With the festive season approaching fast and furious, and our social calendars starting to fill to the brim with parties and gatherings, we start to put party plans of our own into action. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, stressed and anxious about hosting, particularly if you’re a first-timer. What do I serve up that’s not going to cost me and my sanity, and would be a party pleaser? Cheese platters have always been an all time favourite when it comes to parties and get-togethers. The best thing about it? They are easy to put together if you know a little more about different cheeses and how to work them. Getting the right balance can elevate the entire occasion and act as a stunning visual centrepiece as well as creating a unique tasting experience. To guide you to becoming a cheese board extraordinaire, we’ve worked with Paul Thompson, Founder of  The Artisan Cheese Room  in Manly, Sydney, where they regularly prepare and advise on countless cheeseboards for their customers to share with you some tried and trusted guidelines.

Firstly, which Cheese? 

Choose contrasting styles.  Prepare a board that offers a variety of tastes, textures and terroirs (place of origin).  We believe that 4 cheeses is a perfect number – and recommend a hard, a soft, a blue and a goat.  Your cheesemonger will be able to help you choose within each type and ideally you will always taste before you buy.

How much Cheese?

This is an important point.  Your cheeseboard needs balance so try to get approximately the same size of each cheese.  If the cheese course is part of a larger meal, then estimate about 80-100g of cheese (in total) per person. If the cheese is the meal then work to about 150g each.  Again, a cheesemonger will cut your cheeses to the correct sizes for you.

How long will the cheese keep? 

Here at the Artisan Cheese Room, we wrap all our cheeses in wax paper – which allows the cheese to breath and not sweat.  This will ensure that the cheeses last 1-2 weeks from purchase.  If you have any cheese remaining after serving, wrap the spare cheese in baking paper (plastic is not a friend of cheese) and keep it in an airtight container in the salad or vegetable drawer.

Presentation.  

Choose your board for the occasion and size of cheese – but don’t be too precious. A wooden board works perfectly and looks great, as does a ceramic platter.  Dark slates are quite popular and act as a nice colour contrast to the cheese.  Cheeses, like wines, are best tasted from mildest to strongest, so serve them in this order on your board. home cook love has a gorgeous selection of serving platters and beautiful wooden boards that fit the perfect bill.

Accompaniments.

Crackers or bread?  Fresh fruit or dried?  Whatever you choose – think texture and keep it simple.  Fresh seasonal fruit is always a welcome addition. The sweetness of a strawberry, cherry or peach pair very well with many cheeses whilst adding to the visual appeal.  Quince paste is a classic accompaniment as are muscatels (dried grapes).  That said, give me a fresh baguette and a glass of wine and I’m happy!

The fact that there is no perfect cheeseboard is, well, perfect!  So go forth? eat cheese and enjoy. Assemble a cheeseboard of contrasting aromas, textures and tastes. Experiment with cheeses from different countries, regions, seasons, terroirs and milk types.  Cheese has a vintage every day so rest assured that whatever cheese board you curate, it will be absolutely and utterly unique.

The Artisan Cheeseroom cheeses featured in main image: Artisan Mountain Man, Crottin D’Antan,Colston Bassett Shropshire.  Photo Credit: Styling and photography by Daniela Kempe Photography.

About The Artisan Cheeseroom

The Artisan Cheeseroom was established by husband and wife team, Joanna and Paul Thompson. They are both incredibly passionate about cheese and have created a shop which is true celebration of this unique and utterly wonderful food. Joanna is a trained chef who having graduated from the acclaimed ‘Leith’s School of Food and Wine’ in London, then began working at ‘The Wolseley’ on Mayfair. Joanna started working with cheese almost 10 years ago when she trained and worked at one of the world’s great cheese shops, Neal’s Yard Dairy in London. Having spent many successful years working in a corporate environment Paul has decided to change careers and is now tremendously excited to be able to combine his fascination with delicious food and great service. Together they are proud to present The Artisan Cheese Room. A cheese lovers heaven where quality and taste combine with a bespoke and considered customer experience. The Artisan Cheeseroom is located at: Shop 1, 40 East Esplanade, Manly, NSW 2095