One of the easiest ways to provide munchies for a cocktail or pre dinner gathering is a cheese tasting. The best way for you to understand the different flavors of cheese is to go to a reputable cheese shop. They will be glad to let you sample whatever you want. Here are some of my favorites, and some guidelines to get you started on your cheese journey.
The best way to serve cheese is to place each block or wedge on ceramic platters or wooden cutting boards. These should be placed well apart from each other so that everyone will be able to easily sample them. A slab of marble makes a very elegant server if one is accessible.
Group similar, cheeses together-strong, aromatic cheese tends to over shadow a milder cheese when it is placed in the same vicinity. All cheeses, with the exception of cottage and cream cheese, should be served at room temperature. This my take two to three hours for a hard cheese or as little as thirty minutes for a soft cheese such as Camembert. All cheeses should be unwrapped for easier handling and the rind cut away from a portion of the cheese such as saint Paulin or Gouda.
The following cheeses should be purchased in amounts suitable to the size of your party.
Edam-semi soft and mild
Gouda– semi hard and mild
Brie– semi soft and mild
Swiss– hard and sweet to nut like
Provolone– hard and sharp (smoked)
Camembert– soft and pungent
Blue– semi soft and tangy( many variety’s to choose from, all with slightly different tastes)
Cheddar– semi soft, hard, mild or sharp (sharp usually has more flavor because it is aged longer)
Now these are some obvious choices, however there are many local artisanal producers that are producing some really amazing cheese. Get out there and taste!
Finally here are a few presentation ideas to take your party to the next level. Peel Edam and cut several wedges from it. Arrange in the center of a large serving tray. Cut Gouda into wedges, leaving wax coating on. Fan out cheese wedges, alternating with thick slices of tart, unpeeled apples. Slice sections from Brie cheese. Arrange block and slices at side of tray. Overlap slices of Swiss cheese and pile Provolone, cut into sticks, next to it. Garnish tray with fresh parsley and or celery tops. Add chilled grapes in two colors and crisp apples. Serve a variety of crackers along with rye bread rounds and thin slices of french or Italian bread.
This is just a start. Taste and use your imagination!