Cheese platters are an excellent appetizer choice for any occasion. They’re easy to make, a great way to provide an appetizer for a group, and most of all they’re elegant - everything a host or hostess could dream of!
Fresh cheese such as the Ricotta, mozzarella or Chevre are best served with crackers on sandwiches or in pasta dishes. This variety tends to be very milky, and lightly flavored. They are great for making dessert recipes or for stuffing meat and vegetables. On a cheese platter fresh Chevre (Goat Cheese) is lovely drizzled with honey or paired with a spicy pepper jelly. For a special treat look for chevre that has been marinated in herbs! Pair it with a medium bodied red wine, a dry white or a rose.
Soft ripened cheeses are often silky, luxurious and have a higher fat content, which also makes them rich and velvety and melt in your mouth. These cheeses often have white bloomy rinds which are edible. Common examples of this type of cheese are Bries and Camembert. Very often, soft cheeses are served with crusty bread, crackers and fresh grapes at the end of a meal. However, they are also served at wine and cheese tastings, or added to sandwiches, soups and cooked dishes, but to allow their decadent nature shine we recommend tearing off a chunk of French bread and going to town!
Washed rind cheeses are the "stinky" ones and can be soft and semi-soft. The most common soft washed rind cheeses are Taleggio, Limburger and Raclette. A great semi-firm washed rind cheese that is widely available is Gruyere. Washed rinds are stinky due to how they're aged; periodically washed in a solution of saltwater brine, wines and/or mold-bearing agents so that their surface becomes responsive to bacteria which will develop a meaty, robust flavor. Allow these cheeses to come to room temperature before serving. Pair them with fruity beverages like Riesling or Belgian Ale. These cheeses, because they are so salty are excellent paired with sweet items like dried figs, apples or grapes and Gruyere is fantastic grated into pasta, potatoes or on a salad.
Firm cheeses are extremely versatile! They are a common cheese platter item and are often used in cooking. They include varieties such as Gouda young or aged, Cheddars, Gruyere, and Parmigiano Reggiano to name a few. These cheeses are typically grated into pastas, potatoes and soups or used on sandwiches or pizza. On a platter, allow these cheeses to come to room temperature before serving. Firm cheeses are a great pairing to many types of accompaniments including salami and anitpasto, sweet dried fruits and nuts and jams or honey. Your choice of beverage will depend on the age of the cheese. For example a young gouda may pair extremely well with a fruity red wine, but the strong flavor of an aged gouda may fight with the bold flavor of a red wine and may do better paired with a Riesling or Pinot Gris.
Blue cheeses are extremely pungent, and are filled with blue veining. The most common types of blue cheeses available are Stilton, Roquefort and Gorgonzola, but, there are many more worth looking into such as Point Reyes and Maytag Blue. They range in firmness depending on age; the older the softer. This type of cheese most often is eaten plain with fresh fruit or nuts. It can also be served with cooked meats and pastas or be used to thicken a sauce, or give dip a tangy flavor.