You're having a party and want to put out a cheese platter. Where to start? Here's a quick guide to guarantee there's something for everyone and plenty to eat.
The key to a great cheese platter is to focus on serving a variety of textures, flavors, and accompaniments. In general, we count on about 1 ounce per person, per cheese, assuming a selection of 3-5 kinds of cheese. I rarely serve more than 5 cheeses because it becomes overwhelming to the palate. Always serve cheese at room temperature so remove them from the refrigerator at least an hour before serving.
I usually begin with a light, lemony goat cheese, such as Coupole from Vermont Creamery, or a La Tur which is a mixed milk cheese from Italy made from cow, goat and sheep's milk. Next, I would pick a rich cow's milk triple cream like Brillat Savarin from France or a Champlain Triple from Champlain Creamery in Vermont. Then on to a firm, sheep’s-milk cheese, such as Manchego or Pecorino Tartufo, studded with black truffles. These types are always crowd-pleasers.
An Alpine-style should come next. I like Comte or the American counterpart, Ascutney Mountain, which has an onion-like flavor. A more adventurous selection would be the brine-washed Eden from Sprout Creek Farm in upstate New York. It has a slight pungency but a pleasing creamy texture. The final cheese should be blue cheese. Choose a classic blue like Stilton, but also consider an American cheese like Bayley Hazen Blue. Made by Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont, it has a nice buttermilk flavor and a hint of Vermont minerality in the finish.
Finally, the big question, bread or crackers? I say, why not both? A great baguette provides a nice neutral canvas for the cheese and also a nice chewy texture. Bread studded with fruit and nuts complements tangy cheeses like goat and blue. When it comes to crackers I like to offer something plain like an olive oil cracker, as well as something with a little sweetness like Daelia's Biscuits for Cheese. This ensures there is something for everyone.