Chef Tse: Building the Perfect Cheese Plate

Building The Perfect Cheese Plate
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When entertaining this holiday season, you don't have to be a master chef to prepare a festive feast. That's why I like creating a beautiful cheese plate - it's simple, it's quick and everyone loves it. But this year, why not skip the nut covered cheese ball or the cheese in the can, and get creative? Here are my tips for creating your own, unique cheese plate:

  1. Keep it simple. You don't want to overwhelm your guests or their palates, so stick with three to five cheeses.
  2. Pick a variety. I like mixing up cow, sheep and goat milk cheeses on the same plate. You'll also want a variety of soft, semi-soft, semi-hard and hard cheeses.
  3. Serve the cheese at room temperature. It simply tastes better!
  4. If serving cheese with dinner, serve it between your main course and dessert. Eating cheese before a meal can coat your palate with fat and make tasting other dishes tricky.
  5. Use multiple knives. If you're serving cheese as part of a buffet, have one knife for each type of cheese: soft, semi-soft, semi hard, and hard. That way things don't get too messy.
  6. Plan on about two to four ounces per person.
  7. Taste before you buy. Many grocery and specialty stores have great cheese sections and a cheesemonger. If you're unsure about a cheese's flavor, ask for a taste.
  8. Serve your cheese plate - I like using a nice wood cutting board - with sliced bread, toasted baguette, mild-tasting crackers, dried fruits, nuts and even a little jam.
  9. Pick a theme. If choosing from all the different cheeses is overwhelming, try a theme. For example, pick cheeses from a specific country like France and then pair with wine from the region. Or try a selection of local cheeses from around Oregon. If you really love blue cheese, try three different blues from around the world.
  10. Cheese usually gets stronger with age. Young cheeses are more mild while older (and firmer) cheeses are more flavorful.