Assemble a proper cheese plate for your holiday party
Cesar Olivares, the fromager at Pastoral (locations citywide, pastoralartisan.com), slices off some tips on choosing, preparing and arranging cheese like a pro.
1. Choose just three cheeses. “The most common mistake I see is when people buy eight cheeses and get very small portions of each one,” Olivares says.
2. Vary the style and texture. Olivares recommends a trio of Montasio Vino Rosso (an aged, wine-“bathed” cow’s-milk cheese from Northern Italy, $24.99/lb), Bel Canto (a soft, ash-coated goat’s-milk cheese from California’s Andante Dairy, $19.99/eight-ounce piece) and Saint-Félicien (a creamy French cow’s-milk cheese, $8.99/crock).
3. Or go with just one spectacular cheese. “The holidays are also a great opportunity to buy cheeses that are sold as a single piece because often those cheeses are meant to be had in one sitting,” Olivares says. “[One of] my favorites in this category this season: Robiola di mia Nonna, a goat’s milk Robiola ($27.99/eight-ounce piece) from a very small farm in Iowa.”
4. Don’t cube it—slice it. When arranging the plate, resist the urge to cube the cheese. “The more you cut your cheese and expose more surface area to air, the faster the flavor will go away,” Olivares explains. “Wait [to cut the cheese] until right before it is served. Cut just one or two slices, and have the larger piece take center stage.”
5. Add accents. “Add a jar of artisanal honey to the plate,” Olivares says. “The sweetness of honey will complement the salt in just about any cheese.” Olivares also suggests decorating the plate with Apples in Sparkling Wine preserves from Quince and Apple ($9.99). “[It’s] the perfect treat with almost all your firmer cheeses.”