As party season kicks into high gear, it's a good idea to take stock of what people are doing these days. One thing I've noticed is the universality of the cheese plate.
Now I love cheese as much as the next person. Unfortunately, I have a difficult time understanding why so many hosts offer guests cheeses that are colors not otherwise found in nature, in cubes, or if you're lucky, sliced.
Why do Americans love their processed cheese food? I suppose it's a somewhat inexpensive way to provide a food that offers universal appeal. I must admit that I really don't like cheese plates approximately two hours into the party: the cheeses start to perspire.
Please keep your cheese cool. Discerning guests will appreciate your commitment to taste.
For those who are feeling adventurous, I'd like to suggest some other kinds of cheese to serve. Most of these can be found at the jumbo supermarkets, but you'll get a better deal if you go to Trader Joe's.
Or you can always go to a local purveyor of fine artisan cheese, like the Baricelli Inn, which offers its artisan cheeses for retail sale. (Be forewarned, it's gonna cost a lot more than that brick of Velveeta.)
If you're not familiar with cheese that's not yellow, it's a good idea to start small. Remember, trial and error is a large part of becoming a connoisseur. Start trying some different cheeses before you host your party. Heaven knows it will not be a good thing if you offer a bunch of pricy cheeses you and your guests don't like.
For a first-time cheese encounter, Brie is a good choice. It's very mild and there are enough people who like it and would be willing to take it off your hands if you don't. Many restaurants in town offer it on the appetizer menu, baked with fruit and nuts.
In addition to France's most famous fromage, I prefer a group of milder soft cheeses, many French in origin. They include:
Due to my personal distaste for blue cheese, I have difficulty recommending cheeses such as le Roquefort. If you don't like strong flavors, I would also steer clear of anything that has been aged five years in a cave. It tends to have a bitter taste.
- Port Salut, a mild semi-soft French cheese with an edible yellow rind.
- Camembert cheese, a soft, oozy mild cheese with a white rind
- Saint Andre, a triple-cream cheese that's similar to brie and camembert
- Chevre, a goat cheese that can vary in texture, known for distinct taste
I like to arrange my cheese, crackers and crusty bread (all great party fare) directly on a table lined with parchment paper. It saves plate and the hassle of having to cut the cheese.
Plus, if your guests are cheese newbies, it might not be a good idea to portion it. And with soft cheeses, it's pretty close to impossible.
If you have cheese knives, you can use them. Otherwise, provide a standard butter knife for each variety of cheese. Heaven forbid we mix the cheeses (or use our fingers).
If you have a question for Miss Melody, please feel free to e-mail her. Please note, as her social calendar fills, it may be difficult to answer all holiday entertaining questions in a timely manner.
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