Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Say Cheese!

Nothing signals the start of the entertaining season better than October.  With its chilly evening air and earlier nightfall, the whole month just exudes coziness to me.  It’s time to invite some friends, light some candles, and pour some wine. 

For these types of gatherings, I like to serve casual, no fuss foods.  A beautiful cheese platter with a variety of items is that perfect food.   It’s one that you can arrange in advance, giving you more quality time to spend with your guests.  Why spend your evening hovering over a hot stove or secluded in the kitchen? 
Cheese is elegant and satisfying and is best served at room temperature, so it can remain on the buffet for the duration of your event. 

To build your cheese platter, start with a pretty plate, tray or cutting board.  Then choose your cheeses – four or five will do.  Try a goat cheese with herbs, Gouda or a Spanish Manchego, Camembert or a French Brie, a blue such as Roquefort, and a Cheddar.
Choosing cheeses from different countries also offers something fun to talk about while comparing flavors.

Of course these are just suggestions.  Don’t be afraid to experiment.  There is no wrong way to serve cheese.  If you don’t like a particular cheese, feel free to use one that you do.  A variety of flavors, textures and milk types is the key. 
You could also create a theme platter with cheeses from one geographical area such as Italy, France or Wisconsin.  It may be helpful to label the cheeses as guests may not be familiar with all of the varieties on the plate. 

Building a Cheese Platter
Arrange the cheeses toward the corners of your platter, and then fill in the spaces between with some of the following accoutrements.

Cured meats
– salami, prosciutto, pepperoni

Dried or fresh fruits
to add sweetness and complement the cheeses - dates, red grapes, figs, sliced apples and pears

– a mixture of your favorites or stuffed varieties will do
Add something crunchy for texture and contrast to the cheese – almonds, pecans or spiced pumpkin seeds

Crusty breads and crackers – water crackers, baguettes and specialty breads are the perfect vehicle to move the cheese
Garnish your plate with what’s in season – fresh herbs, leaves or edible berries

Serve your cheese at room temperature – let it stand for approximately 30 minutes to an hour
Remember - you can do no wrong.  Just think flavor, texture and variety.   And don’t forget the wine!

Have a great week!

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