After a year in which social gatherings have been severely restricted by the coronavirus pandemic and associated government regulations, you’re probably looking ahead to the party season with excitement.
The Christmas countdown has begun and the preceding weeks and months are typically a time when our social calendars are full of meet-ups with friends, family and colleagues. Of course, we are still being asked to exercise caution, but with the number of people who have received both vaccinations rising by the day — as of Thursday 9 September, 92,053,472 people in the UK have received both doses — and life returning to come kind of normality for most people, now is the time to start planning your next fabulous event.
Whether that’s a small scale evening at home with family and friends, a celebration at a hired venue or a works social; a gourmet cheese platter is a great way to impress your guests.
Should I Serve a Cheese Platter at My Event?
Cheeseboards and platters are extremely versatile and well-suited to all types of events. Here are some examples of when you might choose to serve a cheese platter:
- Serve as an appetiser ahead of a dinner party
- Present as “nibbles” during a meeting or brunch
- Serve as the cheese course at the end of a meal
- Send to remote colleagues to make online meetings and socials more fun
- Enjoy as a quick and easy date night carpet picnic
- Serve as the centrepiece for a cheese tasting event
There’s really no “wrong” time or place to serve a scrumptious array of cheeses and fine food accompaniments!
When Should a Cheese Platter Be Served?
Most cheeses are best served at room temperature, so remove your platter from the fridge about 30 minutes before your guests arrive.
Other than this, when you choose to serve your platter will depend on the type of event you’re hosting. At dinner parties in the UK, cheese is traditionally served as the final course after the main meal and before dessert. However, this is far from a hard and fast rule, and many people do this the other way around. If the cheese platter is the focal point of your event — for example, if you’re hosting a cheese tasting party — the platter will need to be presented as soon as people have arrived and are ready to get started.
What Cheeses Are Good for a Cheese Platter?
The best cheese platters contain a varied mix of cheeses — different flavours, textures and colours. That said, if you’re catering for a small group of friends and you know that they all hate blue cheese, skip it!
For larger-scale events and tasting parties, diversity is the key. Look for high-quality cheeses with contrasting textures — smooth and creamy, crumbly, hard, soft — and varied flavours — tangy, sweet, sharp, mild. You might also want to include cheese suitable for specific dietary needs, such as vegetarian and vegan-friendly.
Examples of different types of cheese you could include:
Hard cheeses — gorgonzola, manchego, Gruyere, parmesan and romano.
Soft cheeses — brie, mascarpone, le roulé, feta and Camembert.
Crumbly cheeses — Cheshire, Wensleydale and Caerphilly.
Blue cheeses — Stilton, Danish Blue and Roquefort.
Dessert cheeses — goat cheeses, Gouda and Comte.
Also, consider when and how the cheese will be eaten. Will people be picking at the platter while standing up and mingling at a corporate event? Or will they be seated at the dinner table with dinnerware, cutlery and no need to rush? If people are eating on the go, avoid soft cheeses that need spreading with a knife and be careful when selecting crumbly varieties that will fall apart easily.
There are many high-quality handcrafted cheeses available to buy online, making it easy for anyone to assemble an impressively varied platter even if shopping options locally are limited. Event planning, whether small or large scale, can be stressful and time-consuming so ordering a cheese delivery also has the advantage of making life a lot easier for yourself!
What are the Best Cheese Accompaniments?
The most impressive cheese platters include delicious fine food accompaniments that complement the cheeses selected. We suggest any or all of the following, depending on your guests’ preferences and the type of cheeses you have chosen:
- Charcuterie — prepared meats such as bacon, salami, pepperoni, chorizo, Parma ham or Prosciutto, pâtés.
- Fruit and olives — cherries, berries, grapes, figs and many other fruits pair well with cheese, as do green and black olives.
- Breads and crackers — sliced french baguette, sourdough, breadsticks, oatcakes, crackers and water biscuits.
- Chutneys and pickles — pickled onions and gherkins, fruit chutneys and jams or preserves.
You might also consider adding mixed nuts and raw vegetables.
How Do I Arrange My Cheeseboard or Platter?
So once you have stocked up on a tantalising array of ingredients, how do you present them to create an impressive cheese platter?
- Choose an attractive and practical platter — one that is large enough to hold enough cheeses for your guests with space for accompaniments.
- Prepare and arrange the cheeses — the cheese is the star of the show, so start with this when arranging your platter. Slice some of each cheese into neat pieces. You may choose to leave some uncut if you’re not sure how much your guests will eat, but remember to provide cheese knives for your guests to cut their own portions! Try not to put intensely flavoured cheeses right next to milder flavoured varieties so that your guests can enjoy the unique taste of each cheese. Consider using cards in cardholders to let tour guests know what each cheese is — this is an especially good idea if you are hosting a tasting session.
- Add the charcuterie — slice or roll each variety of meat so that it looks appetising and so it’s easy to pick up and eat. Provide forks or cocktail sticks that your guests can use to pick up the charcuterie.
- Fill in the gaps with fruit, nuts and olives — make your cheese platter look pretty by adding colourful fruits between the cheese and charcuterie. Place nuts and olives in small bowls or scatter amongst the fruit.
- Arrange the bread and crackers — place baskets of bread and crackers next to the cheese platter along with butter and knives. Some people choose to slice the bread and add it to their cheese platter, but this limits the space for cheese and charcuterie and often makes it difficult for guests to see everything. Furthermore, the moisture from the cheese, fruits and meats can quickly turn bread and crackers soggy.
A well presented, carefully thought out cheese platter is a fantastic way to impress guests at any event. Choose cheeses and food accompaniments with care and arrange these to look appetising and easily accessible to create a food experience your guests will remember well after the party ends.