Building Beautiful Holiday Cheeseboards!

As featured in the Topeka Capital Journal, December 22, 2010

A gorgeous cheese display makes a beautiful centerpiece for the holiday parties. Back it up with simple appetizers prepared ahead of time. If you are hosting a holiday open house, keep it effortless by limiting your bar to just wine and beer. Assorted bottled beers on ice and wine in carafes are easily accessed by guests who can pour for themselves.

•Yes, the platter matters! Choosing a simple background as the base for your cheese platter will optimize the presentation of each cheese. I like to use a basic white platter or even better, a very large natural wood cutting board. Natural stone or ceramic tiles also work very well as cheese trays.

• Showcase with style – build your cheese board atop a beautiful holiday runner or cloth to protect your tabletop. Use overturned glasses to vary the height of your cheese board. Hide the glasses behind Christmas greenery, flowers or clusters of grapes and dried fruits.

• Choose a combination of cheeses that offer a nice variety for your guests: sharp cheddars, goat cheeses, bleus, etc. Sometimes it’s nice to place the tips of the wedges toward the center of the cheese board, taking care not to place them too close together. Add whole fruits, such as nicely ripened pears or apples that can be sliced just before your guests arrive.

• Cheeses can be labeled, but often hosts opt not to since unidentified cheeses do make for good conversation starters!

• Most cheese should be served at room temperature to allow the flavors and textures to really come alive on your palate. Remove cheese from refrigeration 30-60 minutes before you set your cheese board out for guests.

• Allow your guests to serve themselves from your cheese board – there is no need to pre-cut or slice the cheese ahead of time.

• Back up your cheeses with baguette slices and crackers along with an assortment of nuts. It is also nice to offer at least one chutney as well. This is delicious as a topping for any soft cheeses that are spread over the baguette slices or crackers.

• Plan ahead by knowing how much cheese you will need for your guests. Most party planners advise providing 2 oz. of cheese for each guest as a tasting, 3 oz. for each if serving as appetizers or 4 oz. for each if your cheeses are the main-stay of your party.

Happy Holidays!
Now You’re Cookin’,
Chef Alli

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