A Pretty Cheese Selection

Summer evenings are perfect for simple appetizers simply because it’s too damn hot to bother with anything else. When having guests over, I like to have a minimum of three plated appetizers. Most everyone I know loves cheese, but they do not necessarily LIKE the same cheeses. Therefore, it’s fun to do a cheese sampling of different varieties ensuring that there is something tasty for everyone.
Chutneys and onion jams are a sweet and savory way to make crackers burst with flavor. Trader Joe’s current has an onion jam that is to die for!  I love presenting cheeses on a basic bamboo cutting board. It’s pretty, bamboo is a nice hard surface and it’s easy to clean.
My typical line-up for a cheese tasting is a hard cheddar variety (American of English variety) or a crumbly Italian parmiagiano, grana padano or a piave. I’m adding Dubliner to this list as well or my Irish husband will pull my website offline.

Select some semi-hard cheeses like a goat gouda and a blue camembert. Finally, I always have brie. Brie is a super must. Since I have my other cheeses displayed as is, I like to put carmelized onions over brie and bake it for 10 minutes so it’s soft and gooey.

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Crackers are key to a successful cheese tasting. They all need to be interesting. Pass on the plain Ritz, Wheat Thins and other super snore varieties. Choose crackers that are chunky, seedy, grainy and some with unique flavors like wasabi or Trader Joe’s rosemary raisin crackers are always a hit. As just about everyone has a Gluten allergy (insert rolling eyes here), it’s also good to have a stash of rice crackers ready to go as well.

Do not match up your cheese platters. They must ALL be unique and if they are from your Grandmother or a thrift shop, then they are perfect. We’re going for pretty and unusual – not matchy matchy.  Same with the cheese knives. Some nice French Laguiole knives mixed in with some funky yet hardy ones will make your display even nicer.

Regardless if you are using wood or glass, make sure your cheese is on a flat area otherwise the platter will wobble when guests cut the cheese. (Ha! I had to get ‘cut the cheese’ in there at least once).

In the picture above you’ll see a platter on the far right with smoked salmon and chopped fennel on top seasoned with herb salt. Clearly this is not a cheese, but salmon pairs so well with most cheeses and there is very little preparation needed. Again, this is a summertime ready to roll party. No one is hunkering over a hot stove here!

Enjoy your party and make sure to serve fun and refreshing drinks!


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