ziajka from Diary of a Debutante

Very few things in this world excite me more than throwing together the perfect cheese board for a party or romantic picnic. That being said, much more goes into assembling a traditional charcuterie and cheese board than most entertainers know. Selecting and pairing a neutral variety of low-cost grocery store cheeses with the right compliments can easily create a praise-worthy light bite dining experience on a dime. Plus, if you have the proper presentation tools, you’ll give the impression of a fancy appetizer that your guests will want to plaster over Instagram. Here are six simple tips for impressing your guests this summer with the perfect cheese board:

Tip #1: Choose the right cheeses.

Try to include a variety of textures and flavors. Most cheeses belong to one of four basic categories: aged, soft, firm, or blue. For a good variety, try to choose at least one from each group. I personally cannot stand blue cheese, so I shy away from that category altogether. Hence, my personal perfect cheese plate consists of solely aged (Gouda, Aged Cheddar), soft (Brie, Camembert), and firm (Parmigiano Reggiano, Comte, or aged Gouda or Cheddar as a duplicate substitute). If you’ve selecting anything that could potentially be unrecognizable, make sure to label your cheeses to avoid all allergic reactions or repetitive questioning.

Tip #2: Offer a selection of breads or crackers.

Similarly to the cheeses, it’s a good idea to vary taste and texture. In All in Good Taste, Kate Spade New York’s charming guide to entertaining, she suggests including plain bread (baguette, sourdough) or neutral crackers in a separate basket and/or picking a bread with walnuts, dried fruit or olives, which pair well with cheese. I personally rely on Dare’s variety of crisp crackers to make sure every guest is happy. Their collection of delicious crackers are loaded with crunch and packed with flavor to make inventive summer canapés better, and Dare’s extensive cracker varieties offer lite-bite dining options to make entertaining fuss-free.

Tip #3: Serve your cheese plate with a mixture of jarred condiments, fruits, and vegetables.

All of your guests’ palettes are different, so consider putting out a combination of honey, tart chutneys, and spicy mustards, as well as seasonal fruits and vegetables (seasonal=inexpensive), like raspberries and blueberries. You can also add artichoke hearts, pickles, olives, nuts, or dried fruits, as well. For an idea of ideal pairings, All in Good Taste recommends:

  • mixing lighter cheeses (herb-coated goat cheese, buffalo mozzarella) with savory sides, like olives, prosciutto, cornichons, walnuts, tomato, fig chutney, and/or caramelized onion jam
  • pairing rich cheeses (manchego, cheddar, gouda, blue) with sweet treats, like marcona almonds, fig or raspberry jam, honey or real maple syrup, and dried or sliced fresh fruit (pears, figs, raspberries, or blueberries).

Tip #4: Don’t overcrowd your cheese plate.

Presentation is everything, and especially if you’re expecting more than a few takers, place the cheese platters and the other nibbles on several tables to avoid any traffic jams. In Kate Spade New York’s book All in Good Taste, she recommends serving your selection on one or two large shared platters– or an individual tidbit plate per guest. If you find yourself needing to fill extra space, grapes and rosemary sprigs work perfectly!

Tip #5: Invest in the right presentation tools.

Every entertainer needs a large cheese plate and complete set of cheese knives. This particular cheese board is actually a bamboo cutting board I found at HomeGoods. It’s too much of a pain to wash on a daily basis, and it’s literally the perfect size for a charcuterie and cheese board. You can check out more affordable cutting/cheese boards here.

Tip #6: Have one knife per cheese.

According to Real Simple, soft cheese spreads work with with a butter knife, firm cheese might require a paring knife, and aged cheese often requires a cheese plane. Using one knife per cheese, especially the softer varieties, avoids cross contamination chaos and keeps your perfect cheese plate looking pristine. It also helps to label the cheeses, as well, so guests don’t bombard you with “which one is this?” questions. 

Hope you enjoyed my tips on creating the perfect cheese board! Did I leave anything out?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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