Cheese plates are always a crowd pleaser and so easy to assemble.  Here are some tips for creating a great cheese plate every time.

Selecting Your Cheese

You can compose an exceptional cheese plate with as little as one cheese or as many as you like.  I usually aim for three different cheeses.  If you decide to feature more than one, make sure that you have distinct flavor profiles so that your guests can appreciate the differences between them.  It’s also a good idea to vary the texture and firmness.  I almost always throw in a goat cheese or a brie.  It’s my theory that softer cheeses are more approachable, because guests are often hesitant to cut into a block of hard cheese.  With that in mind, try cutting the first few slices off the block of those firmer cheeses and then leaving the knife on your cheese board.

Choose One or More Vessels

Next, determine what the vehicle will be.  Crackers and toasts are popular choices.  For a gluten-free option, try rice crackers or even almond crackers.  If you’re looking for a low carb alternative, endive leaves do the trick.

Throw in Something Sweet

I hate to throw around words like “rule” , but I firmly believe that every cheese board needs at least one sweet on it.  Almost any fruit (grapes, apples, nectarines, plums, etc.) will do.  Dried fruits (apricots are a favorite) are also excellent choices.  Jellies, jams, and preserves (especially fig) are a lovely addition as well.  In a pinch, you can even use honey or agave nectar, but look to your cheese(s) to determine your sweet(s).  A mild cheese (like goat) deserves a mildly sweet companion (like pear).  On the other hand, something with intense flavor like a bleu cheese is balanced by an equally intense dried cherry.

Add a Dash of Brininess 

Again, I don’t care for rules, but I strongly advise including a briny component.  I usually opt for pickled vegetables or a whole grain mustard.  Both work with just about any cheese or sweet.

Bonus Treats

Palette cleansers are always a nice addition.  Nuts work well in this role–particularly Marcona almonds.  And, who doesn’t love a little cured meat?  Add some prosciutto or thinly sliced salami and you’ve just upgraded to a charcuterie plate!

Supply the Right Tools

Last, but not least, ensure that you’ve given your guests the proper tools.  The knife should be sharp enough to slice the hardest cheese.  A little spoon is helpful in scooping up jam or mustard.  Complete the spread with napkins and–if you can–little plates.