Create a cheese tray for a cocktail party or casual get-together. Or at a sit-down dinner, present a cheese plate after the main course before dessert or as dessert with a glass of sweet wine. Follow these tips.
• Serve at least three kinds of cheese, chosen from different categories.
• Vary types and strengths, and contrast colours and textures; for instance, a soft blue cheese (such as Borgonzola), a firm and drier aged provolone, and a semisoft, full-flavoured Oka Classique. Or combine a crumbly five-year-old Cheddar with a creamy Bleubry and a plain or flavoured fresh goat cheese. You could add even more contrast with a semisoft mild Fontina or, if you have access to a specialty shop, Le Migneron de Charlevoix and an aged goat's milk Pyramide.
• Some cheese plates can offer groups of one or two kinds; for example, Canadian blues with rich and creamy Le Ciel de Charlevoix, the drier and stronger Bleu Ermite or Bleu BÃ©nÃ©dictin, and one of the mild soft blues, such as Borgonzola or Bleubry (serve this by itself or with a contrasting offering of goat cheeses).
• Always serve cheese at room temperature. Be sure to take it out of the refrigerator at least one hour before serving.
• Hard cheeses can share a knife, or supply a cheese plane. Supply separate knives for each soft and semisoft cheese.
• For appetizer or after-dinner cheese plates of three to six selections, plan on one to 1-1/2 oz (30 to 50 g) of each type per person.
• For cheese plates served at the table, prepare individual plates for your guests.