How was your weekend? I’ve been sick since last Wednesday, so mine was super lazy. I did catch up on seemingly every Hallmark Christmas movie ever made though (total guilty pleasure). So, even though I missed Thanksgiving, I did manage to get into the holiday spirit!
My non-stop love affair with my couch also meant I was able to plot out my holiday gift list. I pretty much never buy anything full-price, so scouting out the sales is part of the fun! I’ve found some great Cyber Monday (or Cyber Week, in many cases) deals. Scroll to the end of this post to check them out.
Now that I’m feeling a little better, it’s time to get festive. I love entertaining during the holidays, but I like to keep it simple. When I want to impress my guests the easy way (always!), I serve a cheese tray. It looks super luxurious and decadent but couldn’t be easier to put together.
When I’m putting together a cheese tray, I start with three cheeses:
- Soft Cheese: I like double- and triple-cream Bries for cheese plates since they are so readily available (it’s what I used here). Other soft cheeses that I love are St. Marcellin (sometimes hard to find, but so good) or Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam or Redhawk.
- Hard Cheese: I’m partial to aged Gouda (the middle cheese above). It has a rich, caramel flavor, and the really good kinds have crunchy crystals, which are just delicious. I also like sharp aged cheddar or nutty Gruyere.
- Blue Cheese: For this cheese tray, I used St. Agur, which is rich, smooth, and creamy. Gorgonzola Dolce and Rogue River Blue are also very good.
It helps to keep these three categories in mind when shopping, but don’t worry about finding the exact cheeses that I used. A well-stocked supermarket or specialty store should have everything you need. Both Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have great options. Just remember, even if your selection is super slim, it’s cheese. You can’t really go wrong!
Other tips to keep in mind when choosing cheese:
- Use a combination of soft, hard, and crumbly cheeses.
- Vary the intensity of the cheese you choose. For example, don’t use three stinky cheeses, or your cheese tray will be overpowering.
- Shop somewhere with knowledgeable staff. A good cheesemonger will help you navigate endless options. Plus, they’ll let you taste before buying, which is half the fun!
- Keep a record of your favorite cheeses, so you can buy them again.
- There’s no need to stop at just three cheeses! Add as many as you like to the cheese tray.
- Crackers: Looks for crispy crackers with a plain flavor that won’t overpower the star of the show, the cheese. I used 34 Degrees Savory Crisps. Another classic option is Carr’s Table Water Crackers.
- Thinly-sliced baguette: Buy the crustiest baguette you can find and slice it thinly on the diagonal.
- Fruit (dried or fresh): Fruit balances out the rich flavors of the cheese. I used dried black mission figs, which are a favorite of mine and are perfect at this time of year. Fresh fruit, such as grapes, apples, or pears, is also delicious.
- Nuts: Crunchy nuts are a great counterpoint to creamy, soft cheese. I love to use Marcona almonds, but any kind of nut works. Choose your favorite.
- Dark Chocolate: I love chocolate on a cheese plate. Look for a super dark chocolate with lower sugar content.
- Place your cheeses first. I like to keep the cheeses separated, leaving room in between for the other tray components.
- Add the crackers and bread. Put these at the back of the tray, since they take up a lot of space. You could also place the crackers and bread in a separate basket or bowl.
- Fill in the gaps on your tray with fruit, nuts, and chocolate.
- Add a fun flourish. This step is totally optional, and I often skip it. I used rosemary sprigs here, which added a fragrant, fresh element to the cheese tray.
Keep in mind that you don’t even need to use a tray. A wood cutting board is another option.
What goes hand in hand with cheese? Wine, of course! I like to serve white wine with cheese. Sauvignon Blanc is my favorite, but an unoaked Chardonay works, too. Sweeter wines, like Riesling, or even Champagne can also be good. You can also try serving red wine, but avoid strong reds with lots of tannins, because they’ll overpower your cheese. Pinot Noir or Sangiovese are a great options.
What is your favorite kind of cheese? Let me know what I should try next!